This read was a 3am choice based solely on the fact that it was a short story with the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen. I looked at it for a solid twenty minutes before I could move on.
The illustration was made by Tran Nguyen, and I think it goes without mentioning that I spent hours looking at their previous works… what is sleep??
La beauté sans vertu by Genevieve Valentine is a vicious little swipe at the fashion industry as certain disturbing trends are amplified in the future and a famous fashion House prepares for an important show.
This wasn’t exactly the perfect “bedtime” story, but it was effective in capturing my complete attention. I forgot for a minute there that I was supposed to wake up in a couple of hours. And it made me feel a little less frustrated over said fact.
“There were two girls—there are always two, so one can be made an example of.
The one who was kind to an old beggar woman was gifted with the roses and diamonds that dropped from her mouth with every word; the one who refused to get water for a princess to drink spent the rest of her life vomiting vipers and toads.
As a girl, Rhea listened and understood what she wasn’t being told. (It’s how she climbed to the top of a couture house. Rhea hears.)
The one who was kind married a prince, and spent the rest of her life granting audiences and coughing up bouquets and necklaces for the guests. The one who refused was driven into the forest, where there was no one who wanted anything fetched, and she could spit out a viper any time she needed venom, and she never had to speak again.”
Objectification and the cultural position of the industry are some of the issues (I remember) being tackled in here, which I found to be quite interesting to explore in such a short medium.
But in the end, I found the premise of this to be a perfect fit for twenty pages. And if some things were a bit confusing when they weren’t fully delved into, I didn’t even mind because it was a midnight read. It also helped that I was starting to feel sleepy towards the end… so it didn’t creep me out just that badly!
If nothing else, La beauté sans vertu left me intrigued to find more short tales on Tor.com, maybe for another sleepless night. And I’m more than invested in reading more of Genevieve Valentine’s writing.