“Beauty, Glory, Thrift,” by Alison Tam

Cover by Melanie Cook

“Beauty, Glory, Thrift,” by Alison Tam.
Novelette. Published by Book Smugglers Publishing, June 13th 2017.

On a lost planet in the depths of space, goddess-sisters Beauty, Glory and Thrift split their time between stasis and bickering, forever waiting for new visitors to their forgotten temple. Enter a thief, who comes searching for treasure but instead finds Thrift—the least of the goddesses—who offers powers of frugality in exchange for her escape.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

This isn’t quite my typical reading material, which is exactly why I’m curious to try it. That, and the blurb sounds fantastic!

On the Book Smugglers’ Twitter account, they describe “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” as an LGBTQIA title, and also the first of the Book Smugglers’ “Gods and Monsters”-themed short story season.

No reviews yet — here’s our chance to beat the crowds… 😛

What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!


3 thoughts on ““Beauty, Glory, Thrift,” by Alison Tam”

  1. This is a light, fun, story, and I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the opening premise, which was just delightful — a thief picking Thrift out of all the goddesses as a companion.

    Actually my biggest complaint is how the story gradually drew back from that neat premise. We soon learn that Pak didn’t mean to pick Thrift; she’d misunderstood the entire situation, the extent of a faulty translator. Thrift… does not seem particularly Thrifty; we get a few bits where we hear how helpful she is at business, but otherwise it’s hard to call it something that stands out about her. And Pak’s thieving ways seem practically incidental to the story; Thrift doesn’t, say, steal anything with her, as far as we see.

    The story went in a very different direction, focusing on “What is Thrift” and on the link between Thrift and Pak… but I was sorry that the initial elements didn’t continue as prominently.

  2. There were a fair number of speed bumps to this one. Things that didn’t exactly keep me from enjoying the story, but did feel like they interrupted my enjoyment.

    Two that stood out were:

    – At the end of the story, Thrift leaves Pak to think she’s dead for weeks. Under the circumstances, that feel unconscionable to me. It’s in service of the big reveal, of course, but that’s no excuse. You can even see how the author lampshades it when Pak does find out — she doesn’t ask “Why didn’t you say goodbye”. But, honestly, if you’ve got a message that important to convey, maybe instead of showing “favorite movie scenes” you can find a few “I am alive” and “My consciousness has been uploaded to the ship” clips instead? Or, well, wait until morning so that your kind-of lover doesn’t think you’ve committed suicide. ’cause that’s an option, y’know.

    – Speaking of “kind-of-lover,” the sex-ish scene is something I feel like I don’t know how to interpret. It feels like it’s meant to be a milestone in their relationship, but… it’s sprung on Thrift as an absolute surprise– and after it happens, Thrift doesn’t seem to treat their relationship any differently. She still (I think?) reads Pak as trying to get rid of her. There’s no real buildup, and no real followup, and no assigning of significance, unless you’re reading this as the broad stereotypical “sex==love” view — which makes it weird how they still don’t seem to be a couple. (This also raises the very uncomfortable question about whether Ms. “Who have you fucked this time” Pak has been celibate and extremely self-disciplined for all the previous months…)

  3. My impulse with this story is to niggle and nitpick.

    Like , what is computer technology like in the future, that a program can be seamlessly transferred from one hardware to another– from the “altar”, where Chideke interacts with her sisters and visitors; to Pak’s brain hardware, where she is visible to Pak alone in the same form as her hologram; to the “City” and to the ship?

    Also why is there apparently only ever one copy of Chideke at a time, so that she “leaves” Pak when she is elsewhere? Software is infinitely copyable. That makes her experience more like an ordinary human consciousness, where we are stuck in one hardware, but the whole point of the story is the ways in which her experience differs from ours. There’s no real reason the software designers should do It that way,. They don’t seem to have intended for their ancestors to leave their altars at all.

    The world-building is sketchy. The bit about ancestors is interesting true. And nice acknowledgment that culture has changed since Chideke’s lifetime. But, there is no explanation why everyone (though seemingly human) is either female or referred to as such.

    I kept being reminded of other stories (the curse of reading a lot). For example, in Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya stories, important dead people have parts of their memories and personality encoded into a program that is installed into their descendants as guidance. It makes sense there in better,developed world-building. And last year Book Smugglers published a better story of love between a woman and her immaterial companion, “The Life and Times of Angel Evans,” which had enough character development to make their relationship clear.

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