ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I wrote this story for a fat-positive contest last year, although the voting eventually stalled out with some finalists selected but no winner(s) announced. Recently I went back to the story in light of my new Terramagne setting, and it fits that very nicely. Here, then, is a team of fat superheras of assorted ethnicity. The story has been sponsored by an anonymous donor and I'll be posting it in sections.

Begin with Part 1. Skip to Part 4Part 5.


"The Hand of Sedna" Part 2


That night they gathered at Kesuk's house to turn their notes into a proper paper. The special class would help them prepare for the college science program that they all coveted, but it took a lot of extra work. Kesuk turned on the computer; her super-speed made her their preferred typist. Hamako sat cross-legged on the floor, paging through their notes.

Kesuk's mother Chu cooked supper in the kitchen while the girls worked. Fragrant steam drifted through the air, making Naartok's stomach growl. There was bannock baking in the oven, and caribou steaks brought by an uncle who hunted inland. Naartok could hear the brisk rhythm of the ulu knife preparing vegetables. Resolutely she dragged her mind back to their homework.

Naartok leaned over Hamako to see the research notes. "It's hard to believe that the Exxon Valdez spill happened before we were born and it still does so much damage to the beach," she said.

"Ajurnamat," murmured Kesuk's grandmother Ahnah, as she came into the room. "It cannot be helped."

Anger bubbled up in Naartok, thick and black as the oil that had risen in one of their intertidal pits. "Someone should have helped it," she said.

"Grandma, didn't you say that you volunteered on a cleanup crew right after the spill?" Kesuk asked.

Ahnah nodded, her white braid swaying. "Yes, I did," she said. "We hosed down the beach with hot water to clean it. We washed the sea birds in dish soap. We did what we could, but there was no undoing the spill, and it was not the kind of thing even superheroes could prevent. By the time anyone knew about it, much of the damage had already been done."

"People should be more careful," Hamako said. "They should not make messes that they cannot clean up. Look at what happened in Fukushima!"

"I agree," Ahnah said. "Let us concentrate on what we can do here and now, though. This class of yours will help you get into a good science program. So show me your notes from today's field trip. Maybe I can add something from my own work with the spill."

Kesuk spun around in her chair, twirling on its five wheels. "That would be great!" she said. "We're allowed to use interviews in writing our report."

So Hamako interviewed Ahnah about volunteering for cleanup, while Kesuk's fingers darted across the keyboard. Naartok began collating the findings from the different test pits they had dug.

"Oh, drat!" came from the kitchen, followed by "Naartok!"

"Excuse me," said Naartok, and went into the kitchen.

Chu was peering at the crack between the end of the counter and the refrigerator. "I've dropped my ulu down there again, Naartok," she said. "Could you help?"

"Of course," said Naartok. She picked up the refrigerator. "Got it?"

"Yes, dear, thank you," said Chu.

It was nice to spend time with a family where enough people had super-powers that nobody had to hide theirs. Naartok set the refrigerator back down.

"Why do you even bother using a knife?" Naartok wondered. Chu had the beaver gift of cutting.

The older woman laughed. "Because then my cutting boards last longer," she said. "Go back to your homework."

Naartok juggled the numbers from their test pits. Thoughtfully she doodled several different charts, experimenting with different ways to illustrate the data. Hamako could pick one and turn it into a nice graphic later.

Presently Chu called them all to supper. The caribou steaks tasted delicious, and the bannock soaked up their juices nicely. A casserole of mixed vegetables topped with cheese was a recipe from Chu's husband George, who was working late tonight. There was even salmonberry pie for dessert. Naartok and Kesuk waged a brief fork duel over the last piece, which of course Kesuk won.

"Here, Naartok, you can have the leftover pie filling," Chu said, handing her a mason jar with thick pinkish preserves at the bottom. She knew that super-strength and super-speed both burned more calories than some of the other, less physical abilities.

"Thank you," Naartok said, shamelessly grabbing the remains of the bannock to go with the preserves.

After supper, the girls went back to work on their paper. Kesuk printed out the interview. Then she and Naartok crouched over it with highlighters, picking out the best quotes. Meanwhile Hamako used the computer to make illustrations.
This time when Ahnah came in, she looked so grim that the girls instantly abandoned their homework. "We have a problem," the old woman said. "Shell just got final approval for their arctic drilling."

Kesuk gave a sharp bark of dismay. "But it's too dangerous," she protested. "They obviously don't have the technology to clean up a major spill in these waters. Look how badly BP did with the Deepwater leak, and the Gulf of Mexico is warm."

"Did you have a vision?" Naartok asked Ahnah, whose primary gift ran to clairsenses.

"No," Ahnah said, "a little bird told me." She held out her smartphone. "I've been keeping an eye on #savethearctic. The bad news is spreading fast."

"Actually, there is worse news," Hamako said, tapping away at the computer. "Look at where they filed plans to drill." She brought up a map on the screen.

"They have no idea what they're risking there," Naartok said. The oil company executives would have no way of knowing. They weren't Alaskan. The knowledge lay in her belly like a block of ice.

"You girls had better think of something to do about that," said Ahnah.

"We may be superheroes, but we're still only teenagers," Hamako pointed out. "This isn't just a few people fishing out of season or trying to mug the tourists. Shell is a major oil company. This is something really big."

"Nobody's going to help us. They'd be on Shell's side, because of the permit," Naartok said. "Besides, most of the famous superheroes are white men. White people don't care what happens to us."

"My relatives can't help being Irish!" Kesuk protested. She was self-conscious about the way her wheat-blond hair contrasted with her copper skin, legacy of an Irish grandfather and a half-Irish father.

"Can we please not have this fight again?" Hamako said. She had the huge tilted eyes and pale golden skin of her Japanese father, who had fallen in love with an Inuit woman.

