|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything." by Laura Pearlman (966 words)
Aliens obsessed with radishes have taken over planet Earth and in this story, for one hour, the highest ranking alien, Graalnak, answers questions on reddit. It is a crazy premise and one that works pretty well, the questions ranging about what one would expect from reddit with some alien politics worked in enough that the reader gets something of the personality of the invaders. Plus their obsession with radishes. Which is weird and charming. This story might not really be about deep thinking, but it is quite entertaining, and I liked the clever twists thrown in, which were subtle but enough that it worked. This is a story to stand along the classics in science fiction humor, and has some world building and fun with usernames and little nods that might be missed if you're reading too fast. But it works on many levels, for those just looking for a quick laugh and for those looking to go a bit slower and see the various jokes that would otherwise be missed. Fast and fun and a great way to start the month!
"The Kiss" by K.C. Norton (983 words)
There is a great sense of anticipation with this story, which is about a young, slightly psychic woman who can see when she kisses someone how they will break up, how she will be hurt. She's seeing a movie with someone she's been going out with for a few months, and she wants to kiss him. But she doesn't want to know. The story builds expertly to the moment of the kiss, to that one instant where she dreads she will find out the future. And yet the story doesn't deliver what is expected. It keeps things open. For all the editorial this month is about resolution, this story leaves things beautifully open, beautifully undone. There is no realization at the moment of the kiss. Instead the worry remains, the fear remains. The anticipation. But that, too, is a part of any relationship, a part of kissing that is real and palpable. There is no knowing the future, and so the main character gets to experience the kiss, and each kiss after, with the same mix of dread and pleasure that most people do. An effective story, with just enough of an ending to get me nodding along. The lack of a prophecy could mean anything, could mean that there will be no ending, no heartbreak, or that for him it doesn't work, that the heartbreak will be coming regardless. And that uncertainty is very well done.
"Face Time" by Matthew F. Amati (693 words)
The most surreal of the stories in this issue, this one focuses on a family where the mother wears different faces. Literally, so far as one of the children is concerned. And each face acts very different. One cries. One insults. One wants to hurt itself. One wants to hurt the children. The child wants an escape from the abuse, from the cycle, and so calls a social worker only for the mother to done a new face that is serene and soothing. The child decides to act, and ditches her own medication so that she can fight back the only way she knows how, but donning a face of her own. It's an interesting story because the narrator is indeed unreliable, but there does definitely seem to be something going on with that mother. Something not good at all. Whether it's that the daughter's problems cause the mother to seem inhuman, something that switches faces, or whether the mother really is a monster robot, isn't particularly clear (though I'm leaning toward it's the daughter's way of seeing things). What is clear is that there are levels of disorders going on here, the daughter's and the mother's, and the result is dangerous and deeply unhealthy for both of them. The story is effectively creepy, though, with a sinister feel and a sad tragedy surrounding it. Another tale worth checking out.