Saturday, January 23, 2021

#StayAtHome: Yoon Ha Lee's "Hexarchate Stories"

True Confession: While gay military erotica aren't exactly my thing, gay space operatic erotica certainly do hit the mark. Yoon Ha Lee's Hexarchate Stories delivers one of these in the short story "Gloves". More of this, please.

But the entire collection is really, really good. I believe this is Yoon Ha's second short story collection. His first one, Conservation of Shadows, is also quite good. Hexarchate Stories has one story which overlaps that first collection, "The Battle of Candle Arc". That story draws upon real history in the form of the Korean Admiral Yi Sun-Shin's incredible victory over a vast Japanese armada in the Battle of Myeongnyang, during the Imjin War. Moral of the story for GMs everywhere: make your space battles  happen on interesting space terrain. Admiral Yi  Sun-Shih used a whirlpool to his advantage to defeat a numerically superior force. Jedao does the same in this story by manipulating both the high calendar, which makes certain weapons more effective than others, and how the high calendar is spatialized in local space. I like this short story and have without a doubt read it more often than any short story by anyone. 

There are a lot of great stories in this collection, and this was my second time reading it, this time for the North Country Gaylaxians' Book Club. While there aren't a lot of authors that I reread (other than Michael Moorcock), Yoon Ha's work really does merit that as there are all sorts of subtleties to the setting and the characters' interactions with each other that come out this way. 

All of the stories in this collection take place in the Hexarchate universe featured in the Machineries of Empire series (which begins with the novel Ninefox Gambit). We get nice insights into the early years of both Jedao and Cheris, and it is nice to meet their families. There are two caper stories within the collection, the pre-Heptarchate "The Chameleon's Gloves" and "Extracurricular Activities", although the long novella with Cheris and Jedao II (Jedao-the-xenomorph) is also a caper story. Readers who have completed the Machineries of Empire series really owe it to themselves to read this collection, and especially the novella at the end, which in a number of ways integrates and completes the trilogy.

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