Chaos Trifecta #13: Society

chaos trifecta
Written By Ai Jiang

Ai Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian writer and an immigrant from Fujian. She is a member of HWA, SFWA, and Codex. Her work can be found in F&SF, The Dark, Uncanny, among others. She is the holder of Odyssey Workshop's 2022 Fresh Voices Scholarship. Her debut novella Linghun (April 2023) is forthcoming with Dark Matter INK. Find her on Twitter (@AiJiang_) and online (

I won’t say too much before diving into this month’s piece because I think the musings and thoughts on the chosen chaos trifecta speak for themselves, but we have three stories commenting on something I have been brewing given current events: the way society is driven by death and sacrifice, and how society also has a way of driving people towards death.

Nestlings by Nat Cassidy

This is an extremely dark book that questions morality and who has the right to decide life and death, and how it often falls into the hands of the powerful and wealthy—how the rich are predators who prey on the needs of those less fortunate. Cassidy sheds light on the monsters, vampires, and predators in our lives that wear human faces and live and feed off our pain.

Sometimes those monsters are ourselves.

Cassidy explores the messy and contradictory nature and meaning of motherhood, the heroism, the antagonism of the same. Most of all, this book holds every possible fear I’ve ever had about parenthood.

My favorite quotes from the book:

“A building is just a house. She is a home”

“. . . there is no moving on. Only moving forward.” (From the afterword)

“Why Don’t We Just Kill the Kid in the Omelas Hole” by Isabel J. Kim

Right when this piece came out, I knew it was going to be one that made its rounds with both readers and writers alike, particularly when it comes to the current state of the world. Kim criticizes the way society often functions on sacrifices, how breaking one thing might mean fixing another, how every solution always comes with consequences, and the ethics of choices.

This story draws on philosophical concepts I, myself, have brewed long and hard about and yet still have come no closer to an appropriate answer for, in particular, it brings me to the theory of utilitarianism—where the supposedly “right” action is one that benefits the most people, and yet, we know with this idea, we would willingly allow the suffering of others. 

This story is a fever dream, a harsh light cast on all the problems in the world and the way we might ignore and overlook them, the way our society might abandon others for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of larger functioning. It is an illumination of those sacrificed and left behind, a criticism of those who are doing the leaving, and at the same time, exploring the consequences of what happens if they don’t.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Much like the previous two pieces, Earthlings holds a lot of commentary on the failures of society, but with an added layer of the ways society might drive those it is meant to serve towards a willing death.

Murata explores what it means to die, both literally and metaphorically, what happens when it feels as though our bodies no longer belong to us, when we seem to be merely tools for society—easily used and discarded.

In Earthlings, adulthood is seen as the death of childhood. There is grief, funeral customs, the living as guides for the dead, the grieving for a dead child who they never truly knew, horrible deeds, perversion, grime beneath spotless mask. There is death, the numbing of the mind, as a means of overcoming trauma, because society has turned a blind eye to crime and injustice. Death, in Earthlings, is explored in the form of violation. Trauma becomes death itself.

This book reminds me of 1984, not in the sense of the theme of surveillance, but in the sense that the societies in 1984 and Earthlings are forcing their citizens to conform until they bend under the pressure to work, to reproduce, get married. Earthlings depicts the binaries of expectations of men and women, duty and responsibility, confines of culture and tradition through overbearing families and friends, the inflexibility of gender, the way infidelity is seen as reward.

At its core is the question: How are we to live on a planet not our own, on a land we feel as though we don’t belong on, even if we were born on it, and how do we deal with a society we don’t agree with—can we, should we, must we?

Dear readers, don’t be fooled by masks of perfection, because if you stare closely enough, you might just see the cracks, you might just realize that nothing is truly whole, and that everything is ultimately broken.