The Ice Owl

“The Ice Owl,” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2011). A meditation on memory, genocide, and the luxury of the young to be judgmental and morally pure.

I love the speculative center piece at the heart of this story: a painting made out of butterfly wings which relies on the optical properties of the nanostructures on the scales to form a second painting. The painting then ties into the iteration of certain mathematical equations to create a metaphor for life.

Moving and beautiful, the tone is held like the sustained Note that marks the passage of time in the novella’s city.