|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“The Imitation Sea” by Lora Gray (3200 words)
No Spoilers: Told in the second person, you are a young man who finds an Angel washed up on the shore of Lake Erie. With the Angel, a sort of augmented drone used to mostly keep a parental eye on children, a flood of memories and a new resolve come back into your life, and the story unfolds around that, and around your relationship with Jack, another boy you grew up with. It’s a story that drew me down as a reader, deeper and deeper into the mire of grief, loss, and numbness that the main character feels. It invites the reader into that pain, pushes onto us, and the effect is wrenching, beautiful, and utterly devastating. It is not a happy story, and definitely check out the content warning below, but it is a touching and powerful piece.
Keywords: CW- Suicide, CW- Parental Abuse, Queer MC, Young Love, Loss, Grief, Angels
Review: This story hits right where there’s still a huge debate even among liberal circles, and that’s about children’s rights. Rights to privacy in an age where safety is pushed as paramount and where children can still legally treated much like property because there is no good system for protecting children from their own families. Here the main character isn’t the target of this kind of abuse, but Jack is, watched over by an Angel, by a constantly monitoring representation of his parents’ religious beliefs and censure. They watch him to keep him safe, to keep him out of trouble, and yet in truth this sort of monitoring is a form of abuse, is a way to try and leave Jack no way to explore or feel safe with who he is or who he wants to be. He’s trapped, trapped and hunted, and the stress of that is a trauma that he’d rather not have to live with. But it leaves the main character, leaves you, with this hole where Jack used to be, and the main character becomes stuck in your grief, in your inability to get over this devastating loss and injustice, because it’s an act that makes Jack a criminal rather than his parents. And it’s just an emotionally destroying piece, so full of yearning and hope and this beautiful doomed feeling that you really should go check it out. An amazing read!
“If a bear...” by Kathrin Köhler (1000 words)
No Spoilers: Awww. This is a lovely story also told in the second person where you are a woman living alone in a cottage, having been raised on stories of how everyone has a time in their lives when a bear shows up and either devours them or stays with them. Your bear, however, when it comes, is not exactly like what you expected, not what you were led to believe. This is a very sweet and very short story that manages to build up a very neat world with hint of magic and much more depth than it might seem at first. Fun, refreshing, and a particularly needed breath after the previous story.
Keywords: Bears, Magic, Violets, Expectations, Arrivals
Review: I love how this story defies expectations. There is a sort of expected darkness to it that I love, leaning on fairy stories with bears and normally a good deal of violence. Which the story itself comments on and rejects, the main character refusing to make the story about either your own destruction or the destruction of the bear. Which is wonderful because of the way that these stories are framed both within the story and without, in our world, how we tend to imagine these “universal” stories about love and courtship and just finding the right man. Here the implications that I read from the nested fairy tale was that women are expected to wait for a man to come and make them somehow complete. That missing their bear would be catastrophic. And yet for the main characters there’s only this sort of resignation to it, to the idea that she’ll be beset by a bear and doesn’t know what that means because no one really talks about it, doesn’t want to let anyone in on the secret because these can go so wrong, because the implication is that there’s no choice for a woman, just the inevitability that she will be claimed and has to deal. Only here when your bear shows up, well, it’s not at all like the stories. And there’s a sort of joy and more importantly a choice that needs to happen, and I really just love the feel and love the tone and love the big talking bear it is delightful you should read it!!!