|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Raise-the-Dead Cobbler” by Andrea Corbin ( words)
This is a touching story about magic and about time, about desire and about relationships. It centers a witch of time, Isabel, as she teams up with fellow-witches Jun and Mason to bring two people back to life. For Mason, his mother (though from a point in time before she had him). For Isabel, an actor from a different era, something of an obsession for her, or a whim (if you can consider grave-robbing a whim). The story follows what happens after the spell is cast and these people return and what it means for everyone involved. The frame of the story is interesting, too, told as a series of recipes that detail what happened, that make every step something of a necessary one in the grand scheme of things, though what it’s making isn’t necessarily clear at first. It could be just the spell to raise people from the dead, but it goes beyond that, deeper than that, and I love how the story approaches the lives of these characters as they learn their craft, their magic, as they lean on each other and help each other and try to find out how to go forward. It’s a story where the moral implications of these spells are heavy, but the characters don’t just shrug them off. Instead they grapple with them and find ways to move and live, to respect each other and themselves, even if things don’t exactly go to plan, even if what the recipe creates is far away from what they expected. What remains is still beautiful, and powerful, and leaves room for further growth. It’s a quiet story, one with a wonderful and complex cast and web of relationships, people wary of magic but also eager to embrace it, to see what it can do, even as they aren’t sure that they can trust it, each other, or themselves. In the end, though, it is trust that I feel the story is about, and the magic of love, be it friendship, romantic partnership, or love subtler still. It’s a fine story with a great feel and lovely flow. Go read it!
“The Weight of Sentience” by Naru Dames Sundar ( words)
T-this story...(*wipes tears from eyes*)...damn. This story is about love and faith, sentience and everything that comes with it. It features an android, Trisa, who is “infected” with sentience, who is awakened in a place where to be a sentient android carries a death sentence. The story is dominated by flight and fear, with the need to escape the country of her origin countered by the desire for peace, for some place to be. On the cusp of leaving the country, Trisa meets a man, and her life changes in some serious ways. And I love how the story moves around both the fear and the hope, the dream that is Trisa and the life she wants, a life that has to this point always been about service and servitude, where she never had to face what she wanted. Instead she seemed to hold to the dreams of others. Freedom. Love. Until by feeling these dreams in others she’s able to find the shape of her own desires. And what follows is tender and breathtaking, romantic and heartbreaking. And of course it is, because the setting is one where heartbreak seems inevitable, where Trisa is pursued, seen as less than human, hated because of how she complicates the status quo. And the frustration she feels, the unfairness, is something that pushes the story forward, that allows for a heavier discussion about faith and about love, about justice and the sometimes-grim reality of the world. And gives an ending that for me is beautiful and real, no less intense or devastating for all that it avoids the violence that dominates the opening of the piece. It’s about the quiet of that moment, the intimacy, the difficulty and yes, in some ways still the violence, of what’s happening. That will leave wounds, even if they aren’t visible. That can be seen as a wound on the world itself, a loss that goes deeper than just these two people. It’s not a loss of hope, though, but rather a reason to keep going, to stay alive, to live for a world where that wound can be treated, and healed, and maybe the lives for these two people can be drawn finally together. It’s an amazing story that you should read immediately!