|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“What the Skeleton Detective Tells You (while you picnic)” by Katherine Kendig (4700 words)
No Spoilers: This story alternates between two perspectives. The first, Jared, is out for a pleasant outing at the local skeleton forest. Because yeah, why not? And second is Jamie, an _actual, living_ skeleton, who is also a detective, and who is working a case. The story has a lovely weirdness to it, a mix of humor and depression that works quite well, both of the characters lonely, both of them waiting for something that they can’t quite describe. There is a vulnerability that each seem to have, in different ways, and the story very much centers their meeting and how they approach each other. It’s cute. And sweet. And kinda dark. But that’s what makes it charming, really, that there is that morbid humor to it, the way that it stars a skeleton detective in all seriousness and doesn’t really give a fuck if you think that’s not realistic or doesn’t fit with what you think speculative fiction should be like.
Keywords: Skeletons, Detectives, Mysteries, Meetings, Forests, Rare Diseases
Review: So I rather like what the story does with expectations and with relationships. Here we find Jamie and Jared meeting because of a case that Jamie gets where a woman wants to find her missing friend. And in this nested story, the man is missing and his best friend wants to know where he is. The story given is that the guy doesn’t get out and needs the woman in order to be social, and that he’s in danger if he’s out and about on his own. In reality, that’s not the case, but I love how that cover story intrigues Jamie and distracts her. Because it piques Jamie’s interest. Because she reads it as romantic, this relationship, when really it’s anything but. And when she meets Jared, and they share a strange sort of connection, where Jamie feels seen as perhaps normal for the first time in a long time, and from there is able to see through the fantasy that she’s been fed about her case. And it’s a rather interesting and complex read, for while on the one hand it’s a great little first meeting of what could be friendship or could be a different sort of relationship, it’s also (for me) a commentary on how people often project their desires onto their work. Onto the motives of other people they come across. And that it can cause them to make mistakes. And really, the tone and everything else about this one make it a wonderful read!
“You, In Flux” by Alexis A. Hunter (800 words)
No Spoilers: Told in the second person, you are a new parent who is experiencing some very new things following the birth of the child. You are melting. Or freezing. You are trying to deal with the noise and the stress and the change that the child has brought with but don’t seem to be getting much help from your partner, Jason. And that stress, and the way that stress is perceived by others, only deepens the pain that you feel, because you’re treated as mentally wrong, as needing to be numbed, when probably what you need is understanding. Gender roles being what they are, though, understanding is not something that Jason seems able to give, and the piece is short and rather wrenching, focusing on the pain of what’s happening to your relationship with your partner but also the joy that is blooming from being a parent.
Keywords: Parenting, Drugs, Depression, Phase Shifts, Relationships
Review: I have very complicated feelings about stories about parenting, for a number of reasons (mostly because I have very complicated feelings about parents and parenting). But I do like the way this story centers the reader into the role of this parent. Making the changes that they are experiencing personal to the reader. Making it so that they are the one who is normal, and the rest of the world isn’t understanding it. The rest of the world is trying to drug it away, because parenthood (and motherhood in particular) should only look a certain way, should only feel a certain way, should never be this or that and should always be etc etc etc. The expectations that parents face (and especially mothers) builds these boxes that become prisons when you don’t fit into them. Makes parents into criminals for having complicated feelings at a time when their bodies are changing, when they are going on very little sleep and a lot of stress and the story portrays that all by taking the reader into this parent’s head and showing it all in vivid detail. I’m not sure I’m a great audience for it, but I do appreciate the way it builds and the joyous ending it manages. It’s a quick punch of a read, and I certainly recommend people check it out for themselves and see what they think!