Thursday, September 17, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/31/2015, 09/07/2015, and 09/14/2015

Okay, so I've been a little behind with Strange Horizons but here I'm catching up on three weeks. Fortunately and not, I suppose, these weeks have been a little light on nonfiction, so I'm just looking at two stories and three poems. It makes the work a little easier for me but I do quite enjoy the nonfiction from Strange Horizons and am hoping for some new installments for their ongoing series. The work for these three weeks is surprisingly dark, actually, with things leaning their way toward horror or dark fantasy, but as I'm still a fan there's really no problem with that. Just a little...strange (heh). All in all, though, it's a strong collection of fiction and poems, and a new piece of art that captures nicely the creepiness of it all.

Art by Maggie Ivy


"Glaciers Made You" by Nicasio Andres Reed (3226 words)

So okay, yeah, this is a rather hitting story about a young woman growing up without a father, without much but skin that talks to her. That sends her messages through the skin that peels when she sunburns. Poetry, it sounds like, but also a map. For Bonnie, the main character, it's a voice from beyond, from something magic telling her where to go, how to be reunited with her father again. The hurt and the pain are palpable though they are hardly described, the way the father's death is a wound that keeps nagging at the family, the way they try to move on without ever really dealing with it. They live in a series of apartments, none of them exactly home despite everything, and Bonnie feels a growing urge to follow the messages of her skin even as they become harder to find, [SPOILERS] even as she has to start cutting herself to find them. And that is where the story gets it's darkest, in the place where Bonnie tries to recapture the messages she got when she was younger. They're coming harder because her memory is fading, or because her life is filling more adult responsibility, but whatever the case she's not waiting for the skin to burn and peel. She wants something, needs something, to make her life make sense and have meaning. She's stuck, stuck with a lack of options and she yearns for something more to the point that she's willing to cut at herself to get a message, to find someone willing to talk to her, to care about her. It's a sad story, deep and moving and the end is just ambiguous enough to be hopeful, to give some light to the darkness and pain Bonnie is trying to pierce. A great story.

"The World in Evening" by Jei D. Marcade (4634 words)

This is a rather creepy story about a man, Harley, and a young girl, Mouse. Or maybe it's not precisely about Harley, who is also Rock Fell, who is also Rook. Harley the taxidermist, Rook the monster. It's a rather unsettling story because of how well Rook and Harley are captured, obviously damaged, obviously dangerous. And Mouse, no less damaged and understanding of how Harley is, of what he is, the way he picks up the frequencies that guide him at night. The hunt, the game, everything. It's a strange story, disconnected in time, and both Mouse and Harley are monsters of a sort, though I'm not entirely sure how to read that. Perhaps that both have seen the ugliness of the world and aren't really up to facing it as themselves. That both flit through personas, masks, but that Harley's are more physical, tangible objects whereas Mouse's changes are more subtle, harder to see. But she does have her aspects, in many ways seems to be trying to teach Harley. They are all of them monsters in ways, but monsters designed to face the monstrous, to keep them safe in a world that has obviously hurt them. The story is unstuck in time but that doesn't stop it from setting up a very creepy atmosphere and plot. It all comes together, dark and moody and quite good, the lingering mystery remaining of who they are and where their transformations will take them. Good stuff.


"Hunger" by Alexandra Seidel

Well that's a nicely creepy poem. Short and filled with foreign words, the poem is about a woman, a girl, a female of some age who is eating like it's an art, like it's a way to destroy the world. The narrator is an observer, seeing in the eating a potential, a violence and a danger and also a freedom. Freedom because what she's eating doesn't seem to be food. At least, there really isn't that much food imagery in the poem. What she seems to be doing is eating words. Ideas. Languages and, I'm guessing, books. Of all sorts. Things that people would think inappropriate. Like she's eating words to discover their power, their particular secrets. And the lingering question becomes, because of how much she reads, how much language she consumes, she has become dangerous. A woman with words. A woman with words and, from the rest of the poem it can probably be inferred, a terrible home life. She's silent, silent because she wants to avoid criticism, but that also means that she's rolling the words around in her mouth like pearls, and when she's finally done there will be something beautiful and powerful and terrible that she'll say. The poem is short, as said, but it's clustered densely, the foreign words emphasizing the idea of language being consumed. A fine poem!

"Beneath the Wheeler Centre" by Jenny Blackford

This poem focuses on a group of people and one, in particular, who is dying. It's possible that they're all dying, that they're all waiting and not waiting to see if their prognoses are going to turn out to be correct or not. The poem is a group commiserating, telling stories and laughing at their own mortality, at the specters of death stalking them. At the funny little mundane things that must happen, the man who didn't want to go to the dentist because he was going to die anyway but then broke a tooth and had to. The feel of the story is joyous in the face of despair, is slow and steady with the recognition that tragedy is stalking but the stubborn refusal to see it, to acknowledge it. These people continue on, trying not to be sad because they know there will be time enough for sadness after. And yet the poem, with its short lines, leaves a lot of room on the screen for the unsaid things, the unsaid and half felt words that weigh almost heavier than the actual text. It's a fun poem for all that it's also steeped in a loss and a fear and a sort of looming shadow. And in the end there is that haunting absence, a silence that really gets across the sense of loss that the poem builds to. Quite, quite good!

"Bodega Dunes" by Carrie Naughton

Okay, this is a weird one. Weird in that the narrator of the poem sleeps and wakes and spends the night by a shore. The world around them changes, shifts, and things emerge from the night, from their dreams. What is real and what is unreal mesh and merge and cannot be pulled apart in that world. It is an interestingly formed poem, on that seems to act a bit like the path the narrator walks, one that expands and constricts, one that arrives with the fall of night and expands from there, in the strangeness and dreamlike world of the shore, the living press of it, the unknown meeting the known. The imagery is finely worked and deep, the feel there of the sea, of the shore, of the microcosms there, the tide pools and the sheer life of it, that mix of the water and land, the creatures that are stuck on one or who can move freely between. And I love the ending, that idea of linking dreams to the sea, the project that the poem in general had been involved in from its start. It's strong and it's a little unsettling and it's good. There is a transformation throughout and a sense that, at the end the narrator is mostly back at the beginning, returned to the waking world, but something persists, something remains that can't quite be faced because it is unknown and, in large part unknowable. Another great poem.

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