|Art by Takeshi Oga|
"Sun, Stone, Spear" by Carrie Vaughn (6151 words)
I quite like stories like this one, which are adventurous and fun but also rather contemplative and almost nostalgic. In it, two young women travel away from unremarkable futures in a safe town to try and make it to a place that will offer them more. More advancement, more adventure, more everything. Only they don't know if they're doing the right thing. If they should turn back. Their journey is fraught, and they are attacked and beset by demons and spirits. Things seem bleak more than once, and always they ask themselves if they're doing the right thing. It's the one question they ask of a goddess that appears to them, one that the goddess does not answer. It's the central idea of the story, in the end. Is it worth it to take the risk, to act not in the safest manner possible, to try and get ahead. To not be content. And the answer seems to be: it depends. The characters did risk a lot and could have failed in the journey. They could have been killed and pitched in a bog. That they didn't, that they won through and established something great, that made the risks worth it. But it could have been otherwise just as easily. The main message seems to be try not to worry so much if you're making a mistake. Try. Try to do the best you can. Take risks when you think you'll survive them. And if you get through, if you make it, then your accomplishments will have made it worth it. It's a strange message, but in some ways I like it. It's not saying that trying is enough. Often, after all, it's not. But it doesn't make trying a mistake. If you don't try, you'll never do. And it's the doing that makes things worth while. So yes, go check out this story. It's good.
"The Sixth Day" by Sylvia Anna Hivén (3168 words)
This story is a much bleaker one than the last, though in some ways it also deals with making decisions on what is worth doing and risks that are worth taking. Here, a strange stretch has caused everything to become isolated, caused everything to drift from each other. Two sisters, their father, another man, and an older couple are living now because Jo, the main character of the story, can make the corn grow. Both her and her sister, Cassie, have powers. Cassie's is that she can see the future. This allows her to know when bad things will come so that she can avoid them. It also means that she sees in her vision a man and his son coming toward their home. Cassie sees that the son will like Jo, that Jo will like him. And then she will see that the man and his son will want to move on, only they'll want to take Jo with them. And that she'll want to go. It's a prospect that Jo finds strange, because a part of her wants it. She wants to know love and she wants to have the chance to make her own decisions and she doesn't think she will betray her family to leave them without a way to eat. But on the day when the man and son are set to arrive, Jo finds she is left behind. She races to where she was supposed to meet the pair only to find her father there, and Cassie gone in her place. Which is just bleak. Apparently to Cassie it wasn't worth it to try. Nor could no one go, apparently. Which rather bums me out. It leaves Jo behind, having to keep on as the only young person, unable to leave because everyone needs her. Which is rather sad. I'd have preferred that some other way be found. That either no one had to leave or that they tried to convince the man and boy to stay. Because as it is the story is a bit pessimistic. That everyone's losing touch with each other. That the gulfs between us are only continuing to grow. And that we don't want to risk bridging them. Bleak. Well written, though, with a mood and a setting that really breath. And the message (that I got from the story) does work quite well with the structure and imagery. Effective writing, and worth thinking about.