Honey Bear by Sofia Samatar

Published: August 2012 in Clarkesworld

Genre: post-apocalyptic fantasy

Length: 13 pages

Setting: probably California, near future

Interest: It was published in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Karen and Dave are taking their toddler, Honey, to the ocean for the first time. There’s some indications the world isn’t quite right. For example, they have to make the hotel by a certain time so Karen’s meds don’t go off in the cooler, and a detour around a slick makes time tight. They do make it to the ocean, and are the only ones at the beach, at least until some Fair Folk show up. All the excitement of the trip, however, means that Honey voids unexpectedly. Turns out, that slick we saw was from a Fair Folk child a human family is raising, just like the family in the story. People can no longer have kids, so they raise Fair Folk kids, who are really little vampires that produce toxic waste when they void themselves.

Final thoughts: I could tell something wasn’t quite right in the family and in the world. The author slowly reveals the details of the world and how messed up it really is. It was much worse than I anticipated. If your only choice to have a child was to raise the child of an alien race that couldn’t communicate with you once it grew up, would you still do it? You really would have to want a child, that’s for sure. And what would it do to the family dynamics to have that child feeding off the mother. Is blood really any different from breast milk? Most would say yes, but is it really? What started out as a story about family dynamics turned into something much creepier. I also found the combination of a post-apocalyptic world and the fantastical elements interesting. Most post-apocalypse stories tend to the science fiction side of speculative fiction, so this was a nice change.

Title comes from: Honey Bear is what Karen calls her child.

 

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