The stories in this month's Shimmer Magazine look at very different sides of love. In the first, love is something dangerous and alive, tarnished by pain and loss and hate. And in the second it is a kind of magic that transforms the random daily acts of parenting into larger-than-life confrontations and accomplishments. These are stories that don't precisely flow thematically, but after the first the second is a welcome respite from the pain and damage that life can bring, that broken systems encourage. These are stories, though, that both flow and weave language into beautifully poetic form. These are certainly stories that shimmer, though in very different ways. To the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"Trees Struck by Lightning Burning from the Inside Out" by Emily Lungren ( words)
This story looks at the lingering effects of hatred and loss, the way that a situation can get into a person and eat them alive, their feelings of powerlessness and despair so great that they need some sort of expression, and how that expression can often turn self-destructive. The plot follows R, a young man whose life has largely been defined by losses. By the death of his parents from a wolf attack. By the death of his grandparents. By the destruction of the only relationship that seemed to be good for him. The setting is interesting, built so that wolves are sentient and many of them can shift to human forms. They have rights so long as they're controlled but often they are wild and when wolves are wild they are not protected by any law. Indeed, bands of people can form to hunt them down where wild wolves are threatening human settlements. For R, who cannot get over the desire for revenge, these groups offer some sort of family, some sort of outlet for his rage and hurt. But not a very good one. It's a difficult piece in large part because it focuses on broken characters, people locked into abusive and destructive cycles where they can't see past their pain. When they seem on the verge of it the violence and general fucked-up-ness of the world, of the setting, reasserts itself and what remains is a very tragic situation where R struggles against the gravity of a system that is broken and that has wronged him. But his struggles only further entrench all sides because the humans here are not innocent, and wolves are still very much in a dangerous and tenuous position. It's a story that looks at how the fear and distrust and violence that exists pulls everyone down and prevents them from breaking free and being happy. It's an intense and almost draining read, but a very good story!
"Your Mama's Adventures in Parenting" by Mary Robinette Kowal ( words)
This story takes an imaginative and compassionate look at parenting, looking at "Your Mama" through the lens of a child's eye, at the various roles that parents play, the ways in which they go beyond the mundane into the gleefully speculative. [SPOILERS] The story is split into multiple parts, each one further split into two sections. This framing allows the each scene to unfold first in a speculative landscape where Your Mama is doing something dramatic, something awe-inspiring. And then in the second part this wonder is pulled back into something a bit more mundane. The effect for me is that the story imagines the superpowers of parents in the eyes of children, how for those who always wondered how their parents were able to accomplish what they are, the answer is pushed into magic and super science and the stuff of stories and movies and dreams. Which is cute, evoking the way that children can idolize their parents, push their feats into the super-human because it's so beyond the power of children. And it's a nicely subtle story, too, one that doesn't really spell out too much but lets the framing do most of the work and concentrates on finding some solid parallels and examining the different hats that parents have to wear for their children, from savior to spy to something approaching monstrous. Each iteration made sense to me and together it forms a nicely balanced view of parenting and childhood and the blurry lines of reality. Now, for many some of might miss its mark a little, because for many parents also hold a much more damaging role, but it's rather nice to focus on more positive aspects of parenting, not free of darkness but with a more heartwarming feel. It's makes for a fun and refreshing read!