Monday, June 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2017 part 2

For this second half of Glittership’s Spring 2017 issue there’s still a lot to read and experience. There’s a bit more reprinted fiction than in the first half of the issue/releases, including “She Shines Like a Moon” by Pear Nuallak, which I’ve already reviewed here back in 2015 when it appeared in Lackington’s Skins issue. As such, I won’t be reviewing the story again, but I will definitely say people should check it out. Of the four remaining works, there’s one original story, one new poem, and two other reprints, and in case anyone was wondering it is all fucking good. I absolutely love that Glittership has added poetry and between the original and reprint fiction it’s definitely the publication to go to for gloriously queer content. I heartily point people toward their Patreon, especially if you want the awesome ebook delivered to you every quarter. Do it, people. Do it. But ahem, yeah, to the reviews!


"The Simplest Equation” by Nicky Drayden ( words)

Aww. My cold reviewer heart has melted under the joy and care and hope of this story, which centers math as a language and a story-telling medium and a pair of women finding something special with each other through their shared experience with equations-as-stories. The world-building is fun and interesting, the main character Mariah studying math at Stanford, where a number of alien students make the student body even more diverse. Ahkellans are beings who are raised on math, and those going to human universities are mainly doing so in hopes of transferring to a different school later. Kwalla is no different, and yet she also has no problem making friends with Mariah and teaching her a bit of the Ahkellan philosophy of math, where each equation is a story that can convey emotion and form through a special instrument that Mariah slowly begins to use. It’s a fun story that really captures this budding relationship between Mariah and Kwalla which is not necessarily romantic but which is deeply important to both women. And I just love the way that the story combines stories and math and relationships, learning and a difference in cultures and how all of this merges and creates this beautiful whole that reflects what Mariah and Kwalla have, what they’ve built together. And even when the story threatens to be more tragic, it holds to this joy that is infectious and irresistible. It’s a piece that leaves plenty of room for hope and for a future that is bright with possibilities. And I keep on returning to the title, to the idea of the simplest equation, which for me would have to be “1+1=2” which might be super corny of me but it also gives that added layer of AWWWW to everything and I just love this story. Go out and read it. Listen to it. Experience it. It is amazing!

“A Spell to Signal Home” by A.C. Buchanan ( words)

This is a lovely and moving story about identity and about family and about traditions. About Cay, who has found themself stranded on an alien world after taking part in a diplomatic mission. Really, though, the professional or political reasons for the isolation seems a bit incidental for me. Not that it doesn’t matter or doesn’t make sense—it adds a nice layer of tension to the story—but that the isolation that Cay finds themself in is really more of a reflection on their inner state. Or, more accurately, an inner state they’ve already felt and overcome. Cay is nonbinary and their story from when they were young has been one of trying to find and figure themself out. It’s something that I don’t see nearly enough in short fiction, this experience of figuring out identity outside the rather stark “I knew from birth” narratives that are out there (which are completely valid but not the only valid narrative). [SPOILERS] Cay’s experience is about finding what works best, as their father advises about making spells. Sometimes you don’t have the tools (or the pronouns, or the other words) for what you need, but it’s okay to substitute and it’s okay to make your own when nothing else feels right. The crisis of the story is one that largely has passed as Cay found their language and what felt right, or at least more right. And so this situation of being lost on a planet is something that they’re actually prepared for, to break from the isolation and reach out to those that they trust, to their family and their sister specifically. And it’s a story that gives weight and importance to personal discovery and trust. It moves with a ponderous grace as Cay suddenly finds themself in a potentially hostile situation only to realize that they are already equipped with the tools necessary to get out of it. It’s an affirming and fun piece that is touching and amazing!

“The Passing Bell” by Amy Griswold ( words)

This story rescues itself from the darkness and creepiness of its premise to be rather fun and charming at the same time it rescues its main character (who is rather fun and charming herself) from imminent danger in a sleepy little British village living under a very weird curse. It opens in true horror style as Rob is stranded for the night due to a confluence of misfortunes and learns that the church bell, which is supposed to toll only in the case of a death, sounds early here, letting the villagers know when someone is about to die, though not exactly how. And I love how the story takes this idea, the somewhat classic trope of people trying to defy fate only to realize they’ve helped it along, and twists it, [SPOILERS!!!] complicating matters when Rob turns out to be a woman passing as a man in order to be a sailor. The action of the piece is dark and moving, Rob’s weariness but also resourcefulness in the face of the terrible luck she’s having is great and gives the story a more comic edge instead of descending fully into the horror that it could have been. It’s still creepy, definitely, but I love the voice that Rob has, that way of almost expecting to be screwed over because she’s lived her life one step away from being discovered and likely killed or otherwise punished and it’s given her this perspective where she sees through the excuses people have about what they’re doing while also understanding she can’t just ignore them. Instead she seeks to subvert and I like what the story did with that, with the ending, with how the curse was “resolved” and the wry grin with which Rob moved from this misadventure onward, with a competence and daring that made this a joy to read. So definitely check this one out!


“Songs of love and defense in the dawn” by Hester J. Rook

This is a poem that feels to me like a flutter of wings, still and full of motion at the same time. I introduces readers to the narrator, who is birdsong, who seems to me both hollow-boned and fierce. The poem explores the nature of the narrator, misunderstood and maligned because of that misunderstanding, because of the prejudice at work. And the labels and the hate weigh the narrator down, create so much more for them to bear and yet by their nature and their determination and their grace they are able to still fly, to still sing, to still withstand the attention and the hate. And I love the form the poem takes, a structure that is part song and part declaration and moving from short lines, short stanzas, to longer ones and back again, bringing to mind for me the movement of breath, the beating of wings, the building anticipation toward an ending that hits with the power of a sunrise. And the poem does a great job of showing the narrator at odds with the dominant narratives, the way that they have to fly low, the way that others try to steal their song, redefine it into something sinister or bad or wrong. And yet through that the beauty of it is unmistakable, and it never gives into the pressure to hide or to be silent. The narrator is a song, and needs to voice themself, and their voice becomes something protective and proactive and glorious. And it’s an inspiring and uplifting poem that feels like a wind at your back and under your wings. A great read!


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