“The Bronx’s First Spiritual Hip Hop Party” by Sarah A Macklin (3628 words)
No Spoilers: Shanna is up from the South to the Big Apple for the summer, though so far she’s not incredibly impressed. She misses her grandmother and their work—singing spirits in order to calm them, which tends to also calm down living people who have become riled up. When she meets someone else who might have a power like her own, though, something in the spirits, and her opinions of the city, change. Suddenly they all want more, though they aren’t quire sure of what. It’s a fun story, lightly romantic and with a YA feel that gives it a great energy and charm.
Keywords: Music, Spirits, Parties, Emotions, Dating(?)
Review: I like how the story goes about world building, bringing up the fact that there are spirits all around us, that sort of react to our emotions and who, in turn, can magnify those emotions. It’s handled well, the reality of it immediate but the rules gradually explored and explained as the piece moves forward. The piece is also something of a mystery, the plot dealing with Shanna meeting a young man with powers similar to hers but without her training, her family. He’s been isolated, teaching himself, and it reveals just how much Shanna doesn’t yet know about the world she’s on the border of. And really for me that’s a lot of what the story is about for me, that discovery through innovation and, more importantly, through collaboration. To now Shanna has been a student of her grandmother. But either there are things she hasn’t been taught or, more likely, the fact that she was being taught narrowed her exploration to the things that worked for her grandmother. To the more rigid accepted wisdoms and experience. But the South is not New York, and I like that here it’s this young man who has managed to teach himself, but he, too, still doesn’t know a lot. Because they’ve both been isolated from other ways of approaching their gifts. And it’s wonderful to see that, together, they are able to start really making progress. Really figuring out how things might work on a larger scale, helping and pushing each other further than they would have been able to go alone. It’s fun and it’s cute and it’s wholesome and good! I love the characters and the voice of the piece, the wonder tempered by a kinda creepy premise and mystery, and a heartwarming ending. Go read it!
“The Silence of Sound” by Mike Brooks (4957 words)
No Spoilers: Tallahan is a Reader, or they were, before they started moving from city to city, stealing religious texts. They’ve come to a beached cruise ship in the hopes of figuring tings out, pouring over their unexpected discovery, when they’re interrupted by a Librarian, a sort of bounty hunter in charge of tracking down overdue tomes. They’re dangerous, but also curious, wanting not just to find Tallahan but to understand why they’ve done what they’ve done, why they’ve gone against the will of the Unity, the government that formed after the Faith Wars. The answer isn’t only unexpected, it brings with it a danger all its own, and the result is a thoughtful story with some solid action and great bit of world building.
Keywords: Books, Religions, Post-Disaster, Librarians, Drones
Review: This is an interesting take on the idea of a post-disaster world that was torn apart by religious violence and war. Technologically things have regressed in many ways, though by no means to roving gangs or feudal arrangements. But there is a feeling that things are much more dangerous, that things like taking a library book could carry a fine much more than monetary. For the narrator, too, this world has been revealed as one built on a lie. Because the only thing that brought people out of the Faith Wars was “realizing” that all the faiths were aspects of one faith, of Unity. But that miracle seems to have more to do with manipulating brains through sound than anything else and the narrator, who is deaf or hard of hearing, sort of accidentally saw through the elaborate and foundational deception. Which didn’t really leave them with many places to turn. Once they saw it, they couldn’t unsee it, and they are propelled by a similar curiosity to the Librarians who are after the what, why, and how as much as they are the who and when. I think that’s what carries through the story the most for me, this questioning mentality, this curiosity that is so obviously not safe. But that seems necessary all the same, because there is something human about asking questions, about wanting to know more. Unfortunately, there’s also something human about wanting the answers to those questions to be firm and answerable. Which...isn’t always the case. And it’s something that has led to some bloody conflicts and, in the world of the story, a complete ravaging of civilization. But even so, the narrator and the librarian end up stepping into something that they have to investigate. Even if it undermines the fragile peace of the world. Because more important than stability might be consent, and respect. And it’s just a fun piece, a bit dark for the issue, but also a great read!
“Wings” by Vanessa Fogg (2132 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story was a princess, but gave it up for the love of a poet. Now she lives on an enchanted island, but her dream of a happily ever after with her love has been twisted along with the magic of the place by her vengeful mother, who has cursed the poet in order to rob them of their voice, to take from them the stories that were how they and the narrator fell in love. And the piece follows what happens, and how the narrator adapts, and what ultimately they can do in the face of the shape their life’s story has taken. It’s slow and wrenching and beautifully written, capturing a feel like a fairy tale, romantic and dark and defiant and tragic even as it finds a hope that refuses to be defeated.
