This month's Crossed Genres has the theme of Failure. It's an interesting theme to see played out because of how broad and vague it is, but here are three stories that capture different aspects of it. I like that two of them feature failed relationships, though. Because in those failures there is also something else. A failure to cave to the dominant narrative. A failure on the part of the women in the relationships to be defined by the men who acted on then. In the one, a woman whose husband ran off with another woman refuses to let her remaining life be defined by that failed marriage. In the other, a woman who was killed refuses to let the narrative of her death be hijacked and used by her boyfriend. And in all three stories, the failures that are experienced really only open the door for a greater sort of victory. So yeah, let's get to it!
"The Corpsman's Tale" by Iain Ishbel (3891 words)
This is an interesting story about time travel and peace and war. It takes a pretty straightforward and classic premise, that a single event was different in some world and led to a great shift from our current time, so that things are quite different. In the present of the story World War I went different, ending with a Christmas Truce and alliance and since then Europe at least has had no wars. There is order and in some ways it could be said that the world didn't lose its innocence. It's a bit of a Eurocentric view of things, and also seems to put a valuation on war that I might not completely agree with (basically implying that WWI was the cusp point because it was still steeped in the "nobility" of war). That said, the story does posit an interesting cusp point and focuses on one member of the Christmas Corps trying to stop two North American agents from changing things. They sabotage the Christmas Truce and history proceeds as we remember it. Only things are not completely lost because the Corpsman manages to foil things enough that the Corps will be able to collapse the bubble of reality that was created so that things can go back to normal. The writing is solid, and I like the alt history trajectory that the story takes. It also manages a certain dry humor through it all. Really my main complaint is that the story posits that moment of WWI as the turning point, that somehow if that had gone different we'd be in a better world. And I'm not sure I'm convinced about it. Still, the story does a fair job making its point, and is worth looking and thinking about.
"Let Down, Set Free" by Nino Cipri (2770 words)
This story is framed as a letter written from a woman to her recently ex-husband. After her husband ran out on her, she's been having some difficulty adjusting. She had followed him down south to Kentucky and without him feels out of place, out of options. The only person who still seems a friend is one of her neighbors. And then she finds a giant floating tree in her neighbor's field, caught on a bit of fence. It's a huge seedpod, one that floats through the air. The government recommends burning them, but the woman can't. It's too beautiful, too delicate. For her it represents something more than a seed or a tree, it represents freedom and grace and so her and her neighbor free it and saddle it and she gets on and rides it away into the sky, and then writers her husband the letter, the story, but also a bit of a goodbye. Because she is going now where the wind goes. She is leaving behind the place that wasn't exactly hers, that was only hers because it was his. And that freedom allows her to get over what happened, gives her closure on her marriage by granting her a fresh start, a new place to put down roots. It's a lovely piece, the voice of the main character fun and a bit brash and image of oher riding this seed pod interesting and powerful. A story about renewal and possibility, it's one you shouldn't miss this month.
"The Tragically Dead Girlfriend" by Kate Marshall (1540 words)
A great way to close out this month's issue, this story is about appropriation and how men tend to steal the voices of women, how women are very often used as plot devices for the stories of men without really being treated as people. The story is told with no names, just he and she, and it works for this because it makes it seem a bit more universal, that this is any man and any woman. The woman is killed by a car bomb and the man goes out looking for revenge, using her as motivation. it's a bad action movie, the man getting sex and martial arts training and the revenge that he desires but that does nothing for his girlfriend, who turns up again as a sort of ghost. And as a ghost she refuses him his narrative of her death. She takes back some of her power. She doesn't care that he killed people, just sees that people are using her to get what they want. Men are using her to get themselves sex and prestige. And she decides that she wants some of her voice back. Which only leads to him thinking he has to put her to rest, that this is another trial for him. He goes out searching only to return to find that she's moved on, that she's out with other people, that she doesn't want him to send her on. She leaves him, leaves him and takes away his power over her story. It's a nice piece, filled with the stupid stereotypes of action movies and shows and books and twisted by the return of the woman-object. She forces the story to recognize her as a person again, and trashes the conventions that would have kept her perfect and voiceless. An interesting and fun tale.