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The Black Tides of Heaven & The Red Threads of Fortune
By JY Yang

Discussed May 2018

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"What, do you mean she doesn't control fortune and the heavens, as they would have us believe?"

"The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives." "But as with all waters, one can swim against the tide."

  1. Did you finish both novellas? Did you like them?
  2. The twin novellas were announced as stand-alone stories that can be read in either order. Would you agree with that assessment? How different an experience would it be to read them in non-chronological order? (Red, then Black.)
  3. People in Ea declare their own genders but even that basic idea has a non-binary set of possible choices. (Declaring as male, female, or not declaring; going through a physical transition or not based on either religion or own personal preference.) Even identical twins Mokoya and Akena go about their decisions with distinct differences in both motive and ultimate outcome. How you find JY Yang's depiction of such a society? Does it change your opinion at all to know that Yang only understood their own nonbinary nature as part of the process of writing these novellas?
  4. The Black Tides of Heaven spans decades and involves large, intricate plots and machinations; The Red Threads of Fortune takes place over several days and has, "no greater conspiracy at work [...] just a heartbroken young woman." Do you have a preference for one over the other? Why?
  5. Much of The Black Tides of Heaven sets up that the future cannot be changed, and presents death as an absolute, even as we see Akeha walk away from his own unofficial "prophecy" by refusing to kill his mother. The Red Threads of Fortune simultaneously gives us another possibility for the future even as we see another attempt to fight what is thought to be unchangeable (death) end in disaster. What is Yang trying to say here? Did you agree with the shifts in the worldview and cosmology?
  6. JY Yang introduces the world of Ea in a non-expository, matter-of-fact way where things the characters would know are not explained to the reader (the nature of creatures like kirin and nagas, the different gravities, the sun rising six times a day, the immediate usage of gender-neutral pronouns). Dashes of Hokkien and Singlish are also used in the dialogue. Did this structure leave you ultimately wanting more or less? Intrigued or distracted?
  7. The Tensorate/Machinist conflict is threaded throughout both novellas, and on the surface the Machinists come across as the "good" side, as often referred to for write-ups of these stories. Would you agree with that depiction?
  8. There are two more novellas set in the Tensorate world planned (The Descent of Monsters this summer, and To Ascend to Godhood tentatively in 2019). Will you read them?
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