‘Perfect Skin’ short story out at Daily Science Fiction
My first published short story, Perfect Skin, is out on the Daily Science Fiction online magazine site today.
I wrote this 1,000 word piece in January 2020. It was the first submission I’d ever made to a professional publication of any kind, so I was genuinely astonished and delighted when it was accepted.
So much has happened in the months since, the COVID-19 outbreak and the #blacklivesmatter movement being the most obvious. Viewed in that context, a story about a man’s obsession with an alabaster-skinned beauty he meets in a crowded coffee bar, seems a little bit out of sync with the zeitgeist!
Nonetheless, it was meant to be a gentle comment on aging, something that isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon. I hope you enjoy it.
One Reply to “‘Perfect Skin’ short story out at Daily Science Fiction”
Greetings, Rob. This is my first comment about a Science Fiction Daily story. After each days reading, I’ve often searched for previous stories. Today, your “Perfect Skin” story is one of my favorites – and – one whose opening made me want to not like it or even finish it! When your female character was described as having long, blond hair and alabaster white skin, I almost shut down. “Yet, ANOTHER story extolling ‘beauty’ in a woman with blond hair and alabaster white skin!”, I railed! Oh, I was “too through”, before feeling myself led to continue further into the meat of the narrative. As an elderly Black woman who has loved reading stories for over seven decades, whose preferred genre since 5th grade is generally Sci fi – magical realism in particular. After reading an excerpt of “WILD SEED” in a 1970’s Essence Magazine article, my favorite Sci fi author and former mentor became the late Octavia Estella Butler. Having been a professional storyteller for over fifty years, I was miffed, No – just plain tired of “Nordic” skin and features being considered as the global standard of excellence in beauty. So many times after hearing me “tell”, a child has sent me their gift – a drawing of the story’s African princess or queen in an proper African environment, which they’ve heard me describe. Yet, in a few of their minds, a “real” princess lives in a medieval castle, She has long blond hair, white skin, blue eyes, wears a medieval gown and a towering hennin with a fluttering veil! This happens AFTER I’d already described this princess as having beautiful black or brown skin, brown or hazel eyes and natural coily hair. Not every child does this, to be fair. However, a preponderance of children, no matter their race, can’t seem to get beyond that imagined stereotype of a “fair-skinned princess”. Which studies have shown is the standard norm for American children. Therefore, I was prepared to dislike your story after reading the second paragraph. Something within my spirit nudged me to continue reading. At paragraph three I was intrigued with where you seemed to be headed, your story intrigued me and won me over. At the end, in fairness, I gave it a high “rocket #”, one short of perfect. Considering my initial reluctance, I’d moved beyond my standard of who is beautiful – I prefer gleaming blue-black, raisin-purple or dark chocolate brown skin covering a lean, lithe body of regal bearing, piercing brown or hazel-coloured doe-eyes, high cheekbones, gleaming white teeth, full lipped facial features with coils of dark brown or, my favorite – auburn-red coils framing her head like a blazing sun. That is reminiscent ancient African beauty of graceful the Nubian Women I’ve admired seeing depicted upon the walls of temples and tombs or balancing heavy loads on top their heads while striding along the rural roads during my annual visits near Aswan Egypt and Northern Sudan. Instead, I decided to rate your story on its creative concept and writing merits, instead of my preferences – and your deft, subtle nod to what Dr. King revealed about “longevity” in his final April 1968 speech in Memphis: “I’ve Been to The Mountaintop”. Should you be interested, here is the link to the entire speech: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/ive-been-mountaintop. Having been enamored with stories and history since 1st grade and enjoyed teaching about both subjects from world cultures and philosophies viewpoints, I am Afrocentric in my worldview and have shared stories with people on five continents. I’ve always stressed an appreciation for what Pres. Abraham Lincoln said is “the better angels of our nature”, our unity as human beings and an innate potential to move beyond “fear-inculcated” outer and inner barriers, encouraging the hearer to see a person as family not as an “other”. Rumi’s poem encourages this attitude in “Guest House”. I am not a ‘troll” nor am I seeking to engage in an ongoing debate to defend my “need to be right”. You need not reply, as my only reason to comment again would be a “kudo” or query for another of your fine writings, in admiration of your inner “landscape” printed upon the page. In the article “Redeeming The Imagination from the Commodification of Creativity. . .” Ursula Le Guin wrote “Children have imagination to start with, as they have body, intellect, the capacity for language: things essential to their humanity, things they need to learn how to use, how to use well. Such teaching, training, and practice should begin in infancy and go on throughout life. Young human beings need exercises in imagination as they need exercise in all the basic skills of life, bodily and mental: for growth, for health, for competence, for joy. This need continues as long as the mind is alive. Children have imagination to start with, as they have body, intellect, the capacity for language: things essential to their humanity, things they need to learn how to use, how to use well. Such teaching, training, and practice should begin in infancy and go on throughout life. Young human beings need exercises in imagination as they need exercise in all the basic skills of life, bodily and mental: for growth, for health, for competence, for joy. This need continues as long as the mind is alive.” Her reasoning matches why I love to tell stories. They open the mind, stoke creativity’s inner fire and stretch our limits, which you already exhibit with penning “Perfect Skin”. In “Authors Story Notes” you write: “I wanted to imagine what it really felt like to interact with a person who was outwardly young, but had the life experience and mental state of a far older person.”. How Beautiful! Your story is about deep. inner beauty that emerges with age and life’s lessons learned, nor about society’s outer accepted and expected norms. Thank you, Rob, for rescuing me from, to be honest, my initial “appraisal” of “Perfect Skin” as another “same -o, same -o” story, therefore, obviously unpalatable for my tastes and likes. It is not! So glad for you to have moved me beyond my own color preferences and prejudices. I like your “Perfect Skin” and more importantly your reasons for crafting it, which is why I’m writing this “tome” – I’m known for writing long e-mail replies – a “no-no”, according to those who are communication tech savvy. I remain a happy and confirmed Luddite. suing just enough tech to get by. Again, no need to reply. Thank you very much for providing enough space to compose a lengthy comment. Oops, forgot to mention that “Perfect Skin”, with it’s twist on Western male standards of beauty with its venerating of preferential physical attributes, and the subtle tyranny of ageism would make an intriguing episode for Jordan Peele’s new “Twilight Zone” series. Particularly, concerning the state of today’s world. In truth, I feel your story would have piqued the interest of the late Rod Serling, himself! His daughter, Anne Serling said in an interview her father truly believed that “it is a writer’s job to menace the public’s conscience about things we need to be conscious of and thinking about all the time”.