I first read The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere last year when it was announced as a nominee for the Hugo Awards.
It floored me with its simple and elegant telling of a man trying to come out to his family. The SF-nal twist is that, at an unspecified point in the past, water began falling from nowhere onto the heads of those who told lies. The concept is strange and somehwat unsettling on first meeting – why, you want to know, has this happened? I don’t know, my sweets, it’s never explained and I never thought to ask. Because soon enough the thing you care about isn’t the fantastical but the human. The sweet, sad, achingly familiar dilemma of having to reveal a part of yourself to people whose judgement has the power to hurt you very deeply.
Add to this the problems of crossing cultures and generations, of (mis)translation and (mis)understanding and you can probably see why I fell in love with this story, put it at the top of my ballot, and cried actual tears watching John Chu’s acceptance speech when he won.
I decided to re-read it recently because I wanted to introduce my lovely friend Jason to the wonders of SFF. And so I read the entire thing out loud over the phone and fell in love all over again (and Jason did too). It’s amazing what just a few months distance can do to your memory of things – I’d completely forgotten the heart-achingly familiar ending, my own mind had inflated the amount of time I thought was spent on scenes I saw as important, and the added layer of misunderstanding provided by untranslated Chinese characters – gone.
The story I’d been remembering was good but I’d changed it somehow, perhaps to be something more similar to my own experiences, perhaps to cut out the quivering uncertainty I felt as I reread the ending and came close to tears. I don’t know. But it’s made me wonder about just about every other book I’ve read – what have I forgotten, what have I rewritten to suit my own narrative, and what should I reread next?