Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian L. Jarboe

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian L. Jarboe

Genre: Near Future Sci-Fi Short Story Collection
Available on Bookshop.Org*

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel is a collection of short stories that take place in a surreal near future. While the individual stories aren't explicitly linked, the worlds all feel close enough that the could be from the same universe. In addition, trans masc experiences are central to the work; they are the focus of several of the short stories. Likewise, many of the stories are explicitly about surviving in hypercapitalism. As one of the stories puts it, the apocalypse is in the past, dystopia is the present, and a future is unimaginable.

This collection was published in March 2020 and I think that it discusses the forces that shape my experience of the pandemic so well (despite clearly being written before it started). It interweaves understanding of political forces on individuals, particularly how our options are limited by these forces. The first story follows a with that's had to live at a Christian church due to unaffordable rents and ends with him screaming "I GET TO KEEP MY RAGE". The reaction is true. Over the past years of hell, I have felt not only that I'm being put in awful positions, but I'm not even allowed to keep my rage.

When I first read this book, I felt myself reflected in the trans experiences in ways that I don't regularly see in literature. The characters talk like my peers and I do; there's a playfulness when talking about trans experiences, such as a Metamorphisis retelling that reflects the weirdness of being in a plastic surgeon's office and (later on) the absurdity of administrative systems. It doesn't feel like the discussion of trans people are in this book to educate people. For me, I felt like I was relaxing into stories told by my friends.

However, I found the title story to be disappointing. It also took up 80 pages of the 200 page book. I found it disjointed, both from multiple shifts in POV characters and due to style changes throughout the story. However, the rest of the stories all were clear winners to me and made the collection well worth reading.

Content Warning Notes:

  • Consistent themes of body horror, mental illness, and characters experiencing transphobia

Next Week's Review: The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz


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