Monday, April 17, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/03/2017 & 04/10/2017

It's a strong opening to April with these two weeks of content from Strange Horizons. With two short stories, three poems, and an amazing essay in the offing, there's a lot of content and a lot of good. And there's also an editorial change going on, fyi, so it's doubly impressive that the publication hasn't slowed a step and is meeting this month head on. The fiction is a nice mix of strange landscapes and nearly-alien sights and sounds that get under the skin and into the minds of the main characters. These are stories of being lost, of losing oneself. The poems are at turns fun and wrenching and wonderful, building a number of different people on missions, people bound for something over the long term having a single moment of feeling and hope. And the essay…is about Star Trek and you all need to read it. And before I say anymore, let's just jump into the reviews!

Art by Emily Ettlinger

"Love Pressed in Vinyl" by Devon Wong (5972 words)

This is a strange and moving story that examines loss and desire, what makes us separate and what brings us together. The story features Malik, a man who is dealing with the death of an ex, Josh, and the weirdness surrounding Josh’s death. There’s a record, it seems, that can effect people. That can get inside them and make them lose time. Make them stop caring about everything. Malik comes across it by accident but it’s the first step into something larger, something Malik isn’t sure about but that the death of Josh triggers inside him, a desire to be outside of himself and part of something larger, a desire to lose himself so he doesn’t have to feel the pain and a way to be with Josh again. The story has a sort of rhythm and poetry to it that is compelling and dense, that makes the piece seem loaded with secrets and layers. And I personally love how I feel the story deals with this idea of a person as a raindrop, because it brings it out, from everyone falling together to the point when the raindrop hits the ground and becomes something else. Becomes water. And in so doing it loses its edges, loses what made it unique and distinct form the larger water. It’s something that I can feel the pull of, perhaps as Malik does, where in this moment of grief he doesn’t want to be distinct because it allows for individual pain and if he can overcome that he can reach a point like enlightenment, like peace. And I just like how the story develops and the haunting strangeness of the plot, of Malik finding himself in a place he doesn’t know on a mission he doesn’t quite remember. It’s a resonating, powerful story that you should definitely check out!

"Lacuna" by Lane Robins (3562 words)

This story is to me about objects and objectification, about learning moments and missing them. About going through the motions of faith and belief without really understanding them, and what that can lead to. For Father Jean-Pablo, sent to Lacuna to find an older priest so that the man might be healed, the world seems like a waiting temptation. Women. They exist, it seems, to tempt him, to mesmerize him. And not even women but the idea of them. The form of them. The object that he makes of them. He thinks himself familiar with women because he’s had sex, though in every interaction with women he has treated them as things, as vessels and not people. And so when he comes to Lacuna and finds golem girls, who presumably have to real will or ability to consent, he thinks he’s fallen in love. Without understanding it and without understanding himself. He knows only desire and the trappings of his faith which continually forgive him and forgive him, expecting him to do better but not requiring him to. He lets everyone down in his quest to be a man, to be a savior, to save women from something, without really asking what the women would want. Without looking past how he views them as objects. As prizes. It’s an unsettling read but one that comes together nicely, the setting strange and haunting and Jean-Pablo a recognizable kind of guy, one who thinks of himself as pure and good and understanding and compassionate but who doesn’t actually know much about the world or people. He has bought into his own godliness, and it leads him not into temptation but into corruption and abuse. It’s a sharp story and an excellent read!


"The day after we saved the city" by Rose Victor

Aww. This is an incredibly cute and fun poem about a small group of superheroes on their day off. The piece focuses on the aftermath of conflict, on the day after, and it’s a wonderful frame because it shows these heroes doing incredibly un-special things. There really aren’t any super powers on display (if the group even has any) and there are no attacks or threats. The poem follows the characters as they just go about their day, dealing with the mundanity of being a hero (the filing of reports, the eating meals and dealing with fans, the visiting people in the hospital, etc.) but it also does something that’s amazing and it’s showing these heroes together and happy and just being friends and family. Being together. And in that there is this security that comes through, that the city is safe because these people are protecting it, because they are good at what they do and because they’re doing it for the right reasons. They care, and their care shows through in everything that they do. And it’s just sweet to see them trying to have a day off and not being entirely successful but basically getting to just be people and enjoy each other’s company. Because of how superhero stories are told, there’s always the focus on the conflicts, or the battles, on the tragedies. But sometimes there are these small moments when everyone remembers that they are people, too, and that they like each other, and that they’re doing something that they love with people that they love. And it’s an amazing poem that’s refreshing and lifting and you will want to read this one. It is ALL THE SMILES!