Keywords: Royalty, Relationships, Marriage, Family, Curses, Transformations
Review: This is a lovely read, brought to life by a yearning for something that has been destroyed. And there’s something about that which speaks to me, that really gets across this feeling of lots potential and tragedy. And it keeps the issue at something of a dark moment, though it’s not all doom and gloom. It does, however, trace a wound, and one that is still very much open and bleeding. For me it comes across in the sorrow that the narrator feels that she can no longer be with the person she fell in love with. Not that she’s not with them in some ways, but they’ve been changed in such a fundamental way that it’s not the same. Her mother, seeking to punish her and destroy her love, has succeeding in taking something vital away from her. For no other reason than the mother doesn’t want to accept that her daughter is a full person. She’s treating the narrator as property, giving lip service to her autonomy but really treating her like less than a person. Like an object to be controlled. Because the queen fully expects her daughter to cave, to give into this kind of bullying and abuse. Only she doesn’t. And it’s both a moment of further sadness and one of beauty and hope, and I love how the story balances that. How the decision to not reject her love but step into the same curse that’s effected them, is a tragedy and a joy. It speaks with the magic and power of fairy tales, but one that the narrator and their love are creating together, free at least of the tyranny of the narrator’s mother. It’s not a perfect freedom, but it’s the best possible one they have, and it’s affirming and resilient and wonderful that at least they can stay together and meet the future armed with their love that will endure regardless of their changing forms. A fantastic read!
“Everything Giant and Mighty” by Timothy Mudie (2144 words)
No Spoilers: Emma grew up fascinated by Mondo, the giant alien who for more than forty years has protected Earth. Who has battled alien monsters to keep the people of Earth safe. Though once considered something to fear, most people have embraced Mondo’s intentions, counting on him to fight off threats that couldn’t otherwise me handled. As Emma grows up, she follows her fascination into research of Mondo, trying to figure out how he works. And then something happens that put a new emphasis and importance on what Emma has done with her life, and how her particular perspective might help to avert ruin.
Keywords: Kaiju, Research, Love, Aliens, Transformations
Review: Okay I love that there’s a giant monster called Mondo (makes me think of those terrible drink things from the 90s). And I love that the story really shows how Emma’s neurodiversity (probably autism tho ???) puts her in a position to perhaps see Mondo in a different way. Which allows her to see in what everyone has assumed to be figurative, something literal. And in general the piece is sort of steeped in a kind of yearning on the part of Emma, where she’s always felt a connection to a creature who she could never really meet, never really know. But who still loved the Earth, being able to express without words that he cares about the Earth and will do what he can to protect it. And so the piece also teeters above tragedy when Mondo is struck down and Emma is left to react to the prospect that maybe this being who seemed so reliable won’t be around. It’s not a happy prospect not just for her but for the world, as it leaves Earth vulnerable to injury. And really the piece manages a lot of emotional punch in a short space that really makes this a shattering moment. For Emma, too, it’s something that comes with almost a numbness, because he’s been such a large part of her life, something that was comforting and huge and present, and to face the prospect of him being gone... But then it turns out that he’s not quite dead. But everyone is merely waiting for him to die, and I like that she doesn’t. That when faced with this calamity, she sort of goes back to what else is solid in her life, which are her skills as a researcher. She goes back to the source of Mondo and re-evaluates the same things that people have been looking at for so long a time. That even she has looked at before, though never directly. And here I feel there’s a statement about the importance of neurodiverse people in research and how damaging it can be to only be able to interact with artifacts and ideas directly, rather than going through the filters of academia, because where academic research is so often iterative, neurodiverse people have a singular ability to see and come up with things that might never have been considered or explored. And here Emma is able to find a possibility that no one really thought about because it seemed...impossible. Magical. Except what else do you call Mondo? And I just love where the story takes that, for all that it’s a little bittersweet all the same. A wonderful story!
“How to Break Causality and Write the Perfect Time Travel Story” by Stewart C Baker (1141 words)
No Spoilers: Told out of sequence and out of time, this piece follows a writer who wants to write a time travel novel. Only they taken a bit of critique group (and general writing) advice a bit too literally, and to do so she plans to actually create a time machine so she can write what she knows. What follows is a romp through time...if a romp might involve a bit of murder, a bit of desperation, and a whole lot of angst. But it is a story that manages to be heartfelt, kinda devastating, and very fun. Which is a strange combination of things to be feeling all at once, but it’s a strange story, so it all works out!
Keywords: Time Travel, Writing, Paradoxes, Regret, Assassination
Review: I like how the story sort of captures the way that intentions and listening too closely to writing advice can lead to...bad things. Or, at least, that’s where it hits me, in that sort of insecurity about writing, in looking for the perfect story, of trying to listen to everyone else about what to write, and how, and when. And here it starts with that poison seed of write what you know. Which isn’t always a bad bit of advice, but which can be paralyzing and, in this case, can be lead to some fucked up stuff. Up to and including assassinating H.G. Wells. I’m not saying he didn’t have it coming. But I mean I do appreciate that the story mixes these things that are rather ridiculous, almost joking, and mixes in some much more real moments. Angst and fear and uncertainty where the second person “you” of the story just wants so badly to be a writer, to be an Author, and so gets caught in the push for that, circling around the actual act of writing, and even when they can get exactly what they want, even when it all works out and they have a good and a bunch of money...it doesn’t fix things. Because the problem they had wasn’t the money. It was the loneliness that they hoped being an author would cure. And it doesn’t. And it makes what they went through, then, kind of pointless. Or, not exactly, but also definitely. That what they always needed to do was stop looking to find a cheat and first be comfortable and okay with who they are. And it takes some disasters to really show them that, to get them to accept themselves completely outside of their dreams of being An Author. And once they can be okay with themself, they can move forward wholly in the present, not always looking ahead or behind, not always trying to game life. It’s a surprisingly deep and complicated piece, given that it might be easy to read it solely as a joke. I think it’s very much worth the time to dive deeper into it, though. An amazing way to close out another delicious tasting flight section of the issue!