My second review is of the January 5th Strange Horizons. Once again I can't help but look at the non-fiction as well, because it's a great piece looking at masculinity through the lens of some recent movies and shows. And I will be trying to review whatever poetry I come across. I've always loved poetry, and while it might not be my area of expertise as much as stories, I think I can find something intelligible to say on the subject.
"Vacui Magia" by L. S. Johnson (3459 words)
About loss and guilt and magic, this story certainly has an edge to it. Told like a guidebook for creating and then destroying a golem-child, it's told in the second person, which is strange enough. But there is a raw hurt to the character that comes through, like the second person narrative is only a way the witch tries to distance herself from the pain of the experience. Because even while it's written as "you" it's really saying "I." It's an effective frame for the story, and an excellent way to get into the witch's head, into her regret and shame and guilt and grief that her mother is dying and that she has no child. I'm always a little wary of stories that focus so much on a woman desperately wanting a child. I can understand the drive, but it normally seems a want placed on her from the outside. Even here it's difficult to separate the witch's desire for a child and the witch's mother's desire that her daughter have a child. And wanting to appease a parent seems a terrible reason to have a child and the witch's motivations seem too muddied by her desire to not hurt her mother to be entirely voluntary. Still, the last line brings things back a bit, brings the witch to a place where she seems more at peace, more content with herself. A good story, overall, and a lot to think about.
"Sythia" by Marinelle G. Ringer
Evoking Greek myths, most strongly that of Theseus in the Labyrinth, this poem at first seemed to me a bit confusing. It's a mix of things that took me a while to piece together. The language is great, and the imagery is amazing. I absolutely love the image of the box bearing the word "love." Really the poem makes me think I'm misremembering all of my Greek mythology, but I kind of like that about it, how it evokes so much that captures the feel of those stories. It makes me want to go back and read them all. I'm sure I would "get" a bit more if I did. But for now I'm content to admire the language, to enjoy the way Theseus is stopped by that box, but how it doesn't stop him. An interesting poem.
"Intertitles: Oh, the Cleverness of Me!: Masculinity and the Horror Show" by Genevieve Valentine
One would think it hard for me to follow a piece that talks about a slew of shows and movies that I have never seen. But I know exactly what's' going on, because it's not just going on in the shows that are mentioned. But I love the commentary on the various texts, and the idea that there is a movement, even in movies (gasp!) to show masculinity as not some untarnished idol for everyone to bow down to. The cult of masculinity is something that is strong, that exists and perpetuates itself in so many various ways, that to see it be questioned is refreshing and horrifying, because with all things there is the backlash against it, those that double down, like the critics of the recent Pan. It would be very interesting to see how these masculine ideals are starting to be subverted in things aimed at younger audiences. I'm a huge Adventure Time fan, and see in shows like it (like Avatar as well) a definite challenge of the traditional masculine model. I also read a lot of YA for Teenreads and see how things are dealt with there. In some there is still the "spirit of masculinity" and in others (the ones I like more) that model is not just let stand. As a non-standard man, it's very interesting to see. I can only hope that the subversion continues and gains in strength and that the backlash is not too dangerous.