It's stories like those that appear in this issue of Shimmer Magazine that remind me why I love the publication. There's such a depth and a darkness, a weight to these tales, that make them linger like bruises. They impact. From the science fictional vision of the first story to the fairy tale stylings of the second, these stories are linked by an atmosphere of oppression and magic, exhaustion and hope. The characters are dealing with situations beyond their control, really, bound by circumstance, and yet both refuse to give up, to give in. Both find ways of fighting on and, in some ways, fighting back. Finding hope and pulling it screaming with them through the world. The stories are haunting and powerful and I should just get to those reviews.
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"Indigo Blue" by Rachael K. Jones (6590 words)
Okay, okay, fighting back the sniffles here because shit is this story a beautiful kind of sad and moving. It centers heavily on chronic sickness and despair and being trapped in a situation. Being stuck with needing to try so hard just to survive that living sometimes feels hardly worth it. But it's also about hope and friendship and finding reasons to keep going, to keep fighting, to not give up on life or on your dreams. Lucy, the main character of the story, is dealing with a lot, not just having kind-of washed out on her dream of being a successful musician but having to deal with an illness that requires her to take medication every day, that requires her to work basically just to support treatment. What gets her through is the though of visiting Indigo, sister-world to her planet, Violet. And I love how the story builds Indigo and Violet, two very different worlds with their own beauties and problems. And I equally love how the story built the relationship, the friendship between Lucy and Justin, both of them finding in the other something vital, missing, and yet their relationship is not sexual or romantic. They care so deeply and so earnestly for each other that it's really hard not to get lost to the forces arrayed against them, the tragedies of living. Sickness and death and misfortune. Oppressive systems and the grind of earning life. And yet even with the struggle there are moments of such beauty. The story pauses on sunsets and stunning views, on things that cost no money but that are incredibly valuable, without which there would be no way to fight against the constant lack, the fact that society doesn't care if you live or die. There's a great line, too, at the beginning, about charity that sums up brilliantly why private charity is such an unreliable and rather terrible thing to require people to rely on. And it's just a very good story, deep and poignant and hitting but with that edge of humanity, that rising knowledge that one can live for small moments, small victories. At least until one cannot. It's a subtle message and a powerful one and it's definitely a story to check out!
"All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray" by Gwendolyn Kiste (4117 words)
Well, yeah, as I read this story I had the feelings things were going to get…interesting. There's this great sense of a growing darkness, a crawling rot that doesn't show on the surface but which pervades just below, just hidden by a gauzy layer of presumed innocence and ignorance. The story is a fairy tale, or is deconstructing the idea of fairy tales, set in an orchard where young women are sent to eat an apple and fall asleep to be woken only by their princes. Or to remain asleep forever, and in both cases the victims of the expectations put on them and of the general oppression of their situation, their voiceless pain and their fate of being married off, shuffled away, one more child valuable only as a possession to be bought and sold. It complicates the idea of the fairy tale delightfully, the magic of the stories and the situations. And it rejects the old narratives, the place that is left for women in those stories. Bride and wife. Mother and princess. Instead it shows another possibility. [PROBABLY SPOILERS] Burn it all down. The story does a great job building to that point, too. From the beginning I kept getting the feeling that things were not going to end…well. That there was too much expectation, too much violence unseen, hidden in threats and fears. But the bluff is called in the end, and the main character finally has a chance to act. She stands for every woman in the story, nameless and therefore rather archetypal, burning down the patriarchy almost literally. It's great, and rounds out a very strong issue of the publication! Indeed!