Surprise, I've added a new publication to my review pile! I've been paying attention to Fireside Fiction for some time now and as a few publications have closed of changed their release schedule I found a spot had opened up and didn't have to debate long what to fill it with. The fiction of this issue is, well, dark. From outright horror to heartbreaking science fiction, these are stories with a shadow falling across them, where what moves in the darkness is vague but moving closer. Each piece features someone brushing against both loss and the unknown. Grief and the struggle for relief. These are sharp stories with a great weight and a powerful force. So yeah, time to review them!
|Art by Galen Dara|
"The Get-Get Man" by Melissa Moorer (4968 words)
Well okay then. This is a creepy and intensely dark story about the power of want. The story explores both the need to be wanted and how want of things (both physical and immaterial) can manifest. The main character of the story, Amber Lynn, is named only once, right at the beginning, and then it's like the first thing that gets taken from her is her name. Is the thing that distinguishes her, makes her noticeable. Because as the story progresses a sense of isolation permeates the mood and atmosphere. The story becomes gothic, Amber being stalked by something powerful and relegated to the shadows. Something that can't be full perceived. And it does a great job in my opinion of building the horror of the story, in selling the creeping dread that starts to consume the narrative. And I feel that it's all built around want, want for what can be controlled and the vast area of wanting things that can't be. The trouble with the Getting of the story is that it really only works on things. And the things aren't really what might make Amber Lynn happy. Instead her existence is defined by what she doesn't have and can't get. Love. Friends. Safety. There is a nice feeling throughout that she is not safe, that her sister is not safe, that something bad is happening that Amber doesn't really know but still kind-of knows. It's a tale with a heavy tragedy and a bleak kind of hope. I love the way that the sisters, Leslie and Amber Lynn, play off each other, and the ways that Amber is in many ways a victim of being a child in a bad situation, not knowing what to do, trying desperately to find a want that will fix things. It's sad and it's powerful and it's a good reason to sleep with the lights on. Indeed!
"Speak" by Cassandra Khaw (1528 words)
This story does a great job of examining the role of media and looking at what makes something viral. And perhaps it's a personal reading of mine but I just love how the story treats the concept of a virus of information, a virus of voice, a virus of pleading intensity. The story focuses on Maurice, who is a reporter in tech who finds himself more and more drawn to stories about justice and death following his brainware getting compromised with something. It's not exactly called viral but it certainly acts that way, a constant reminder to Maurice about the death and destruction going on and a constant plea to act. To speak out. To speak for those who cannot speak. It is a sharp critique of the role of the media in a time when actually reporting on things seems to be less important than driving traffic. The story takes the more homegrown idea of a viral movement, a viral news media, and runs with it to great and disturbing effect. The piece, to me, feels vaguely nourish, everything soaked in cigarette smoke and broken dreams, and I love that Maurice doesn't want to be cured of the voices in his head, the images that he sees. That he knows the just thing is to endure it and to use it to push him forward. This is the power of viral media, to get into people's heads and not let them go. To get them to circumvent the traditional gatekeepers of media and try to get something out there. It's a rather disturbing story, too, full of violent imagery and the callous dismissal of injustice by those comfortable with it. But Maurice isn't comfortable, has been awakened by the virus of these voices, and pushes forward in a way that is unsettling but invigorating. A great read!
"Rabbit Heart" by Alyssa Wong (1010 words)
This is a moving story of loss, of one person's drive to create…the illusion of continuity, I guess. [SPOILERS] To recreate a person knowing that the person will not be authentic and will not last but doing it anyway because the ache of grief is so sharp and because…well, because they can. I love the way the story slowly lays out the rules of the procedure, and how it makes clear that the main character, Fengoh, is both doctor and client in their own practice. There's such a contrast of violence and pain that they deal with in the bodies that get brought in and the idea that these people can be remade, that the harm done to them can be erased, likely by those who hurt them, and they can reemerge a clean slate. It's heartbreaking to see the main character proceed, knowing what it means, that it's not only a hollow comfort but one that can't undo the damage, one that keeps the people reaching back for their loved ones alone. And I think I read by that a form of penance going on, a way for the families to work through their own guilt and denial, their own insistence that they've done nothing wrong. It's a slow and a beautiful one, with an interesting central premise and a languid, moving prose. I love how the rabbits of the title are used, as the material to build these proto-humans, and how they don't last. And I wonder how much of that is by design, whatever the main character says, because they could have chosen something that lasts longer. But there's something about the rabbit, the fast-beating heart, the softness, the dark eyes, that speaks both to the main character. That maybe this isn't supposed to last. That it should have to be renewed again and again because otherwise it would be a cheat. A trap. It's a tender story and a wrenching one and a great way to close out the issue!