|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“We Lilies of the Valley” by Sonja Natasha ( words)
This is a lovely story about longing and about space and about something growing that is strange and maybe dangerous but also beautiful and nurturing and good. The story centers Yvonne, who is living on a space station for an undisclosed amount of time. She’s living alone and sustained by care packages and connections to social media and things of that nature but really the isolation of space is rather intense. She tries to battle this with the memories of a woman she met before she left. Sierra. And it’s their relationship as if slowly develops that captures the way that loneliness can be defeated by connection, all the while growing a bit of magic in space. [SPOILERS] Because the main speculative element of the story is a seed that Yvonne plants and, defying all belief, begins to grow thanks to the connection that Yvonne and Sierra share. And I love that message, that here in the most inhospitable of environments, when growth and life seems impossible, this emotionally link that these two women share becomes something delicate that slowly grows into something huge and strong and mysterious. That it nurtures and sustains Yvonne on the station, yes, but also (the implication is) Sierra on Earth, both of them simultaneously supported and infected by this almost alien organism that is still comforting and reminds them of something they didn’t realize that they needed. It’s a story that takes its time but also builds wonderfully, organically, blossoming amid lyrical language and an interesting central image of this plant in space, and delivering on the emotional weight of Yvonne’s loneliness and hope, showing how the connection that she and Sierra makes overcomes distance and gravity and the joy in the ending is amazing and you really need to experience it. So go, read it! DO IT NOW!!!
“Dandelion” by John Shade ( words)
This is a rather strange but aching story about war and about ghosts, about desire and about heroes. It follows a voice that does not have a name, a person who loves another person named Leena, Leena who seems to be the key to defeating some great foe, some great AI in a conflict that might mean everything or nothing. The world introduced is heavy with technological terms, terms that might imply that the story is unfolding in virtual space, but nothing is incredibly certain. Instead what is known focuses on Leena, who is the hope for a group of people trying to defeat some AI threat. And this group needs to get Leena through a very hostile field between two borders, one teeming with monsters and other dangers. [SPOILERS] And the story does a great job of capturing the feel of it, the battle, the way the group sacrifices themselves for Leena, for their hope, and how they play this out again and again, always giving themselves for her. And the narrator of the story is one of these people and perhaps the most persistent because they want to stay close to Leena, didn’t really want to sacrifice themself so much as they wanted to remain by Leena’s side, something that was made impossible and so the narrator has to figure out how to live, always yearning for more but unable to really ask for more, unable to get consent and so stuck in this state where they want to help, want to linger, want to do what they can, and find that in the end it might be enough. It’s a haunting story not just because the war and the deaths and the presence of the narrator throughout but because of how it reaches toward something that cannot be reached. It’s a beautiful portrait of unfinished business, unrealized potential, and it’s heartbreaking to see and experience, while at the same time almost heart warming to see how the narrator finds peace in their situation, if not real satisfaction. It’s a melancholy story about how for some life goes on and for some all that’s left is a ghostly touch and voice. It’s a weird, moving piece and a fine read!