“Sun, Moon, Dust,” by Ursala Vernon

Uncanny #16, May/June 017
Cover by Galen Dara

“Sun, Moon, Dust,” by Ursala Vernon.
Short Story. Published in Uncanny, May/June 2017.

Allpa received the magic sword from his grandmother, as she lay dying.

“I’m afraid I don’t really need a sword, grandma,” he said.

Rocket Star Rank calls it “sweet and refreshing”. The reviews Pros include the vividness of Allpa’s predicament, and the sweetness of the conclusions; Cons are that Allpa is too passive to be a satisfying protagonist, and the sense that he hasn’t earned his happy ending.

At Featured Futures, Jason recommends the story:

This rural encomium, while thematically in Vernon’s comfort zone, is conceptually more of a BCS-style secondary-world pure-fantasy tale than the Vernon I’ve read which tends to be fairly connected to this world regardless of its fantasy elements. It’s also not her strongest, perhaps because of this. But her strongest is extremely strong and this is still pretty good.

And here’s Charles Payseur:

 The story challenges the assumptions of a lot of epic fantasy that every farmer boy is a hero waiting to be activated, that in the heart of every young man there is a desire to be a ruthless or honorable warrior. Allpa, despite being brought up at least partly in the presence of warriors, doesn’t care to get involved. He shows that there is nobility even in farming, and indeed that it has a lot fewer ethical issues than going out and killing people or hurting people for a good cause. There is the sense that he’s supposed to be “fixed” by the sword, but the story doesn’t reinforce that. It allows Allpa to be himself, for his values to be those that can govern his actions, and it doesn’t punish him for his desires by having his farm attacked or anything so obvious. Instead, he becomes a teacher himself, showing the sword-people that there might be another way. And it’s just a touching and fun story that’s a joy to read.

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

3 thoughts on ““Sun, Moon, Dust,” by Ursala Vernon”

  1. I think every Vernon story I’ve read has a healthy dose of Granny Weatherwax in it.

    This one manages it from two different angles — both the “leave me alone, I’m sensible and doing my gardening” of Allpa, and the harumphing tough-as-nails Grandma Anka.

  2. So here’s a question: What kind of person does one have to be, to stay in a sword for eternity, if — as we discover at the end — you can leave at any time?

    It’s not impossible. I think there’s a really nice reading to be made here, if you assume that until now, the people carrying the sword just weren’t the type to inspire any of the sword-dwellers to leave. In some sense, as long as you’re training a fighter, you maybe want to make sure somebody stays on ice to train the next generation too.

    But if you pop out and there isn’t a war going on… if you come out and the guy’s like, “TBH, you aren’t really needed”… If a fearsome warrior had nobody better to pass the sword on to for two generations…

    Then maybe you can say, “You know what, OK, I can stop now.”

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