Friday, September 8, 2023

If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You, by John Chu

Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2022

Steve is an actor--he sings, he dances, and between gigs he works out regularly at his local gym to stay in shape. He's Chinese-American, and we soon learn, fluent in Mandarin. Lately, gym time has been enlivened by viral videos that might be part of a marketing campaign for a movie. featuring a flying man who is extremely well-built. Steve refers to him as Tom of Finland Guy. He of course wears a costume that emphasizes his really excellent build.

Tom of Finland Guy, who is also Chinese-American, intervenes to stop attacks on other Asian-Americans. He also, when convenient, does casual favors, like moving a piano.

For some reason, the coverage Tom of Finland Guy gets gradually more hostile, as if he's the troublemaker in those assaults on Asian-Americans.

At the gym, there's another Chinese-American man, clearly a professional bodybuilder, Except, we gradually learn, he's staying in peak shape far longer than any professional bodybuilder would, because the body can't sustain that. It needs breaks. Steve thinks this guy is pretty much a god, fitness-wise, and is very surprised when the man strikes up workout partnership with him, spotting for each other, and Gym God gradually coaxing him to more challenging, useful workouts.

It's a story the focuses on the growing relationship between the two, and the growing city tensions over rising violence against Asian-Americans combined with the growing hostility toward the flying man whom Steve calls Tom of Finland Guy, and the media call The Great Wall, after someone punches him in the gut and breaks a hand while having no impact on the flying hero guy.

I like Steve, I like the Gym God whose name we eventually learn is Carl, and it's looking at an area of racism and racist violence that I'm aware of but don't ordinarily see from this angle.

Another story I wouldn't have read otherwise, and thoroughly enjoyed.

I received this story as part of the 2023 Hugo Voters Packet.

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