“A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad is just a world of fun. In it, we meet Helena, an artist in 3D printing, which in this world can be used for everything from making meat from animal cells, to creating replacement organs for human beings.
Helena… started off on the latter track, but after a catastrophe, she found herself on the run from a powerful family, and had to change her name and go underground. She now makes a living forging steaks, something which is apparently illegal in this world. When she is blackmailed into forging a large order of T-bone steaks, she hires an assistant, Lily, who is perky and energetic and very competent, and who has, shall we say, hidden depths. I sort of want to be Lily when I grow up…
I don’t want to say too much about this story, because it’s too delicious to spoil. It has moments of darkness – I mean, technically you might say it was in the noir genre – but the relationships between the central characters are delightful. I also really appreciated the description of the artistry involved in forging meat – making sure the marbling is just random enough to look real, but not so random that it no longer looks organic, for example – not to mention the anatomical knowledge required to put a steak together that looks and behaves like a steak.
Also, did I mention that I adored both Helena and Lily?
I found myself chortling with glee as the story wound towards its conclusions. Highly recommended.
Prasad was nominated for a Campbell Award, and this was part of her voter pack, alongside her short story, Fandom for Robots, which was also enormous fun. I’ve put her high wherever I’ve seen her on the ballot, and hope to read more of her.