Just ahead of the release of their next issue, Lackinton's has dropped the paywall on their Possessions issue and it's a great collection of rather dark stories. Perhaps rising from the complex nature of possessions, from how people can own things, how people can own people, how things can own people, how entities can inhabit people, how people can own ideas and stories…there are a lot of ways that these tales circle around what it is to have possessions, and what it is to be possessed. Most of the pieces are solidly fantasy, the magic alive and well and further complicating the theme but also giving it a wild fire that casts some wicked shadows. There's a lot here to enjoy, so I'm going to get to the reviews!
|Art by P. Emerson Williams
"How I Came to Be Raised by Balniwan the Fool" by Adrian Simmons (3112 words)
This story takes an interesting angle on the idea of possessions, focusing on a child living in a world defined by violence. Under the rule of their father, Alebeg, the children as possessions, less than people. He scares them and he awes them and he lives a bit like a cult leader on a hill, though with a rather Norse feel to it. So as I read he main possession of the story is that of the main character, who is treated more like property than a person. It's interesting to see especially because this idea of children as possessions is not something that we have dropped from the old days. Still children are treated like they belong to people, without real care for what's really best of them. The laws are written, as they are in this setting, that children can be taken and given away, and I like how the story shows this, the complete devastation that is left in the wake of it. At the same time the story also seems to be about violence and how that can possess people, how people come to be little more than possessors of weapons. There are a lot of weapons in the piece and there is a sort of question as to how much these people own their weapons or how much their weapons own them. I like how that is played with, that everyone ends up living and dying by their adherence to violence. It's certainly a visceral story that comes with the taste of blood and the bitterness of being someone powerless in the face of force and power. A fine way to kick off the issue!
"Ought from Is" by Brittany Pladek (4357 words)
This story is saturated with grief and with the struggle of faith in the face of immense misery. The main character is a nun who finds herself with a gift, the ability to break the links of cause and effect in a person's mind. It's another story that uses possession to great effect, drawing together both the possession of the gift by the main character and the possession of these illusions by everyone else. I like how the story confronts the way that humans link cause and effect in ways that make no sense. That are comforting but not helpful. The ways that people seek to bargain with the universe, or with God, in order to get something for themselves. When really what they should be doing, what serves everyone best, is if people could see through those and put their efforts towards actually working for change. To stop focusing on the comfort of the belief in a false cause and effect and begin actually working to effect the bad in the world. Set against the backdrop of World War I, the story is a gripping and draining picture of how one woman reacts to the lose of her own faith. Not by believing that nothing is worth doing, that nothing is worth caring about, but by focusing on how her actions lead to something, by looking at what she can do and then doing it. It's a lovely piece and shows the fine line between faith and reason. It's a triumphant story that carries a heavy darkness but also a lifting light. A great read!
"The First of Frost" by H.L. Fullerton (3027 words)
This is a story that mixes fairy tales and court politics, dress-making and regret, as Aurelia, the daughter of a noble family, makes her debut in an…unexpected way. The story is really about stories, about the ways that people twist the truth, cover it over. The possession in this story seems mostly relegated to a very special dress, but it's also about possessing power, and part of that is possessing the control of stories. Aurelia is something of the victim in this tale, which sees her being dressed by her mother and an ambitious dress-maker n hopes of attracting a husband. Only the dress-makers sees something special in Auerlia and her affinity for water and decides to do something grand. Something for himself rather than for her, and in doing so rather curses her to a new sort of life. One without warmth. I love the tone of this story, the conversational feel to it. It is framed as Aurelia talking to the dress-maker, and throughout there is the question of what kind of a conversation it is. As the truth becomes clear, the story mirrors the cold that it evokes, drawing snow upon snow, tragedy upon tragedy. Aurelia might start the timeline as something of a simple girl, wanting only the simple things and just hoping to look nice for a ball, but as the story grows more and more complex it becomes clear that's something she can never have, and the frustration and anger that accompanies that is very well rendered. It's a story that manages both the cold of hate and the fire of rage quite well, and it's definitely worth a read!
