On International Women’s Day, several of the best writers in SF/F today reveal new stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, raising their voice in response to a phrase originally meant to silence.
The stories publish on Tor.com all throughout the day of March 8th. They are collected here.
Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light!*
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.
…was an epigraph engraved at the bases of statues around the city, meant to dissuade women from fighting monsters. But to Moira, the epigraph inspired. We all fight monsters, she knew. There was no shame in losing.
So despite or because of that epigraph, Moira intended to carry on in the work that had led to her own grandmother’s death, and her mother before, back and back, to the beginning of this world, and into the next. Someone had to hold back the monsters.
Moira left the confines of the gated city. She moved into the hills. She carried only a crystal staff. The city sent up the golems after her, as she knew they would. Many didn’t understand that someone had to fight the monsters. Someone had to persist, or the city would be overwhelmed. She fought the golems, twisting their guts and gouging out their ticking hearts. Snakes and bears and other beasts bred to keep her behind the walls slithered and snapped and snuffled in her path. Moira wrestled them too, and emerged bloody and bitten, but triumphant.
She limped her way to the base of the great mountain that all her female kin had talked of for time immemorial. She climbed and climbed, until her shoes were shredded and her fingers bled, and her arms shook so badly she thought they would fail her. When she pulled herself up onto the great ledge at the top, she saw what remained of her sisters: wizened, mummified visages, scattered bones, discarded shoes, two broken crystal staves. She limped through the detritus of her kin and into the cave where the monsters lay.
The monsters rose from their beds, already armored and bristling for another attack on the city below. They came to extinguish light, and hope. She was here to remind them they wouldn’t do it unchallenged.
Moira raised her staff in her hands and shouted. The monsters yowled and overtook her. She bludgeoned them, snapping and biting like the creatures in the valley, poking at their hearts with her staff until it hit home, ramming through the eye of one of the great giants. They fell together, she and the monster, gazing into one another’s ruined faces.
One less monster to take the city, one less woman to defend it.
“Oh, our faces, radiant sisters,” Moira said, gazing out over the monster’s body at the scattered bones as the monsters snarled in the darkness, readying to tear her to pieces, as they had her kin, “Our faces, so full of light.”
When Moira failed to return, and the monsters crept down from the mountains—one less this year, one less each year, one less, always one less, but never none, never enough—a statue of Moira’s likeness was raised beside her grandmother’s.
Each day, young women visited her statue. They ran their fingers over the inscription at its base. They did so generation after generation, as more statues rose and fell, more monsters came and went, and time moved on, the eternal struggle of light and dark.
The women pressed their hands to the words there until the only script that remained visible of the epigraph on Moira’s statue was a single word:
*see. Sheldon, Racoona. “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Full of Light.”
Kameron Hurley is an award-winning writer of essays and SF/F fiction. She is the author of the Hugo Award-winning “We Have Always Fought,” as well as the Worldbreaker Saga, the Gods’ War Trilogy, and numerous short stories. Her essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, is available from Tor Books.