Home > Recommendations > “Perfect Lies”, by Gwendolyn Clare

“Perfect Lies”, by Gwendolyn Clare

“Perfect Lies” is a 2011 science fiction short story by Gwendolyn Clare.  A woman who naturally expresses no visible emotion is the human trade representative to the Mask People, for whom every thought is expressed on the face.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Nora is a very special trade representative in negotiations with the Mask People.  You see, they have a culture of “teeming emotions”, feelings expressed through enormous faces covered in fine appendages that they use to communicate.  They are very sensitive to visible, uncontrolled emotion.  Nora is special, in that she doesn’t natively express her emotions–for her, they’re a learned skill.  In some ways, this is a story about negotiations between three sides: Humanity, the Mask People, and Nora herself.

Why should you read it?

“Perfect Lies” is an example of two of my favorite kinds of science fiction stories. The first is the outsider-on-behalf-of-humanity–stories ranging from Silverberg’s The Man in the Maze to Ender’s Game have portrayed the one exceptional person working on behalf of the mass of our race.  The other is one-change story.  The bulk of this story isn’t about high technology or large changes in how humans live–it’s about Nora’s one difference from us, and how that makes her relationship to the Mask People different from everyone else’s.

Where to find “Perfect Lies”

The story was originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine, where you can still read it online.  There is also audio.

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