"Last Time" by José González Vargas

This poem does some very interesting things with the idea of two people with a sort of link that goes beyond lives, that binds them in some way across many lifetimes, many iterations, many reincarnations. The piece is about the ways that these two people, the narrator and the person they are speaking to, interacted. Sometimes their connection is only in a moment, just the briefest of eye contact. Sometimes it is ruled by violence, sometimes by tender love. There are so many different lives that they live, but always they are something to each other. And with each new telling, new layer to their story, we find out what they have meant to each other. That they have been strangers more often than not, and that in finding each other it has brought them no comfort. But there is also something else there, something deeper than skin, that continues to pull them back together. They live and they die and they live again, and even they are given another chance and another chance. Perhaps not to be perfectly happy together, but the poem does show that the world doesn’t really allow for perfect lives. That it is full of tragedy and bluster, wars and greed and pain, but that even through all that there is the hope for something, a hope that survives everything. Not to be rich or to get married or to find some path to immortality or otherwise break this cycle. That the cycle is the point, with its moments of meeting, with the possibility that they will be together and love each other and that it makes everything else worth it. It’s a beautiful read and a solid brick of feelings given the large, prose-like lines and stanzas. Go check it out!

"Iris" by T.D. Walker

This poem is a bit of a mystery to me, drawing together a scene where the narrator sketches while on a mission. While on a journey. While on a ship probably traveling through space in search of the origin to a signal that has been received. And finding on this journey the urge to look back and capture the look of an iris. The poem itself draws a contrast between the random nature of the iris and the constant and precise nature of the signal. And yet in both there are uncertainties. Fears. Hopes. Nostalgia. The poem is in some ways a patient one, one that is looking at scope and distance in an interesting way. The narrator is aware that what they are doing is unknown, that the outcome might well be disappointment. And perhaps a part of them is trying to justify this search for a signal that might be nothing but that will certain consume their lives. That they are giving something on this hope that might turn out to be something dangerous, something deadly. But that this reaching out is part of a pattern, part of something that in itself is redemptive and worthy. The piece moves nicely, slowly revealing this situation without really explaining it. The nature of the signal and the mission are concealed, only hinted at, but it does enough to plant those seeds and step back to see what grows. And I like that uncertainty, the way that poem blurs a bit as the picture it describes, showing people running toward something with a joy but also knowing that what they find might not be what they expect. It’s an interesting and complex read and worth spending some time with!


"Freshly Remember'd: Kirk Drift" by Erin Horáková

Wow. This is a huge and impressive work that tackles the way that Kirk and the Original Series of Star Trek have been treated since their airing and especially in light of the recent reboots. And…yes. I mean, Kirk to me has always been somewhere between the angel of logic on one shoulder (Spock) and the devil of whateverthefuck on the other (McCoy). Seriously, McCoy is a way worse role model than Kirk, who does have his moments, and as the essay points out, it’s not like Spock is a pillar of either moral righteousness or, really, logic. And I think it’s utterly fascinating and very needed to look at how cultural memory changes away from thinking of the past in the context of the past or even (gasp) just actually reading judging texts from that time (or any time) and looking at the text there. I continue to be shocked picking up works from the 60s and 70s and finding them…good. With representation and with themes that I’m hungry for. With characters that inspire and politics that…are better than a lot of what’s put out today. It’s like that with Trek. Fuck, looking back on all the series and it’s hard to really rank them in terms of which one is “better” wrt racism or misogyny. When we think that TOS must be worse because it’s older we’re both excusing the instances of the same thing today and writing in things we think we remember. And this article shows that so brilliantly, laying down the facts and returning to them again and again. No, look, see this. The essay moves from point to point with a great momentum and flow and even over the sizable word count I never found myself lost. I found myself…reexamining my life. It’s a provocative and challenging read and fuck it makes you question a lot of your assumptions. And it’s just good, good, good writing on a subject near and dear to my heart. If you like Star Trek or just are a person with eyes and a brain, you should be reading this piece! It’s amazing!


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