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A Person-Shaped Story

Nyri A. Bakkalian || Paperback || 9781947012417

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Wielder and blade. One heart together.


Spring 2011. Surveying the ruins of her wife's hometown in northern Japan, River Victoria Eginian felt useless. Still adjusting to her cybernetic prostheses—the result of career-ending combat wounds—amid coming out as trans, life was already a challenge. She hated being on the sidelines of the recovery efforts spearheaded by the Japanese and US militaries, but soon she met the local combat dolls—cybernetic beings honed in both softness and sharpness—leading the way in clearing debris and finding survivors in places that no human could reach. River felt envious, but she also saw a path to new wholeness and purpose.

River’s wife, Dr. Isawa Kasu—the daughter of a long, proud line of warrior-scholars from Japan’s northern Tohoku region—was raised to be her demanding father's heir apparent as both head of family and director of the powerful Santaku Group. Abandoning the crushing role to be true to herself as a trans woman, she wore the name kasu—“dregs”—as a badge of honor. A brilliant cyberneticist and hands-on leader, Kasu leaped headfirst into helping her wife remake herself as a blue-haired combat doll with a new name: River M59A1.

Spring 2022. Yui め-633, a retired combat doll, runs a bakery with her spouse in Sendai. With a chassis made by the defunct Nogami Corporation, Yui struggles to keep herself alive and keep her doors open. With no continued support or maintenance from her manufacturer and the rising costs of Nogami parts, which only appear from time to time in unseemly aftermarkets, it seems inevitable that Yui and thousands of other Nogami-type combat dolls will eventually be forced out of existence.

Seeking to help their friend, River and Kasu stumble upon layers of the cybernetic world far more callous and sinister than either could have imagined. Embracing their roles—Kasu as Wielder, River as blade—the couple fight as one heart together to bring justice and wholeness to those most in need.

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About the Author

Nyri A. Bakkalian, Ph.D. is an Armenian-American queer woman by birth and a military historian by training. She is proud to have called the American and Japanese northeasts her home. She has produced nonfiction, fiction, and photography content for more than a dozen publications, including two newspapers and five anthologies, as well as for Eisner Award-nominated author Magdalene Visaggio’s Kim & Kim. Most recently, she is a staff writer for Unseen Japan. What’s her secret, you ask? Garlic and Turkish coffee (but really mostly Turkish coffee).

Come say hi to her on Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon at @riversidewings.