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Beyond the El

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Connor is a food crafter just getting back into the business after his mother’s death. To cope with his grief, Connor spends day after day recreating her potstickers, but they are never quite what he remembers. To move on with his life, he will have to confront his past.

Read John Chu's Original short story, Beyond the El.

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ebook, 26 pages
Published January 16th 2019 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  93 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s fine, perfectly cooked even, but it’s no more than that. It doesn’t taste like Mom’s. They never do. He can diddle with the flavors. Hell, if he put his mind to it, he could make the dumplings taste like a crisp, tart apple tinged with cinnamon and cardamom. What he can’t do, at least not yet, is make them taste like the ones he remembers, the ones his mom made when he was fourteen when she wouldn’t show him what to do no matter how much he begged.

another lovely, sad free tor short. the bit
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
🍳 Free Cooking Fantasy short from Tor 🍳

Supposedly magical cooking + boring family stuff + paper dumplings + abusive siblings + handsome band singer *eyeroll* =

Jan 31, 2019 rated it liked it
John Chu’s “Beyond the El” is the story of Connor, a high-end “food crafter” who uses magic to make gourmet meals but can’t for the life of him recreate his late mother’s pot sticker recipe. His manipulative older sister Prue, who has been abusing him since he was a child, shows up at his restaurant one night demanding that he turn over his share of their mother’s money to their father, and he can’t bring himself to connect with the handsome singer from work who makes eyes at him every day. The ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
I remain ambivalent about the magical element (this story could be straight up contemporary fiction with no SFF aspect, and it would still work perfectly), but the journey the protagonist goes through with his family relationships...This was so satisfying, without being a tearjerker or being angry.
Other than making me hungry, this fell flat.
If you like short-form genre fiction, now has a fantastic option whereupon you can subscribe and receive a bimonthly ebook containing everything published on its website for that period. The website has quickly established itself as a leading publisher of genre fiction that pushes boundaries, and which also gives up-and-coming writers a fantastic platform to reach a wider audience. I looked for this compilation on Goodreads, but I see that all of the novellas are listed as standa ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The first story in Tor’s short fiction newsletter. It was pretty good. I found the inclusion of the food “crafting” an odd choice since it really had no effect on the story. It was kind of like- oh yeah, this is supposed to be fantasy, how should I do that? I know! Food crafting.

And I’m over here like: 🙄

I almost think it would have been more impactful without the crafting? I’m just assuming it would be easier to remake mama’s dumpling with magic food hands than without them. Therefore, no food c
Jan 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-freebie
Well that was depressing. Short, but not worth it. 1, that sister was an evil piece of work and the brother was a weak push over, Star.
Hmmm, I loved Chu's short, The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, but this one is a disappointment. Maybe because I hate the big sister, she's abusive and manipulative, and the brother just gives in. Plus the whole story is rather depressing, compared to the previous short that has tenderness and family love to it.

It also makes me wonder about Chu's own experience with his family -- because I remember The Water... also has a horrible big sister character :(
Zoe's Human
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lt
A man grieves for his mother by trying to recreate her cooking, only to find that he must cope with a toxic sibling in order to move forward. The emotional honesty of the story perfectly balances the magical element.
Pedro Poeira
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
John Chu é o autor de uma das minhas histórias favoritas da vida, “The water that falls on you from nowhere” — que também ganhou o prêmio Hugo em 2014 por melhor conto —, então quando encontrei outro conto dele na, mergulhei de cabeça.

Existem elementos recorrentes nas histórias do John Chu. Menções à cultura taiwanesa, visto que o próprio autor nasceu em Taiwan antes de se mudar para os EUA, aparecem novamente neste conto; além de um núcleo familiar semelhante, irmão e irmã com problemas
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Yes, there are several distracting typos in this story. Despite that I gave it 5 whole stars. :p

The speculative element was understated at best, limited at worst. It was mostly in the wonderful descriptions of food crafting, but I'm not mad about that. There could have been an implication that the handsome singer, Nick, had some ability beyond the mundane, but it was unclear.

Some people called Connor weak or a pushover, and perhaps he was by their reckoning, but overall, he felt familiar to me,
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I really liked John Chu's work in the past and I was eager to read hist latest short story. I was not disappointed. It's a very interesting story, focusing on complex family relation and on their emotional toll.
This is the story of Connor, a food crafter, just getting back into the business after his mother's death. To cope with his grief, Connor spends day after day recreating her potstickers, but they are never quite what he remembers. To move on with his life, he will have to confront his pas
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tor-com
Yet another story about food (& memories) at I wonder if writers somehow picked up a marketing trend of ' food as an experience' or whatever it is called. In any case, the story is very good. I definitely recommend it.

Btw, I also recommend you try fried dumplings if you haven't yet.

Read it here:
Lizabeth Tucker
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Connor struggles to recreate his late mother's dumplings, never quite reaching that bit of perfection. He really doesn't need the stress of his cold abusive sister back in his life. Although maybe he does.

Very low key. The relationship between Nick and Connor was more interesting to me. As to use of magic to prepare foods, was it really necessary? 3 out of 5.
Jun 14, 2019 added it
Male protagonist has an evil sister. This seems to be a bit of a theme in what works I've read of Mr. Chu's. The food crafting was an interesting concept, and I got hungry in at least three places in this short story. :)
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were simply too many typos and poorly constructed sentences to give this a higher rating. It says that it was edited by Ann VanderMeer, but this person either has no experience or is not good at their job. Or possibly, it was never actually edited at all. And because of all the errors, it made it quite difficult to understand what was trying to be said.

Here are some examples:

"Also, some of Mom's "estate" -- their parents aren't not [sic] exactly rich -- must be in Taiwan."
- This might b
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ollie-reccs

This story is so rich I can't decide if I want 500 more pages or if a single extra letter would spoil it completely. It caught me right in the chest and wouldn't let go.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's a slow-paced and quite nice story about a guy dealing with the death of his mother.
Not the best short story ever, but it's a nice read.
What I don't understand is the name of the story. Any idea?
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
An interesting premise for a story but it never seemed to go anywhere. Well written but it did not work for me.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sad but compelling story of family life and its consequent disappointments. Metaphors are maybe just a little bit stretched, but not obviously so.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting view of magical cookery and abusive family dynamics. Find your own bliss point, Connor!
Jan 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
A short story about a gifted cook with family issues unable to recreate his mother's recipes. I couldn't connect neither with the story nor its sci fi element.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
it just felt like it ended just as i was really getting into it like i wanted more

Rep: Taiwanese gay mc, gay li

CWs: past child abuse
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, and beautifully devastating.
Nerine Dorman
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful short story about memories and letting go, and dealing with the casual cruelty of siblings. Read over at ...more
rated it really liked it
Aug 01, 2020
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Jan 18, 2019
rated it it was ok
Jan 18, 2020
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John Chu is a microprocessor architect by day, a writer by night. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Boston Review, Bloody Fabulous, Asimov's Science Fiction, Apex Magazine and His story "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

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