Two flash works fill up this issue's original work from Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. Thematically, the stories are both dealing with mortality, at least in my opinion. In both there is a sense that what is truly beautiful cannot last forever. That there is something in the nature of beauty that is tied to time. We see a woman traveling the galaxy, exploring all kinds of things, capturing her memories to save, and yet the true beauty of her past is in her, is never bound in the memory boxes. In the second story a person encased in glass and water and wire finds that they long for the sight of a flower, that for all that the world has given her immortality, it pales before the fleeting beauty of a bloom. An interesting theme to tie the stories together, and one I should get more into in the reviews...
"The Attic of Memories" by Sunil Patel (968 words)
This story is one of memory, of exploration, of capturing what can't quite be captured. Jacinda, a woman of indeterminate age, lives with a quest given to her by her attic. Go out and live. Experience as much as possible, and store the memories of those experiences in small boxes to bring back to the attic. Fear, joy, awe, pleasure--everything goes into the boxes. But of course it's never enough, never really everything. Because while each journey might be captured in a moment, in a box that contains the most potent feeling of the trip, the rest of the experiences aren't kept anywhere but in Jacinda's mind. And it's there, not inside the attic, which actually holds the key to looking back. Without Jacinda, without that nostalgia that she feels, without the small emotions and feelings that were never part of what went into the boxes, they are missing some vital context. It is a collection that really only works for Jacinda, but really only has to. This is her attic, her life laid out around her, her quest. The story seems to be revealing what can't get saved, what can't be written down or recorded. That there is something to the keeping of memories, but the memories themselves always fail to quite live up to the real thing. There is no end to the quest, no collection complete enough that she wouldn't want to go back out, not to retread the ground she's walked already but to feel something new, to be more than just the sum of memories. It's a nostalgic story, a sort of guided tour through an interesting bit of world building, and the ending has just enough of a message to bring everything together, to leave that call to the readers. Go out. Live. A fine story.
"I Miss Flowers" by Alexandra Grunberg (543 words)
This is a much starker story about a person suspended behind glass. The story is quite short but it revolves around the idea of growth and the natural and what it means when people start living in small tubes. I will admit I could envision these tubes, these chambers of water and wire where some people are suspended, immortal, as a sort of The Internet-style series of tubes, because in many ways the story seems to be making a point on how people don't see the natural anymore. Though I'm not sure that it's as simple as that. The people outside the cage the main character is in seem to have stopped valuing what some might call "natural beauty." They don't care for flowers. If flowers still exist, it is somewhere unseen and unknown. But they do preserve people. The main character is like a flower, preserved in water, never aging and never really doing anything. Though even that seems to have lost much of its allure as the people of the story don't pay much attention to the main character any more. I don't think this is a "people need to pay attention to nature" story, though. It's not like flowers represent nature all that well, as they are ornamental, pretty and, when picked and put into vases, not exactly a reminder of the natural world so much as something to admire until they wither and die. And that seems to be some of what's going on in the story, that people are losing sight of mortality. Stopping to smell the roses, as it were. People are valuing immortality, or the illusion of it, and things that have the appearance of lasting. They aren't being reminded that life is fragile, that life is beautiful, and so they are squandering it. That, at least, is how I read the story, not as a call to go out to see a park, exactly, but a call to stop avoiding the beauty and truth that everything has a season, everything blooms and dies. Without that, there is a certain coldness, a sterility that freezes progress. So another good story, short but with a lot to unpack.