Elk-Bee Politics

I have been alternating between reading two books this week, Robin Sloan’s Moonbound and Maggie Smith’s You Could Make This Place Beautiful.

Both, as it happens, feature bees.

From Moonbound:

The elk turned and walked into the trees. The bees swirled around his antlers, and Ariel wondered if they were shouting goodbye.

My mind reeled at the implications of elk-bee politics. There, I thought, was a template for my partnership with the boy. Ariel was not as sturdy as the elk; I was not as useful as the bees. Not yet.

(“My mind reeled at the implications of elk-bee politics.” counts as one of my highlight sentences of 2024.)

From You Could Make This Place Beautiful:

Later, the Lowe’s truck arrived, and the man climbed out with his clipboard. By that time, the bees had gathered into what looked like a boiling beach ball in one of the honey locust tree’s bad elbows. I explained to the driver: “We’ve got a bee problem in the backyard, so please just leave everything on the side of the house so you don’t get too close. I don’t want anyone to get stung.” 

And what he said next is something that, when I think of it now, makes me wonder about magic. 

I’m a beekeeper.”

Neither passage makes any sense out of context like this, but the appearance of the bees is an important inflection point in both books.

My copy of Moonbound, by the way, has come to me through some magic rip in space-time, as the book hasn’t been published yet. But my copy arrived at The Bookmark last week, and I’ve been reading it since. It feels both scandalous and appropriate to the time-gymnastics of the plot.