Naartok sighed. It bothered her to see her people's bloodlines slowly dispersing into the wider population. Even Inna Polzin was mostly Russian, though she carried the straight dark hair of her Aleut grandfather. The old tensions were always there, written into their bones by ancestors on both sides of several different altercations. Wherever the fish went, so the fishermen went, and they did not necessarily get along with each other.

Resolutely Naartok shook herself and pushed the thoughts away. There was no point in aggravating her friends. They needed to work together, and besides, she cared about them the same, regardless of their ancestors. Everyone had some horrible ancestors -- one of Naartok's great-grandfathers had murdered a girl, and he had been pure Inuit like herself.

"I'm sorry," Naartok said. "I just meant that I don't think we have other superheroes to ask for help."

"There's Katsina," Kesuk said.

"He's Hopi," Hamako said. "Naartok is right; he probably wouldn't come all the way up here. Plus he has his hands full trying to keep genetically engineered corn from contaminating his people's traditional seed stock. Oyuki is Japanese, but she's busy helping to clean up after Fukushima."

"All right, let's try to come up with a plan," Naartok said. "This may be a bigger challenge than our previous ones, but we'll think of something."

* * *

Notes:

An ulu is a traditional crescent-shaped knife ideal for slicing meat and chopping vegetables.

Ajurnamat means "it cannot be helped" in Inuit.

There are many methods for cleaning up an oil spill, none of them sufficient to remove all of it. Dish soap really is used to clean wildlife; it is gentle and effective.

The Fukushima nuclear accident caused the release of much contaminated water because people didn't have a safer way of handling it.

Supper includes some items from the traditional Inuit diet along with contributions from other cultures. Alaska has very mixed heritage.

One thing I wanted to do with this story was to show large characters eating without worrying about the calorie count. Superpowers let people do more amazing things, but that energy still has to come from somewhere. Among the sources of energy is diet; physically demanding superpowers burn a LOT of calories. In a nonpowered context, people who do hard physical labor may need 3000 or more calories per day, rather than the average 2000.

Shell did get approval for arctic drilling, a very bad idea, but the venture has been plagued by mishaps and protests, resulting in delays.

BP spent a wad on advertising, but people still have very mixed opinions of how well they cleaned up the horrific leak. Basically if you value your health, don't eat out of the Gulf of Mexico for the foreseeable future. Cleaning up a spill in cold climates is even harder.

Twitter has a little bird as its logo, and #savethearctic is a real hashtag used by activists.

European-descended people have a bad habit of ignoring everyone else's interests, across much of the world. Idle No More is one example of protest against this, started by Native Canadian peoples. Much controversy ensues.

Alaska has a mixed population, which can cause tension. Maintaining tribal identity is a challenge for native peoples

A katsina is a spirit, often represented by a dancer or a doll, important in Hopi life. Superheroes often draw on their own culture when developing their identity. The superhero Katsina has nature and plant related powers.

Oyuki is one name for a Japanese snow spirit, from the honorific o- and yuki for "snow." The superhera Oyuki has weather controlling powers.


[To be continued in Part 3 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-29 11:40 pm (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
I really like this. I want to get to know these women.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-30 04:04 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
!? I hadn't realized that Terremagne was set in our here-and-now.

European-descended people have a bad habit of ignoring everyone else's interests, across much of the world.
: I suspect it comes with empire and power, not with continent of origin. I just read Outsourcing The Middle Kingdom: As China expands into global markets, inevitable culture clashes occur. A few quotes:
And there were reports coming out of Zambia about tensions between Chinese managers and local miners over low pay and poor treatment. Again, the situation worsened subsequent to my trip, culminating in a confrontation at a Zambian coal mine in summer 2012 that left one Chinese supervisor dead.

Indeed, resentment against the Chinese is growing in the developing world, and not just in Africa. In Asia, Chinese claims over large portions of the South China Sea have strained relations with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and especially the Philippines. Confrontations between Chinese and Philippine ships off the jointly claimed Spratly Islands led to worries of outright war in 2012. Kidnappings of Chinese and Chinese-Filipino businessmen have become almost commonplace in the metro Manila region and on the southern island of Mindanao.

...

“They had been well received as anti-imperialists [in the late 20th century], and they seem to have assumed that the ‘We’re not white, so it’s all right’ standard applied when they began building infrastructure and extracting resources. But it doesn’t apply—they’re widely perceived as arrogant and uninterested in the welfare of their workers.”

There can also be fundamental cultural disconnects between Chinese investors and their African hosts—differences that shouldn’t matter but do, continues Eisenman. “You’ll hear the Chinese say, ‘My God, the Ethiopians eat with their hands.’ And the Ethiopians counter, ‘The Chinese don’t even wash their hands when they eat.’ They’re each appalled by the cultural mores of the other. But if the Chinese want to minimize friction, it’s incumbent on them to understand local customs and integrate themselves better in local communities.”

"A little bird told me."
: I completely missed that! :-)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-06-30 03:34 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

But in other periods they have been aggressively imperialistic. As the article states and shows, an economically growing China has a need for many resources, which drives the outsourcing.

eta: Just in case it isn't clear, I'm not defending imperial misbehavior by anyone. It's not just Europeans/whites.

Edited Date: 2013-06-30 05:42 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-04 11:10 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
That's two days running you've made me hungry with an ethnic meal! :D

(I'm not complaining. My own cooking is reasonably varied, and I'm always looking for new things... :)

And I *like* seeing the extra metabolism dealt with realistically.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-03 05:38 pm (UTC)
thnidu: It actually says MUPHRY'S LAW and the bottom of the word LAW is clipped off (Murphy's Law)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
There's no link to the next part, part 3.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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