The January offereings from Shimmer Magazine do a nice job of standing in the nebulous spaces. The half known and the half dark and the half hurt and half healing. These are the places where monsters and magic live, even when it turns out that what seemed like monsters are anything but and what seemed like magic might only have been a fierce desire for something different. And both stories center families. Mothers and fathers and children, all hurt and hurting each other, all seeking some measure of forgiveness and unable to quite reach through the miasma of difference to find it. These are stories of quiet tragedies and loud changes, and it's a lovely way to start a new year of stories. So yeah, to the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli
"Hic Sunt Leones" by L.M. Davenport ( words)
This story to me is a resonating piece about loss and about uncertainty. About the places on maps that are filled only with warnings, that reveal nothing except an absence. The story features a character who is dealing with the loss of their mother. Not by physical death but by an accident that has left her changed. In the wake of that, which in turn came in the wake of the death of their father, the main character is left adrift, holding onto the old stories that their mother used to tell, the house that had always haunted her. The house here is something like the house of Baba Yaga, except here it's more divorced from the witch and much of the legend. It's a place that a person can only find on accident, only by not looking and not knowing what the house is. And as such it becomes something of a white whale for the main character, who is partly convinced that if they find it something will change. Something will be found. It's a story that takes a keen look at grief and builds up a wonderful magic surrounding the mysterious nature of the house, the way that it moves, the way that it seems to call people without them knowing about it. For the main character it seems to embody in some ways their guilt and their grief and their way through those things, a map that always seems to change and, no matter how they search, always seems out of reach. And yet for them it's not something they can put away, and so it haunts them, and pushes them, and becomes almost a comfort, this bit of certain uncertainty. It's a fairly strange but poignant and beautiful piece!
"Shadow Man, Sack Man, Half Dark, Half Light" by Malon Edwards ( words)
When I heard that there was going to be a sequel to "The Half-Dark Promise" I will admit that I didn't imagine it would be so immediate a sequel, but this story doesn't even take a breath before jumping into a new battle, a new nightmare. The story revisits Michaëlle-Isabelle as she runs from her last encounter with a child of the night, her only friend transformed but alive, only for her to find a new encounter waiting for her at home, and one much more traumatic than the last. The action of the piece maintains the personal edge from the previous story. Where that piece saw Michaëlle-Isabelle standing against the dark, standing up for her friend, this one reveals her lineage and complicates her situation nicely. In many ways this is the perfect kind of origin story, with Michaëlle-Isabelle as an awesome new superhero, touched by the forces of darkness and yet able to stand against them, able to try and protect who she can, even if it won't be everyone. And while there are still villains in this piece, they too are complicated, brought into a new half-light. Because of their relationship to Michaëlle-Isabelle, because of their love that seems to walk hand in hand with their powers and their hungers, they stand in contrast to Michaëlle-Isabelle. They are there to embody the hurt and the anger, the power and the celebration of what and who they are. To scare the light indoors. It's a lovely comliment and complication of "The Half-Dark Promise" that maintains the thrill and the action while drawing into the main character's family and past, the truth about her parents that she never wanted to confront but now that she has built her strength she can't avoid. In standing against the Pogo, in standing up for her friend, she has in effect stood up again much more, and can't back down. It's a slightly tragic but inspiring story and I can't wait to see if there will be more to come. A fantastic read!