alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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“Beautiful White Bodies,” by Alice Sola Kim

Fashion model in dolphin tank

Fashion model underwater in dolphin tank, Marineland, Florida (Library of Congress)

I stumbled on this story via the website for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. I meant to read it after lunch, but once I had the page up in my browser, I read the first line. And then I read the first paragraph, and then…you get the idea. It did what a story is supposed to do – sucked me in and made me keep reading.

So what’s it all about, besides Busby Berkeley? Well, Justine’s a ‘boomerang’ twenty-something, living with her Mom and working at a coffee shop in her hometown when she notices that the local high school girls are coming down with an epidemic of preternatural anime-style beauty. Epidemic turns out to be the right word. Cue officials in face masks, and white isolation tents.

I especially liked four-eyed, snub-nosed, vintage-wearing, theater-kid Pearl. She was just the right mixture of attitude and self-pity. I liked the little interlude in Justine’s self-reflection when she talks about the “Different people marooned on different islands inside of you.” I liked the CDC guy’s line about “the beauty sickness no longer [being] co-morbid with popularity. I liked that I didn’t quite know what the end result of this epidemic actually was – just that it was a change, and a change with teeth (real or metaphorical, take your pick.)

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