On Miriam Seidel’s ‘The Velocity of Clouds’

Miriam Seidel’s debut novel, The Velocity of Clouds, offers an insightful and compassionate look into the world of late 20th century fandom and the necessity for neighborhood. Set in 1999 among the many early days of residence Web entry and the peak of the Y2K cyberbug hysteria, this novel deftly explores the turning level of fandom going international and focuses on the people and teams most affected, each positively and negatively, by this shift.

Protagonist Mindy Vogel shouldn’t be having a superb month. First, her so-called buddies voted that she get replaced as Commander of the Cyborg Appreciation Society — the fandom group that she based and became an enormous deal. Then, her mom took up with a sleazy dude from New Jersey. To make issues worse, her finest pal has began hanging out with a bunch of losers preferring being rebels over being a part of the Federation. Throw in that it’s virtually her 24th birthday and that she’s nonetheless dwelling wheelchair-bound at residence with no impartial future in sight, and it’s no marvel she’s on edge on a regular basis.

Mindy’s solely respite is her creativeness, the place she is SkyLog officer Kat Wanderer, adventuring via the galaxy with ease and sharing her experiences together with her cyborg consort. On this planet of SkyLog, she is aware of precisely what to do, how one can behave, how one can carry out her duties with grace and aplomb. However as life continues throwing her curveball after curveball, Mindy is pressured out of her head and into the true world, the place, for the primary time in a very long time, she takes the troublesome step of confronting herself to find out what she needs the long run to carry.

The Velocity of Clouds is a compelling learn for a lot of causes. First, the characters themselves are handled as complicated people. Nobody falls into tropes or stereotypes, and the variety current transcends boundaries of sophistication, skill, race, and sexual orientation. Mindy has spina bifida, a congenital spinal defect that severely limits her decrease physique mobility and performance. Firstly of the novel, her whole life is wrapped up in on-line chats, in emails, within the fan group she began, and in ignoring that her medical situation is definitely worsening. She treats those that disagree together with her with disdain, going as far as to insult strangers at Cons who cosplay characters she doesn’t like:

“Santak wanna-bes are typically plus measurement. You’ll be able to’t miss them on the Cons. […I]t’s by no means been my factor. If you need pseudo-Darkish Ages escapism, persist with Hercules or Xena, I say.”

However the lack of her fan group signifies that she has to start out listening and speaking to different individuals, and by the tip of the novel, she has to be taught to confront her personal prejudice and bitterness.

Different characters stand out, as nicely. Mindy’s finest pal, Zuzana, is a musician recording discovered sounds and mixing them into otherworldly melodies. Zu additionally comes out as homosexual by the tip of the novel and doesn’t enable others to carry her down. She is robust within the face of Mindy’s anger, and a real finest pal, supporting Mindy when it’s vital but additionally calling her out when Mindy crosses a line. And since Zu has her personal life exterior solely what Mindy needs to do, Zu is a powerful character in her personal proper.

Even unlikable characters keep away from the lure of being stereotyped. Whereas firstly of the novel it appears as if Mindy is typecasting everybody, as Mindy’s consciousness grows, so does the complexity of each character, regardless of how main or minor.

As a result of the characters are so well-written and are available throughout as absolutely fashioned individuals, The Velocity of Clouds is ready to handle themes of neighborhood, acceptance, and openness with the depth these themes deserve. Mindy and others see the Web because the miracle it was in 1999, the gateway to connecting with those that shared their imaginative and prescient and beliefs for the long run in a gift that ostracized many within the fandom and cosplay communities.

“I remind myself of all of the methods I’m linked to the larger world from right here. […] On-line, I’m fearless.”

And due to this, the characters are capable of finding a voice and acceptance. As Mindy evolves her sense of self, she begins to just accept that this on-line world is step one towards creating the life she needs in the true world, as nicely.

General, it is a improbable learn with characters who will make you cheer and harm for them, a plot that delivers, and robust depth of feeling throughout.

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