Dear readers, prepare your comfiest of sweaters and get ready for a good cry, because this issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination really knows how to play with emotions. It's an effective one-two punch of heart breaking and heart warming and you should just know that going in because fuck, yeah, emotionally raw would be a good way to describe things at the moment. These are stories about loving someone and then losing them. In two very, very different ways. They are harrowing and they are inspiring and they have left me a bit wrung out. So yeah, without further warnings, to the reviews!
"You Said, Promised, Swore" by Alexis A. Hunter (1099 words)
Well okay, this is a rather heartbreaking story that is…not easy to read. It is a story like an open wound, a story of loss and of love and of continuing on. It's a bittersweet story because it envisions a world that's compelling to me, where bearing children is something that can be done by a person of any body and I like how that complicates the tale. And fuck does this get dark. Like, really dark. [SPOILERS] It's about a person who is pregnant, who watched their partner die, to carries this child but who can't really birth because their body isn't designed to do that. And alone in an escape pod with dwindling supplies, they have to make a decision. Well, many decisions. The frame of the piece is that it's this person speaking to their dead partner (I DID NOT LIE ABOUT THE DARKNESS) about this experience. About the now-broken promise that they would face this task together. And so the story becomes to me about making plans. About partnering. About death. About how you can never really be sure of what you're going to be able to do. That, as a couple, you make decisions assuming that you'll always be together and sometimes that…just…doesn't happen and fuck I'm crying a little now. Ahem. Refocusing. The story is heavy and it is dense but it is also full of a sort of wonder and space that I really enjoyed, the sense of looking out a window and seeing this sea of stars and still finding warmth in all that cold. The story is about struggle and about family and it is a difficult and emotional read but it is also very, very good. So give it a look (but be prepared to cry).
"Ndakusuwa" by Blaize M. Kaye (820 words)
Awwwww! Why does this issue insist on making me cry?! Okay, okay, I might be an emotional wreck but I will soldier on. This is a great and resonant story about loss and about parenting. In many ways it is very well paired with the early one but this one looks at a parting that is much more consensual and much less heartbreaking. Here the main focus is on a man, Lameck, and his daughter. His daughter who grows up gifted curious, and incredibly competent. Who keeps on leaving, each time going further and further away. [SPOILERS] To America. To space. And finally, to leaving Earth behind forever. And through it all she maintains a relationship with her father that is affirming and strong, that is loving and supportive. And I love seeing that, that he cares about his daughter so much and is not threatened by her abilities or her ambition. Is not really tempted to protect her by not letting her go. And while the story does put a lot of this on him, on his not letting her go instead of her just going, it's still very much about her agency and her drive. That which takes her to the stars. And about how their relationship remains strong because he believes in her, because he lets her go and doesn't stand in her way. Because he can see that she has always been pointed out at the stars and that his love is for that person, for the woman who would go. It's a lovely piece about parenting and parental love and it's heartwarming and the perfect thing to heal after a rather brutal first story and read it, people. Read it!