• kjoannerixon

Water into Wine


(The main character of this book is named Ping Xin and uses a neopronoun, qar.)


First of all, I really loved Water into Wine. It's a gorgeous and haunting story about love and loss, trauma and healing. Ping Xin is deeply emotional, is traumatized and human and irrational when scared, and I loved following qar through qar journey first to the vineyard qar grandfather bequeathed to qar and then through the war that washes over the vineyard, and over Ping Xin's family, like storm-tossed waves.


The agricultural setting is perfect for the many delicious descriptions of food and family traditions, as well as the disruption of bombings and burnings that harms the vines but does not destroy the vineyard entirely. Although the prose is clear, functional, even sparse in places, there is a lot of poetry in Ping Xin's story and qar self-realization that healing is arduous and complicated and can't be rushed.


Second of all, this is 100% a perfect illustration of what is so fucking broken in the sub-genre of military SF. This is a story about a person in a war on a far-future distant planet. There are missiles and battles and lots of death, including deaths that, spoiler, Ping Xin ends up feeling very responsible for. We see the aftermath of torture and the effect of violence on both children and adults. The economics of the war are very realistic! But this would never be classified as mil SF because it doesn't fulfill the American narrative of war: a young man has to leave home so he can use high-tech weaponry to bomb people on another planet; if the book is high brow mil SF, it might follow him on his return home, where he can't adjust and feels sad about what he's done.


Speculative fiction is supposed to be *imaginative* and yet fanboys will get real bent out of shape by books that question that power fantasy, the allure of being the one who feels really awful about his finger on the battle-mech controls that flattened someone else's country. We want our experience of war to be the American experience, that is the experience of inflicting war on other people. It's a provincial mindset that is, frankly, embarrassing and small. Water into Wine upends every convention of the sub-genre and is the only kind of mil SF I'm interested in reading.

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