"It Happened To Me: I Was Brought Back to Avenge My Death, But Chose Justice Instead" by Nino Cipri (1007 words)
I continue to love this series of stories, told as confessions from people who find themselves in…interesting situations. Here a labor organizer finds herself the victim of organized crime/corrupt corporations, and finds that death wasn’t quite able to hold her. She’s back and with a raven who wants her to go all biblical on the men who killed her. And she’s having none of it. Readers, it is a delightful piece because the main character is so clear about her priorities, even after being killed. It shows that she knows exactly what she’s doing and knows how to after justice. The title here makes that completely clear. This isn’t about revenge, though her raven buddy very much wishes it was that simple. This is about something deeper and so much more difficult to grasp. This is about justice, and this badass labor organizer is a true social justice warrior, ready to take to the streets and work not to kill those who killed her but to use her death as a way to take down corruption. She sees the heart of the problem, not the men who killed her to get her out of the way but the system behind them, that put them in that position and that is hiding the man truly responsible for this. It’s a fun and fast story that works so well. I love the commentary on anger, this feeling that this person is intimate with anger and rage but not blinded by it. That she’s seeking to use anger as a power source to fuel her march toward progress. There is something of a relief to see a story take such a strong and entertaining stance against the tropes of revenge-narratives. Everything pushes people into thinking that revenge is enough. That vengeance is enough. But it doesn’t solve anything, and this story does an outstanding job showing that there are strong forces and stronger people. A fabulously fun read!
"The Hulder's Husband Says Don't" by Kate Lechler (985 words)
This is a rather dark story about a hulder taken from the forest and into the suburbs only to find that the man she followed there isn’t who she thought he was. And I like how the piece looks at how wrapped up in the man she married the hulder’s life becomes. How much he defines her by his words and actions. In some ways she lives as a reflection of his thoughts and desires. He wanders into the forest and finds her and assumes that she is for him, something to make his life easier, but there’s more subtle magic at work. For her, who was alone and was yearning for someone to break through that loneliness, he became everything, and she gave up her home and her past for him. But in giving him so much importance and power she became shaped by his words. When he says she is stupid she literally forgets things. When he calls her clumsy she drops things. She is what he sees, and as long as what he sees is good it’s okay but when it’s not it reveals that it’s no way to live, that being only for him leaves no room for her to define herself, to own herself. Her actions are just extensions of him, and that it’s a situation he wants, that he seeks to further entrench, she finally sees that he cares nothing for her, that she has value and identity that have nothing to do with him. But that in order to be free she has to purge his power over her, has to undo the mistake that led her to follow him. And I like how this builds, so benign at first in her learning his language but him not learning hers. And how it ends is perhaps the only way it can end, which isn’t exactly happy given the violence of it but is certainly a freeing experience that makes the piece a beautiful and rather haunting read.
"Balance Point" by Sarah Goslee (1810 words)
This story is about magic and about rebellion. For Nik, who seems non-binary, both come about as natural as breathing. They have travelled to a city to be schooled in magic and yet their experience is largely one of frustration. They are made to stifle their magic and serve tea or do other menial tasks. They don’t quite fit in with the other students, and find most of their enjoyment in listening for the rare moments with the teachers and masters will let loose some bit of important information, some magical technique that can be used for perhaps a bit of mischief. When a festival covers the faces in the city in masks, it’s Nik’s time to act, to but their training and ideas to good use, to flit among the crowd and finally put theories into action. It’s a fun story that builds the bare-bones of a fantasy world without needing to go much deeper. The details, from the nature of the magic to the nature of the festival, are all blurry mostly because they’re not important to Nik, who cares much more about slipping into a crowd and letting that anonymity protect them. And I like how the story shows them finally breathing free as they go about experimenting with their magic, no longer needing to hide. There is a risk, yes, but there is a risk in all things for Nik and to see them embracing their magic is fun and affirming. Because even when things get a little out of hand Nik finds a way to minimize the damage and doesn’t run from what they’ve done. The ending comes off as just a little strong, perhaps, but it does a nice job of centering Nik in the in-between, defying and drawing power from not fitting into binary systems. And it’s a fun story with a taste of magic and a flare for trouble. A fine read!
"Regarding Your Future With The Futures Planning Consortium" by Raq Winchester and Fran Wilde (1354 words)
This is a fun and charming story about a corporation that oversees time itself. That works within the bounds of time travel to try and steer the future to a better place. Or, at least, it’s supposed to. The piece is framed as a series of emails chronicling some issues that the company has been having with an update to their software. Or so they think. What develops is a rather gripping and complex game of corporate maneuvering as C.A. Sandra stumbles upon an issue that her supervisor, Rita Blunt, isn’t taking seriously to say the least. And the story captures so much of the inter-office turmoil that can show up in corporate settings. There are people trying to get ahead for the thrill of it, for the power of it, and there are people who really do believe in what they’re doing. The story shows how difficult it can be for someone who doesn’t quite follow the ol’ chain of command when trying to deal with corruption on the inside. And, more than that, it shows the various forms of pressure and intimidation that can be leveraged by those with power to try and maintain their position and keep would-be competitors in their place. Luckily for humanity, C.A. is a bit more tenacious than most, and with the fate of the world in the balance seeks to fight against the corruption inside the World Futures Planning Consortium to try and truly usher in a new and better future for everyone. The tone captures both the stuffy forms of mass emails and snippy, more devious personal emails that the characters send. And really it’s a fun piece that does a nice job of implying that the pain from recent event is due in large part to corruption (and specifically corporate corruption). And it maintains a hope that in the relentless push for the truth in the face of those who want to spin their own fake news in order to manipulate events, sometimes the underdog wins. Sometimes integrity and ethics win. Which is just the kind of story that I need sometimes, and with increasing regularity. A great story!