The two stories that make up Shimmer's August offerings are…well, in some ways they are incredibly different. One's a contemporary story light on speculative elements and heavy on fun and the other is a solidly fantasy piece steeped in death and violence and tragedy. And yet, for all their differences, the two stories are also about being swept away by desires. By illusions. About having to make the decision to take something or keep yourself. And in both cases, when the people lose themselves it's not a good thing. It's an end to the adventure. An end to the fun. It's a tragedy, a death, a lament. What also links these stories is that they're incredibly good, and close out another excellent issue of the publication. So to the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"glam-grandma" by Avi Naftali ( words)
This story is pretty great. Seriously, it's a story that speaks to me of yearning, of striving for something, and perhaps of getting it. But also the journey there, and what you leave behind, and what you let go of. In that way it's also a bit about aging to me, about dreams and about adventure. I love the bounce of it. The fun of it. This is a story that got me smiling with the way the characters play off each other. The narrator is a teen boy and instead of hanging out with kids his own age he has made this makeshift family of grandmas. And glam-grandma is one of the liveliest, a woman trying to get into posh Hollywood brunches. Trying to be the kind of person invited to those. Only she doesn't really fit in. There is some tell about her person, in the way that she rushes at life. At the way that she doesn't betray her past. In the way that she cares for the narrator and spends time with him. [SPOILERS] But this is also a story about what happens when you reach what you're reaching for. When you grasp it. When you, essentially, win. It's about the changes that happen to glam-grandma when she goes from being the woman trying to get into brunches to the woman goes to brunches. And there is a shift. Noticeable and, to the narrator, rather profound. Which reveals the tragedy of the situation. That glam-grandma can't go to brunches and be herself. That the gatekeeping exists to the point that she is denied. But that if she becomes that person, if she gives up the part of herself that races in truck tunnels and cannot hide her spark, then she can have what she wants. And she does. Which is tragic as well as joyous. And the story presents this complex point with a rush of life and fun. An excellent read!
"The Singing Soldier" by Natalia Theodoridou ( words)
This story sings of borders and of conflict, family and land and violence. It's the story of a small tin soldier singing, and a family who finds him, and the ruin their life becomes. The image of the soldier is an interesting one, this sad figure the family cannot understand because of his language. They don't quite know what to make of him and, as the song is one they cannot seem to escape, they accept it. There's this subtle way the story seems to build, the tone never really betraying the full tragedy of what happens. It's like a fairy tale, told from a distance and with a strong sense of magic, one that gives the events a colder feel to them and a kind of…well, for me a it was a sense of hope, as if I was waiting for the story to turn, for some thing to happen to prevent what did, eventually, happen. And I love the story for that, for the way that it doesn't hold back the hammer falling. For the way that it refuses in many ways to romanticize the soldier and his magic. [SPOILERS] And I love the way the story builds that final moment with Lilia and the gun, with the bullet that the soldier becomes. Because it seems to sum up so nicely the way that nationalism, that the carving up of land, is this song that we sing that dooms us. That leads to death and violence and pain. That people follow for the glory and for the romance but really all it does is cause problems. All it does is draw lines where there are none. And the way that it's infectious, the way that Lilia cannot escape, cannot do anything but be pulled under by it. It's sad and it touching and it wrenching and it's just a very, very good read. Definitely check it out!