Friday, March 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/20/2017 & 02/27/2017

The end of February brought a rather light release of content from Strange Horizons, with one story and two poems that I’ll be looking at today. There’s a selection of nonfiction as well, but I felt I lacked some requisite knowledge/experience to really get into those pieces, though I definitely recommend people check them out. There’s actually a very interesting discussion in the essay on Moore’s novel about writing and reviewing but I’m not sure I have my thoughts together enough to address that, so instead I will focus on the fiction and poetry, which focus on bodies and on trauma and damage. That look at the ways that people seek to escape the confines of their situations, of their cages, of the judgments that people place on them and their forms. These are pieces that carry with them a definite darkness and do a great job of complicating gaze and intent. And before I ramble on too much I should just get to the reviews!

Art by Kathleen Jennings

"London Calling" by Philip A. Suggars (2976 words)

This is a rather heartbreaking story about loss and about grief and about transformations. It takes place in London, where Ingrid Cold is speaking to the city, has made a deal with the city. It’s a rather nicely magical starting point and I love where the story goes from there, exploring mainly where Ingrid is at in her life. Her sister, Georgie, is gone and that absence has left a hole in Ingrid, has made the world into some place where she doesn’t really fit. The focus of the piece to me is on transformations, the way that Ingrid is seeking to change, to escape the oppression of her situation and the sorrow of her loss. She’s lonely, and in that loneliness she’s able to connect with the city. They are kindred in this way, two being who even surrounded by people feel like they are alone. No one listens to them and no one cares, until they find each other. Until they listen to each other. And the city offers Ingrid something that she wants, just as she can offer it something that it wants. A change. Some agency. the power to do something that has been denied them. It’s a bit of a melancholy piece but it also has some fun to it, in the voice and aesthetic of the city, who seems to just want to get up and stretch its legs and have a spot of mischief. Both characters want a break from their roles, either temporarily or permanently. And I think that the story does a great job of showing how that feels and what that looks like, detailing Ingrid’s battle with guilt and shame and what it takes to release her from that. And it’s a beautiful story that you should definitely check out!


"Syncing Minefields" by Karen Bovenmyer

This is a great poem that explores what it means to love and what it means to make mistakes that might cost a lot of damage and shame. The poem imagines a new world, a New Earth, and it is protected by a mine field. Pilots getting too close, well… Part of why I love this poem is because of how it plays out in two columns at the same time. Structurally, there is the smallest overlap between the two, so that they aren’t entirely separated, joined in their middles and yet still with some distance, still with some difference between them. For me, it means that these two stories are linked in part because they describe two things that are illegal, but are really very different. It explores how people can make laws that cover something practical like minefields and something completely personal, like love. There isn’t the clearest idea of why the relationship described in the second (more right) section is illegal (though heh, I realize while writing that that the section is indeed more right, which could be read as implying something about idealogical conservatism). Whatever the reason, though, the feeling that the poem conveys is the danger of it but also not being able to help it. And that speaks to me, that idea that here we have the many minefields we must navigate, the many ways we must shape ourselves because of these dictates and decisions made by drunken giants who didn’t, or don’t, know better and don’t try to. And it’s a lovely piece about how love forces into impossible situations, into flying too close to mines because the alternative is to live safe but always unfulfilled. A great read!

"The Body Problem" by Margaret Wack

This is an interesting and rather visceral poem that examines bodies and rot but also perceptions of beauty and normalcy and form and function. The piece begins with a character, with a “you,” at a young age, but not so young as to be able to be ignorant of body, not so young that, especially raised as a girl, you can really escape the idea of body and how it is judged. How it is policed. How it is imagined and how young people come to relate to their own bodies. And I like the layers that I can read into the poem, the different “problems” that I can find the title referring to. It could be that bodies die. They are flesh. They are cages that we cannot really escape. But I think the problem with bodies goes deeper than that. Not just that we will die, that our flesh might fail us, but that our flesh is used to define us, regardless of anything else. That so much is assumed about us based on our bodies, based on how we present our bodies. That we must strive to be presentable, pleasant, sexy, desirable, or else we get categorized as wrong, as deviant, as worthless, as immoral and undeserving of consideration or compassion. I love the way that the poem evokes the body as meat, as animal, and as art, but always as a way of dealing with the way that bodies are valued. That we might seek a way to talk around bodies, to pretend that they don’t matter, but that we are always left with them. That we seem in some ways unable to not value bodies on some measure. On their aesthetics, which is something that is personal while also being societally driven. And ahh, I could probably talk about this poem all day but will try to reign myself in and say that it is a difficult piece that does present readers with the complexity of body without giving a single answer. It’s a great read!


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