Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2016

The story in this month's GigaNotoSaurus is on the short side for the publication when it comes to word count, but it certainly reads like a longer piece with a great mood, complex world, and amazing characters. It's often difficult to find hope in apocalyptic stories, and especially ones that involve climate change, and I think that's something this story both recognizes and complicates, infusing a bit of magic and human fucked-upness into a world on the decline. But before I spoil everything, I should just start my review! 


"The Sound a Raven Makes" by Mathew Scaletta (6868 words)

You had me at sasquatches, story. Of course, a plot that revolves around a processing house for sasquatch meat isn't exactly the most…cheery of things, but I find it entirely fitting that this story goes where it does, lingers where it does. It is a gripping story about family and about loss and about a world that is going to hell. About hope and slow decay and wanting something to hold onto. The story features Ash, a young man moved up to the islands of southern Alaska in order to escape a collapsed America ravaged by climate change and violence. With him is JB, his partner, and together the two work for his grandmother processing sasquatch meat, rendering jerky and hide. The story is stark and desolate, Ash well named for all his life seems choked in the burnt remains of the world. He must navigate around the extremely rich you come to the island to hunt and around his family, namely his uncle, Wax, who serves as a constant threat of violence.

I love how the story shows a situation dire and basically unsalvageable. It's post-apocalyptic but tinged with magic, with strange elements that defy more traditional classification. And I like the fusion, the magic that seems just out of reach, just tucked away, never quite visible. The sasquatches, after all, are only really present in their remains, in the corpses that Ash helps to break down. They are magical creatures in many ways, or seem to me to embody a magical vision of the natural world, one where strange creatures still exist and there is a wonder at the mysteries of the world. And here that wonder has given way to horror, to the gory and mundane nature of processing their bodies into jerky. That is the world of the story, one exploited past the point where magic can exist. Past the point where even humanity can really hope to survive. Only the incredibly rich can experience nature, and then only as conquerors and murderers. The rest, like Ash, are left with the blood and dust, waiting for a fire.

[SPOILERS] And I think the way the story handles that fire is interesting, the way that Ash slowly comes to terms with this new world, not hoping for a release from it exactly but wanting to burn away what doesn't work, what's only causing harm. The fire is the struggle, the fight, the revolution. He has only his relationship with JB to keep him grounded, but he knows that this is a world where hope lives more in things being burned away rather trying to fix what's there or prop up harmful institutions. That too much harm has been done. That, as his name implies, most everything's been burned already. He's a bit of ash, drifting through the wind, directionless, hoping only to land somewhere and maybe infuse a bit of life back into the planet. But that it's a struggle and must be, because the stakes are so high and the situation so dire, that if he doesn't try it will leave only the rich and those like his uncle and everything will truly be doomed. It's a nice bit of hope still burning despite everything, despite the oppressive atmosphere of the story. And it makes for a great read!

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