Friday, February 28, 2014

Nebula Award Nominee: Selkie Stories Are for Losers

"Selkie Stories Are for Losers"
Sofia Samatar
Strange Horizons: January 2013
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story

There is a moment midway through the story when I realized that the story was doing something other than what I expected, the moment when you're reading and you sometimes say, out loud, "oh."  It's a lovely moment, and it changes how you view a story.  That moment here flipped the switch from simply reading the story to engaging with it.

The narrator, unnamed, tells of her meeting and friendship with a woman named Mona. She tells it in quick bursts, short scenes, of their working at a restaurant together, about moments.  She tells of her mom leaving and of the impact on the family.  Despite how the narrator opens the story, she also tells selkie stories. 

I hate selkie stories. They're always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said "What's this?", and you never saw your mom again.

There are implications in "Selkie Stories Are for Losers" that suggest what might be going on behind the scenes, what might be left unsaid by the narrator.  On the other hand, it is equally as likely that what the story seems to be about (a selkie story, in fact) may only be about a mother having left her husband and children behind and starting a new life apart from them.

I'm not sure it matters which story Samatar is telling.  The more you think about "Selfie Stories Are for Losers", the more affecting it is and the more it sticks with you.  This is a wonderful, somewhat painful story and the more I think about it, the more I like it.  

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