The stories of this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies look at violations. Abuses. The ways in which consent can be perverted, that relationships can become harmful. The stories look at how situations can become tainted, can become toxic. How, in the end, sometimes the best option is to escape. Sometimes the only hope is in escape. And perhaps to some extent in taking steps to remove the abusers from power. These are complex stories with that examine power and abuse and hope. Time to review!
|Art by Marek Hlavaty|
"Salt and Sorcery" by Raphael Ordoñez (9893 words)
This is a rather odd story about abuse and about isolation. About feeding off of fear and trying to keep people dependent. The story shows Orana, a woman with special abilities, in an abusive relationship with a man who found her when she was young. Who "saved" her and uses that bit of manipulation to control, gaslight, and otherwisely be a gigantic asshole. When the airship they're on gets hit by a storm and she's cast out onto a great salt flat, the one positive thing might be that she seems finally free. Only she gets pulled into another conflict where children are being kept isolated so that a being who "saved" them can use them for its own good. The story does a great job of exploring the ways that abuse forms and is maintained. The ways in which abusive relationships are normalized in cultures, the way they seem natural. So that Orana doesn't have much option but to remain. So that the children have no real reason to try and escape, because they are vulnerable and lack power, and what power they have has been called into doubt constantly. It's an uncomfortable story in many ways because of it, though it does show that there can be a way through. Not necessarily an easy way through, because here we see that just walking away is impossible. Orana cannot just walk away because her abuser wants to go on abusing her. The children cannot walk for similar reasons. Only by helping each other can they begin to get each other out of the tangle of abuse and manipulation. And what happens is violent and, well, decisive at the least. Orana isn't really allowed to escape the violence of her situation, but at the least she can keep the children mostly out of having to learn to kill, which is something. An interesting read!
"A Deeper Green" by Samantha Murray (7789 words)
This is a story about memory and about stress, about privacy and about the good of the group and individual. The story shows Juyianna, who is a Attitra, someone who can go into the mind of another and alter it, erasing memories and changing though patterns and rots—effectively changing the person's personality. Normally this is something that is reserved for criminals, to rehabilitate them. As the story opens, though, the council of the colony that Juyianna is a part of is contemplating changing things. About using her powers proactively to alter people's minds before they actually commit a crime. It's a story about the importance of order and the good of all in a closed system, but also about the importance of freedom and privacy and individualism. And also a bit about love, as Juyianna and her minder, a man named Davvi, start to learn things about each other that they have been denying. It's an interesting look at what having a power like actually going into someone's mind can look like. And how it can be used. How those in power can seek to use it to keep order, and how in some ways that's desirable because the power is not bad in itself. It's a tool of healing when used right. But when used wrong it's a violation. The main difference being consent and the story does a great job looking at that, complicating the simple good and bad of such a power. It's also a rather romantic story, and a rather tragic one. It's about how power corrupts, and how tempting it can be to fix your problems by violating other people, by ruling through fear. And how such an approach only leads to conflict and death. It's a fascinating setting and a great look at Juyianna and Davvi and a fine story!