There's a new issue of Omenana out and you should read it. The publication is going through some changes, moving to a more robust website, adding some new ventures (like reviews), and the fiction remains strong and brilliant. These are stories that look at magic and at tragedy, that show loss but also people gaining things. New abilities. New hopes. New understandings of the world they live in. These are not always easy stories—they are dense and they are occasionally uncomfortable—but they are resonating stories. Stories that inspire and complicate. And I should get to reviewing them!
|Art by Danial Inneil, Color by Sunny Efemena
"Wishful Thinking" by Acan Innocent Immaculate (2017 words)
This is a sort of "be careful what you wish for" story with a great sense of movement and a wonderful humor. The story builds from this crawl, this slow inching queue of people, to something much faster and much faster still so that the ending is a blur in the shape of a smile, and I love the magic that infuses it. It features Luyima, a rather grumpy man frustrated by his lack of power in the face of what he sees as inefficiency. The way that people walk slowly. The way that the city screeches around him. Until an errant fluff grants him an errant wish and he…well…changes. [SPOILERS] And what I love about the way that he changes is that it really doesn't change who he is at his core. A grump. Because even as he develops powers to allow him to do the one thing that he thought he wanted, there's also the growing evidence that it won't be enough. That there is no enough. That even with powers he's still this dissatisfied man without anything to contribute to the world around him but the want to smack someone off their bike. The tone and voice of the story capture that mentality, that air of mild arrogance that allows him to think that things would be different if he were in charge. It's a story heavy with charm and genuinely funny and makes for a great way to kick off this new issue!
"The Last Lagosian" by Wole Talabi (4705 words)
This story takes a look at an interesting post-apocalyptic setting and the fragility of hope in the face of desolation. Akin is the star of the show, a man who even before the Event was living in the hope of getting out. Of getting enough money to leave the country and get somewhere that would be, to him, worth going. After the Event, and the deaths of basically everyone who wasn't underground at the time, his prospects haven't really changed all that much. And I love how the story deals with that, showing the parallels between Akin's commute before and his trip to the island now. The way that he still fears. The way that the path is still littered with grief. Even his mission is relatively the same, to find supplies to live, even if pre-Event he did that by working a job in order to get paid. And certainly the hope is about the same, the hope in the face of the towering odds against ever getting enough to move on. It's something that keeps him going despite everything, that got him through working life and now is getting him through the post-apocalypse. But it's not easy. Not easy because even as he moves forward with his hope, trying to do good, trying to trust the other people he meets when it's obvious that they can help each other, the situation discourages cooperation. It's all about competition, and when it comes down to it I like how the story shows the way that desperation twists trust into betrayal. It's a vivid and visceral story full of distance and thirst but also, still, full of hope. Akin never really gives up, just grows more and more resolved to go, to escape the situation where the most kindness he can expect is a knife to the gut. A great read!
"Of Tarts and New Beginnings" by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (4224)
So cooking plus SFF? I love it. And this story deftly blends a subtly speculative premise with the flavors of cooking and garnishes with a strong emotional core that is dense and satisfying. The story features Shanumi, who isn't so much a chef as a culinary executive, one who creates recipes of amazing combinations that people wouldn't think of. But she doesn't cook herself, and for a very good reason. She can no longer taste following an accident that claimed the life of her husband. And I love how the story uses that loss to manifest the way flavor has been leeched from the world. That here she has suffered something deeply traumatic and what remains is something entirely different than what she had before. Something that she fears. Something that she knows others will not understand. Because instead of taste or smell she can see flavors, can see if a dish will taste good, even as she is continually denied tasting it. And this secret ability makes her a target of jealous rivals and irrational prejudice, a threat that Shanumi lives under constantly. And I like that it looks at building from scratch, that it recognizes that Shanumi is at risk especially because she is a woman trying to succeed on her own, which to anyone will already seem like magic, like witchcraft, without any actual magic being involved. So when magic is involved it's that much more precarious, despite that Shanumi is really only using her own talents and the modified senses her accident gave her. The story is moving and tense, with an ending that lingers and persists. It's a story with a nice weight and a great combination of elements. Much like the dishes that Shanumi creates, the story blends together styles and flavors that are unique and fresh and wonderful, and it's definitely a piece to check out. Go read it!
"Screamers" by Tochi Onyebuchi (4566 words)
Well fuck. This is an incredible story that looks at police and policing, at injustice and frustration, at exhaustion and metaphor and family and it's just an amazing piece of writing. And okay, okay, I should stop gushing and maybe look at it a bit closer at it. The plot features a father and son living in America, the father brought over from Africa to be a police officer. Only the people he is tasked to police are general African Americans and the situation is…complex to say the least, and becomes even more so when the father starts having to deal with strange crime scenes that look like a bomb has gone off. The sites of Screamers. And the story takes these very deep ideas of police and policing, Africans and African Americans, and creates this scenario where the son follows his father into the police and from there onto a special Screamer task force that looks to create psychological distance in order to examine these attacks. The powers behind them. [SPOILERS] Which seem to be grief and pain and frustration. Which seem to be the condensation of injustice finding a voice that literally tears people apart. This is a story about protest and resistance that has no real specific target. That has always been disassociated enough to be denied, to be minimized. The main character, the son, is something of an outsider to it, to the experience of America, but at the same time he has a growing understanding of what it must be like, the constant systemic problems that lead to the Screams. And through it all he finds metaphor, finds art, finds his own voice, and finds that he might not be able to do his job. Because he loses that distance and makes the Screams personal. And wow it's a powerful story that crept up on me and then unfolded in this devastating blast. It's an amazing read and a perfect way to close out the issue.