As if I didn't give Foz Meadows enough praise in my last post, the third story published at The Fantasist, "The Song of Savi," really knocks one out of the park. Valina is one of a handful of female scholars at a university. She's given the honor of researching and translating an early version of a nationalist poem, "The Song of Savi." Valina knows the story as it's been translated twice into the common language of her culture. The language of the original version has been neglected. In her research, Valina discovers that the national hero, Savi was nonbinary and the poem describes their pregnancy. The story delves into the issues of cross-cultural translation and how complex gender identities get changed through multiple layers of translation for ideological and religious reasons.
And if that isn't worldbuilding enough in building both trans erasure and marginalized trans identities as part of the setting, Meadows takes it a step further when Valina takes her translation to her mentor:
‘I suspected,’ said Jarrah, laughing as he wiped the tears from his cheeks. ‘Ever since I first read the Yavinese, I suspected something was amiss. We Kemic love to claim a cultural descent from Enasca, but the language, Vali! Even with so much history lost or distorted, so much purposefully destroyed, their language remains; and their language is not like ours at all. Their pronouns were old and utterly ungendered; right away, that tells you something crucial about how they perceived themselves, the relevant lines of distance. Have you ever noticed that all their grammatically gendered words are later linguistic additions – loanwords, derivatives, new inventions? Of course you haven’t,’ Jarrah said, not unkindly, as Valina shook her head. ‘It took me years of study to pick up on it, and I’ve never published about it. Who would have listened, eh? Who would’ve cared?’
‘I would,’ said Valina, quietly. ‘I do.’
They shared a moment of silence; at which point, something else occurred to her.
‘Master,’ she said carefully, ‘if you knew – if you suspected –’
‘Why didn’t I say anything?’
She nodded. He laughed.
‘Confirmation bias, Vali. I wanted to see if you’d reach the same conclusions on your own. I was worried –’ his hands clenched, trembled; stilled again, ‘– after so many years, I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been fooling myself; if wanting to see Savi as someone different, someone radical, was all just born of bitterness at my own obscurity, at… at hiding.’
Which in one paragraph nails why LGBTQ people often equivocate when it comes to interpretation of historic and literary figures, and why we sometimes break out in tears when someone else sees the same thing in the texts we read.