Or to give it its full title, “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account”, also now nominated for a Stoker Award. You know the drill by now — read (or listen), survey the opinions collected below, then give your own. First up, Nader Elhefnawy in The Fix:
M. Rickert’s “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account” is written from the point of view of a girl whose mother has “disappeared” in a theocratic future America reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It is, however, not a simple redo of that earlier story, and if anything, this piece struck me as being creepier than Atwood’s book, partly because of the use of the perspective of a child who has never known any other world; and partly because of Rickert’s subtler worldbuilding (though admittedly, it also has the advantage of being more recent, enabling it to exploit more immediate sources of anxiety). While there certainly are politics here, Rickert succeeds in crafting a very personal (and devastating) tale.
A dystopian vision of how it would be to live in such a country, with Taliban-style public executions in football stadiums. The narrator is a young girl whose mother has fled to avoid execution for an earlier abortion, and she wrestles with her conflicted feelings, missing her mother and hating her for the stigma her actions have inflicted on her family.
With the example of the Taliban before us, no one can really say anymore: This couldn’t happen. Yet it is up to the author to convince us that it could have actually happened, or at least to willingly suspend disbelief and enter into the mutual pact between author and reader in which we accept the scenario for the sake of the message the story is meant to deliver. The problem with such fiction, however, is that the Message can outweigh the story, and I think that in this case it has done so, going too close to the line between chilling and absurd.
More disappointing is M. Rickert’s “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account,” but then I expect a great deal from Rickert, who has a knack for combining present day events with SFnal speculation and a possibly unhealthy dollop of cynicism about human nature. She does all that here, imagining a world in which abortion has been made retroactively punishable by death, and in which women are rounded up by the hundreds and thousands to pay for abortions performed years or even decades ago. As the title indicates, the story is narrated by the daughter of one of these condemned women, who has fled rather than face her punishment, to her family’s everlasting shame. It’s an effective piece, as, indeed, how could it help being? Mass executions! Gross miscarriages of justice! Institutionalized misogyny! Young women brainwashed into a Handmaid’s Tale-esque attitude of seeing themselves as nothing but walking wombs! It is also, however, shamelessly manipulative and unsubtle, a piece aimed only at people who agree with its politics, and one which encourages them to sneer rather than think.
This story is a harrowing extrapolation what might happen if fundamentalist anti-abortion laws are pursued. It reminded me of The Handmaiden’s Tale or The Carhullan Army. It’s undoubtedly designed as a warning to US citizens and the right wing religious tendencies. The extrapolation is taken to a horrible future conclusion. It’s emotional and well written, but it’s hard to love a story that makes me feel like that. You should read it, but it isn’t fun.
Mary Rickert, as far as I’m aware, is incapable of writing a less than phenomenal story. “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account” freaked me the hell out. A totalitarian future USA in which abortion is not only illegal, but punishable by death. Profoundly unsettling. Somebody should give this lady a Tiptree.
This is one of the creepiest stories that I’ve ever read. It’s set in a nasty 1984-style dystopia built by fundamentalists around the punishment of anyone who has gotten an abortion. Both the effectiveness and the terrifying creepiness are hightened by a thoroughly brainwashed first-person narrator who believes every word of it. Rickert pulls no punches in portraying the anti-abortion horror show, complete with execution of women as mass spectacle. Like all dystopias, it’s an extrapolation of a position to extremes that probably would never occur, but I found it chillingly effective. I’m not sure I really wanted to read it, though. (6)
Like ‘Exhalation’ it is a well executed take on an extremely unlikely and not very interesting idea. The only thing that bumps it up over Chiang and Egan is that contains characters who are recognisably human. Niall Harrison has a typically lengthy, articulate and wrong review. God knows how he managed to write for so long about a story that, as others have pointed out, is like a modern version ‘The Lottery’ by Shelley Jackson. That isn’t a good thing, by the way.
As Martin points out, I actually already wrote about this one at some length. Can I possibly have anything left to say?