|Art by Justin Stewart|
“The Legacy of Alexandria” by Maurice Broaddus (7602 words)
No Spoilers: This story finds Rahim moving through an apocalyptic world, one where the United States seems to have been splintered by war and climate change, where refugees are everywhere, and where white supremacist militias have empowered themselves to patrol the roads to enforce their own ideas and ideals. It’s through that world that Rahim travels, fleeing from a destroyed home school, a dead mother, and the promise of a library, a community where Black people have come together in support and action to save something for themselves and for the future. With his old dog, Muttley, and a bit of tech that’s his ace up his sleeve, Rahim finds violence all around him, but also a strength to move through it, toward a better future.
Keywords: Libraries, Books, Dogs, Nanobots, CW- White Supremacist Violence, Communities
Review: Like story isn’t exactly the cheeriest, but then, as the first piece from a returned publisher of fairly grim fiction, that’s quite on brand. I mean, I love that the story is a kind of guy and his dog piece (that doesn’t kill the dog!) that finds these two moving from destruction to destruction. From possible utopia to possible utopia. The problem at every turn that people don’t want to see Black people thriving in times of difficulty. Not when white people aren’t doing as well. Despite how white people lack the experience and the resilience that would have prepared them for situations like this. So white people see the schools, the libraries, and they want to destroy them, want to burn them. Want to erase them. To promote the idea of white supremacy. To stamp it as fact and in so doing justify the terrible things they do. Not a new story. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. Rahim has already lost a home, and stands poised to lose another, but so long as the people are still alive, there is hope. As long as the stories survive, there is power. That focus on survival is a large part of how I read the story, as this group of people learning that their chances are much better as a whole. Bringing Rahim to the point where he sees his struggle linked to that of this community, their resistance all one, their front united. Because with that, without coordinated effort and constant mutual support, they cannot escape the violence that is seeking them, much less push back against it. And I like how the story ends. Not in the happiest of places. With another library lost, another home destroyed for hate. But there is no surrender, and there is a recognition that the roots of these people go deep. Even losing some, they can grow back, stronger and wilder and freer, and in the end that’s the skill, the will, the way they will outlast the hate and hateful, and find a home where they can all be, and tell their own stories. A wonderful read!
“Small Hopes and Dreams” by Beth Dawkins (4702 words)
No Spoilers: Marian has grown up poor, surrounded by signs that the world they live in might not be the best. That maybe, over the wall that no one comes back from, there’s a better place. Or maybe it’s a hell. What they do know is that people their age, nearing adulthood, hang out at the spot, where drugs and sex create an atmosphere where people can make mistakes. Not safely by any means, if the occasional deaths and pregnancies are anything to go by. But...a way still to put off that moment of accepting adulthood and the crushing weight of it, the way they’ve all seen their parents do. Marian survives thanks to the spot and their friends, Tim and Kerry. Only Kerry has gotten pregnant, and that means big changes coming. Changes that Marian will do almost anything to avoid. It’s a wrenching, desolate read, sharply capturing the transition from children to adults in all its messy complexity.
Keywords: Walls, Growing Up, Poverty, CW- Drug Use, Friends
Review: I love the way this story captures the sense of growing up in a way that is almost hopeless. The characters grow and move toward a future that seems assured to be pretty awful. They’re going through the same steps as their parents and can see that as their end, not wanting it but not really seeing any way out of that situation. Their time is spent chasing distraction, oblivion in drugs and sex and the slim moments of friendship and authentic togetherness that they wish could last forever. Only it can’t. And the story begins with this terrible shattering of even that. Where Marian has to face that the future is arriving sooner even than they thought. That they’re losing Kerry in a real and profound way. That they’re losing this source of comfort and distraction from the harshness of the world. It’s hard, and yet at the same time they come across the scene in the woods. A scene that seems so alien and beautiful and different than anything they might have imagined. Something that promises a way out, and one that seems wonderful and alive. At the same time, though, there’s a shadow to what happens, a grimness that might be right beneath the surface of what they see. A reality that lurks in the looming presence of the wall and the fact that nothing comes back from the other side. Is it a release, a heaven over there? or a hell? I like how the story moves them all towards that, the moment when they kinda have to accept their fates or reject it, revealing that rejecting the misery of their parents doesn’t necessarily set them free. That in this world of walls and strange creatures there might not be a path toward happiness. Which is rather depressing as hell but also, given everything, not all that difficult to see. It’s a wonderfully rendered piece about growing up in some messy ways and it makes for an excellent read!