Rated PG for Evil Grandmothers and Music from the Heart
by Ellen Kushner
I have met very few evil people in my life, but my grandmother is one of them. When my mother died, Omama told my father that she would support him and my brother and me, but only if he gave up all his and my mother’s friends, her family and his work in their studio, to return to Omama’s family compound.
There was no reason for this. She already had other sons and cousins working for her. There had been one more, but my Uncle Great Light had taken his own life right before the Harvest Festival. Maybe she needed father back to make up a propitious number. That’s not what he says. When I asked why we could not visit my weaver grandmother and all the cousins anymore, he sighed, “Omama has never learned to share.”
“She’s so rich she never had to.”
“Wealth is not a disease, Bright Phoenix,” my father said sternly. “You may be rich yourself some day, so I want you to remember that.”
That may be so, but I think being rich can make you selfish. It’s like a cold: you have to fight it off by wrapping up warm and keeping your head covered. I don’t care so much about being rich, but I might like to be famous. I think I have a pretty good shot at it, because since I was five I have played the kchin, and even my brother Great Joy, who is good at games and doesn’t like to lose, knows that I play better than he does. I like to practice. When I kneel before my instrument, and my fingers bend and dance on the strings, I feel as if I know things no one has every known before. It isn’t just pretty sounds, it’s like entering another world. Some of the great kchin players played for years in solitude before letting anyone else hear them, but I don’t mind playing for others. I like their admiration well enough, but even better I like to think that somehow my music has changed them, as it changes me.
About the Author
Ellen Kushner unites her talents and insights as a writer, performer, and cultural maven in one sleek package: she is the author of acclaimed works of literary fantasy, an award-winning audio book narrator and stage performer, the creator and former host of public radio’s national series Sound & Spirit, and a popular teacher and lecturer.
About the Narrator
Eugie Foster (December 30, 1971 – September 27, 2014) was an American short story writer, columnist, and editor.
Her stories have been published in a number of magazines and book anthologies, including Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Interzone. Her collection of short stories, Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice, was published in 2009.
After receiving her master’s degree in psychology, she retired from academia to pen flights of fancy. She also edited legislation for the Georgia General Assembly, which from time to time she suspected were another venture into flights of fancy. She was also a director for Dragon*Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon.
Eugie received the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” which you can listen to on Escape Pod. She’s also been a finalist for the Hugo, Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press, and British Science Fiction Association awards.
Foster died at Emory University Hospital on September 27, 2014 from respiratory failure, a complication of treatments for Large B-Cell Lymphoma. The day Foster died, Daily Science Fiction published her last short story, nominated for the Nebula award, “When it Ends, He Catches Her.” This story ran on PseudoPod.