|Art by Julie Dillon|
"Pockets" by Amal El-Mohtar (3216 words)
A story about a woman who finds that she can pull things from her pockets. Any pockets, and really just about any thing. It's an interesting idea, and when she gets a friend to help her scientifically analyze what's going on, it opens up all sorts of weird questions about where the items are coming from and what she's supposed to do with them. And then she finds a person whose pockets only take things in and together they find a way to get rid of all the things that have been coming out of the one set of pockets...by putting them into the other set. Of course, then the question is where do they go from there. And through is the idea of connection, and of art, and of creation itself. I got the idea that part of what the story was about was finding artifacts (like this story) after the owner has let them go or lost them (or, I guess, sold and published them). It's about how a person can find them, and pass them on again. It's about finding meaning in those items, about connecting through those items, and ultimately about letting them go again, comforted by the idea that they are for whoever finds them, and for whoever finds them after that. For me it's a story about stories, about how these words can be personal to every person, can hit each person differently, and never really lose their power. The message the main character receives in the end wasn't for her specifically, but it was for her because she found it. Interesting stuff.
"Anyone with a Care for Their Image" by Richard Bowes (1322 words)
I actually read this before the story that appeared in Farrago's Wainscot in January, but as the review is coming out now I can say that it's set in the same world, in the Big Arena series, but earlier in the chronology. Here a social media persona finds himself in danger as tensions flare into something big and he makes some mistakes in how he covers the events unfolding around him. This is a story about how certain people, despite being "in the middle of things" are essentially cut off from humanity. They are trend setter and followed by a great many people, but they are also so far removed from the people that follow them that they don't really understand the realities of the world. Especially the inequalities and hardships that they are insulated from. And even when they are reminded, they have a way of getting away, of having the chance to rebrand themselves again and again and survive to plague people once more. They survive because despite the hardships, things don't really change all that much. Their wealth and influence and privilege allows them to try and sell a new snake oil. I'm not sure that I liked this story as much as "Time is a Twisting Snake" but they definitely fit together thematically.
"Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained" by Sunny Moraine (3737 words)
This was my favorite story of the issue. Part of me just can't help loving how stubborn the main character is, how justifiably hurt and angry she is at her situation. It strikes me as so human, as so real. Because dealing with the loss of a limb sounds like it would be terrible, and there is that sense that the world does value what is whole in a way to erase the wounds, to tell a person to get over it and move on so that the world doesn't have to recognize or react to that loss. That the world can basically sit back and say, "yes yes, but you're better now, so get over it." And there is a power in saying no, in forcing people to deal with the scars, with the reality of what happened. To make people see it and be confronted. Because to erase it back to the way it was would not really erase the trauma. It would not make things whole again. It would be to lie for the sake of the world's comfort, and really, fuck that. So I love the story, and I love how the main character becomes more comfortable with what happened but refuses to erase it, refuses to fall for the trap of letting the world pretend it never happened. It's a powerful story about how survivors are not at fault for being uncomfortable, or being hurt. That they own their own bodies, their own choices. And the story is just lovely and powerfully written and good.
"archival testimony fragments / minersong" by R.B. Lemberg
This is a nice, disjointed poem, about a living ship trapped underground and calling out to miners that are working the surface of its now-dead world. It's an interesting mix of voices, mostly the ship's but with the voices from above, as well, the training instructions from the company that owns the planet and the voice of one of the miners who hears the voice calling out and decides to try and respond. In some ways this read to me as a poem about the power of history and workers. Because the ship is seeking to empower the miners, is seeking to join forces with them. At least, I got a bit of the sense that the company was exploiting them both and that the ship wanted to help the miners escape, if that meant it could also escape. To end the circle of exploitation and allow people to escape the captivity beneath the surface. Or I could be way off. But it was a good read with a unique style.