A pretty standard assortment of things to read at Strange Horizons this week. One story and one poem. And some news about a new fiction editor. And some reviews and such, but as usual I'm not looking at that. Though wouldn't that be weird? A review site dedicated to reviews? ...my head is filled with ideas and pain. But onward!
"Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies" by Kate Heartfield (3935 words)
This is a fun and creepy story of a pair of teens getting work at a sort of recreation fort, a settlement fort meant to be educational and such, and getting pulled into something old and rather dangerous. Daphne thinks at first that it's just better work than waitressing, and Tom likes working with the blacksmith, but soon enough Daphne realizes that she has rhymes in her head she never learned, and that with those rhymes comes power. Old power, from a witch who had founded the settlement. The smith, her husband, was also her persecutor, her captor. She fled him and loved him and they continue to struggle. As Daphne gains power, Tom does as well, able to give people iron talismans to ward off the witch's influence. Things come to a head at a great bonfire, and Daphne is finally able to shake off the influence of the witch and run, though not without incident. What is left is the memory and the knowledge that even though Daphne and Tom get away, the cycle is not broken. For them, they move apart, deliberately trying to escape each other, and I like that their experiences wounded them both, made it impossible for them to be what they could have been. It's a nice story, about what might lurk in those places that everyone probably visited in elementary school. Some good stuff.
"Mother of Invention" by Alex Grover
A great poem that seems to evoke so much, but mostly seems about two parents and their relationship with their son, who has decided to become a website. It's an interesting idea, that a person could actually become a website, a search engine, but there's the feeling that a lot more is going on here, that this stands in for the son doing any number of things that his parents don't approve of or really understand. They aren't surprised but don't quite get it. They think this is about them, about their hurt, and in some ways it might be, but they don't really consider their son in this. They think him too young, too immature to make this decision. It's rather obvious that they don't think he should have done this. But like so many things, the choice is not theirs and shouldn't be theirs. The choice and transformation come from the son, who is allowed to be what he wants. Now, I hope this poem isn't implying that the son has made a mistake. Because I don't want this to be about dumb kids and that sort of thing. I rather read it as the parents not wanting to accept their son. They want to think of him as dead rather than as a website, only the mother starts reaching out at the end. That's what gives me hope about this poem, that the mother sits down and seems ready to try and work with her son to figure out who he is and why he made his decisions. But I could be way off. Still, it's a poem that I liked.