This is it, folks, the last issue of Crossed Genres. I will admit that I will miss this publication. The theme this issue is pronouns, and the stories do indeed challenge linguistic ideas of pronouns, showing how they are used and how they can be tools to prop up some antiquated (and shitty) systems and ideas. But also about how they can free. These stories are provocative and a fitting way to send Crossed Genres Magazine out in style. Review time!
"The Captain's Sphere" by Malcolm A. Schmitz (4382 words)
This story does quite nicely live up to the theme of the issue, dealing with pronouns. Here we follow Ava as she navigates a world that is still broken up into spheres, only she refuses to be shut into any one sphere. Assigned male at birth, she can pass for a man in order to sail the skies, in order to hunt angels. As a scientist she can be more herself, but there is no place where she can be entirely comfortable except with those that know her most intimately and those who have no real language to constrain here. The idea of spheres hasn’t really be popular for a long time, but in the steampunk story it is used to great effect to explore the idea of people moving from one to anyother. Some would claim that it’s evidence that people shouldn’t move between spheres, but more it’s proof that no one really inhabits a sphere perfectly. And Ava embodies that to the extreme, a woman but not always ladylike, a captain but not a man at all, a scientist but definitely not one for social niceties, especially because the other people can make up their own minds about where she belongs, and they can effect her. It’s a fun story, showing Ava move and linking in the idea of debunking separate spheres by Ava’s work with angels. It all comes together nicely and provides a fun and striking look at Ava’s life. Indeed!
"At the Sixes' and Sevens'" by Sara Kate Ellis (3658 words)
This is an…interesting story. One that takes a look at a colony where people cluster and where the number of people in a cluster determine what pronouns people get (number based so 2’s mug or 10’s trombone). The more people in a cluster, too, the more social standing. It’s a rather interesting setup, made more so because the main characters, Cody and Sydney, are Catholic, and the Church only recognizes marriages of two. So they are 2s. For that it’s an interesting look at how two people can connect, and how difference can thrive even in the face of adversity. But I will admit that something about this story…bothered me a little bit. Perhaps it’s because there is an inherent religious disapproval of polyamory that does sort of get into everything. Plus the ending really hits one of my “I don’t really like that move” triggers. I can see that two people can work. But I don’t like that there is a vague implication that more than that cannot. Not that Sydney is wrong for not wanting that. Of course they can want that. But I refuse to damn anyone for choosing more than that. Because more than two sounds like a damned fine idea, really. The idea of more people pooling more resources? Just…well, it’s an interesting story and there are certainly things to like. And I’ll stop myself there.
"Grandpa's Glasses" by Carol Otte (4963 words)
Closing out the fiction this month (at least as I’m reading them), this story is a rather sweet story of a young trans girl growing up and losing her grandpa. Ah, me and grandparent stories. This one didn’t quite get me to cry, but it is a nice look at how people aren’t always who you think, or perhaps more accurately people are more complex than they seem. Especially old people, who have lived a long time. It’s a generational story, one that sees the main character struggling with the loss of her grandparent but also with growing into herself. It’s a story about boundaries and about standing up for yourself and about finding out who you are. It’s no real surprise that this journey is helped along by seeing through other’s eyes. By feeling what they felt. Feeling not alone, not something new but part of something that has always been present, gives the main character confidence to find out more about herself. To push. It doesn’t always work out, but that’s life. It’s not about never making mistakes but about doing right by them, seeing them and correcting them as possible. And the mood and the tone give a feel of moving on, moving forward. Living life. A fine story!