Love Is a Thing with Feathers

Posthuman Metamorphoses in “This Is How You Lose the Time War”

  • Valentina Romanzi
Keywords: posthumanism, metaphor, metamorphosis, Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone


Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War (2019) follows agents Red and Blue as they move through space and time to fight a seemingly endless war between their respective factions. Written in epistolary form, it traces the evolution of their relationship from enmity to star-crossed love. A mix of poetic language and science fictional prose and tropes, the novella touches upon several issues pertaining to the contemporary reflection on the posthuman. The interpretive framework of this essay hinges on the concepts of metamorphosis and metaphor, deployed to explore how the novella continually updates the subjectivity of its protagonists through a series of contacts and interactions with various
kinds of Otherness. The goal of this essay is to show that the ontological value of the protagonists’ selves shapeshifts both through their interaction with each other’s alterity and through their contact with the letters – that is, the metaphorical language of their epistolary exchange. As the missives take ever-different forms according to their chrono-spatial context, their message is absorbed through touch, taste, smell, sight, and other senses, resulting in an embodied assemblage of addresser, message, and addressee that well represents the posthuman pull towards a hybrid subject, in a text that equally eschews the boundaries of genre.

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