"The Sapphire Fiend" by Devan Barlow (3663 words)
This story takes up yet another aspect of possession—demon possession. In the story a group of ruling Fiends can extract demons from gemstones and put them into human hosts, after which the Fiend has control over the demon. Obviously this works out for the Fiend, but not really for anyone else. The demons are mere slaves and the humans little better, except that the humans have a single recourse, that they can petition the Fiend for leniency or special requests. Only…well, only everyone who tries ends up dead. Until one woman gives up on trying to convince the Fiend of anything and starts telling a story instead. A story that keeps her alive. It’s a great wink to A Thousand and One Nights but it’s also deep in its own right, framing the power of storytelling by showing how the main character, without real powers, still possesses something that can threaten the Fiend. She has stories, and through stories the ability to convince people to push for change. It’s a story that builds up a very broken and corrupt world, and I love the story-within-a-story layering that it engages in. The mood is dark and full of resistance and quiet strength. I love how the main character pushes toward the ending, toward that final confrontation, and how she denies the Fiend the ability to write what happens next. This is a story that feels like a sort of fairy tale, with demons and stories and contests, elements of Bluebeard and Arabian Nights, but it also manages to be something all its own, vivid and flush with life. It’s a great bit of world building wrapped around a dark and savory core of character and intrigue. A fabulous read!
"Invasion" by Erik Amundsen (1896 words)
I love the setting of this story, the way that it draws this place with its waters and its buried figures. I like that feeling that these people live with drowned gods, with nearly-submerged giants. The main character reads as trans to me, in a body that isn’t right and that people give the wrong kind of attention to. The action of the story involves the main character and their friend, Elly, visiting the mostly-submerged giants and finding…well, more than the main character was ready for. The relationship between the main character and Elly is interesting, and I like how the story draws the distinctions between them, that Elly pushes harder and further in many ways because she can, because while she is looking for something under the mirky water she’s also allowed to look and push. The main character, however, has to be careful because they are already different, already at risk from the rest of the population for it. It’s an interesting situation and it informs on how the main character feels trapped by what happens, in some ways jealous that Elly can act so boldly and in other ways uncomfortable because Elly, though their friend, doesn’t quite get them, and Elly in her ignorance and push for something might be making a sort of mistake. The landscape is sweeping but also rather creepy, the story evoking a sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe for me with how it reveals these figures submerged in water, these figures that Elly is trying so hard to reach. That the story is called “Invasion” gives me a feeling that whatever is happening might not be the greatest of things, might be unleashing something best kept dormant, but there’s also the possibility that it might go better, a hope that even as the last scene seems to lean toward something terrifying happening, maybe this is something else and we need to reserve judgment. In any event it’s a fascinating story with a great mood and voice!
"Ever Changing, Ever Turning" by Yukimi Ogawa (4888 words)
This is a story about exploitation and change, about two women who find in each other something that the other missing and yet…well, the story is a nice mix of happiness and grief, hope and the crush of loss. The character focuses primarily on Shino, who works in a shop and has mixed feelings about the taboo of the island she lives on against any sort of makeup or artificial coloring. And yet she meets and befriends Tsukiko, a model who can change the color of her nails and her skin at will. The two become close because of the ways in which they contrast and the regard they have for each other, their friendship a bit charged in my reading but never really able to be explored. Because of the taboos of the island and because there just isn't enough time. This is an interesting use of the possession idea because it's about how Tsukiko's colors come to possess her and how they come to possess Shino in turn. The story also deals with the fears of a different possession as well—the ownership of Tsukiko as a person. Because she fears that her father will try to own her, that he will try to steal her story. That he will try to cash in on her name and erase what she was, who she was. And I like how all of that comes together with Shino standing in a ruined how and looking at a broken picture. It's a striking and beautiful moment and the story builds very well to that, and past that. It's also an interesting choice as the last story of the issue, because the ending isn't quite resolved, is an open wound of sorts, a promise but not a resolution. It works very well for the story, and for the issue, a sort of faint touch that you're not sure is the wind or not, and a lasting cold that sinks into your bones. A great read!