Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #237

Whenever I get a new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, my first inclination is to find out how the stories fit together. More than any other publication, BCS does an excellent job of pairing its stories. Perhaps because it does just two an issue, but there’s almost always something to link the tales, and this issue is no different. While the stories are thematically rather distant, and aesthetically fairly different as well (though each with perhaps a bit of a Western feel), they are linked by some key ideas. Metal, first and most. The first story deals with Iron, the second with Silver. And in each, these metals are used for magic, for a perceived justice, only to have that justice come into question, and the righteousness of the main characters comes into conflict with the harm that they do. These are stories of elections and revenge, voice and hunger. The pieces go together well, drawing a picture of desperate people and the complex idea of freedom. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!
Art by Veli Nyström

“The Influence of the Iron Range” by Marissa Lingen (6031 words)

This is a rather timely story of election integrity and voter rights, albeit one that transpires in 1888, where Viola is a member of the Faery-Free Election Commission tasked with making sure the Faery don’t get undue influence on the election or on American politics. It’s a rather difficult situation, made more so by the fact that a particularly persistent Faery is trying to make her voice heard, is arguing for the rights of her people to have a role in governing the land that they share. It’s difficult not to see the story as being about voting rights, about the push against disenfranchisement. There’s a specter that exists throughout the story of the past, when some Faery acted to manipulate politics for their own purposes. And the reaction was swift and powerful, and has made it so that the elections go on without any involvement of the Faery. And yet there is this argument that is being made that the Faery are not foreign to the country. That they should have something of a say in what happens. And that, wider than that, any act to refuse the right to vote to a person of the nation is one that undermines democracy, that strikes against the purpose of rule by the people and for the people. Viola’s situation goes from bad to worse, though, when she’s forced to intervene in a conflict to...less than optimal results. But really the story looks at a character who is tasked with protecting the sanctity of elections facing the fact that protecting elections must include protecting people’s right to vote. That seeking to protect elections from voters is...well, not good. That at that point it’s just about protecting the dominant, protecting corruption. And it’s a story that touches on what makes elections vital and important, but also on how they can be twisted, and how fear can be used to stall or reverse freedoms and to silence voices. It’s a fun piece with a nuanced message and it’s a fine read!

“Forgive Us Our Trespasses” by Bennett North (7155 words)

This story speaks to me of vengeance and sin, punishment and hunger. It features a main character, a young trans man, searching through a drought-ravaged land for the final member of a gang of cannibal bandits who killed his family and ate his arm. know this is gonna be a cheery read going in. He carries with him silver bullets that, when taken into the body of someone who has done a mortal sin, burns them from the inside out. They’ve already visited four other members of the gang and dispatched them, and each one burned. What makes a person burn and what does not, though, is something that the story keeps in the front of its thoughts, the main character always wondering what would happen if he took the metal into himself. It’s a setting dominated by scarcity. Of food, of water...of mercy and compassion. People here are at their worst, acting out some truly horrible desires and going relatively unpunished. And that aspect of the world is where the main character comes in, having been told most of his life that mortal punishments were given out by God. If a person suffers, it’s because God has allowed it, wants it, and the only reaction to that for the main character is to assume that if he’s allowed to exact revenge on these men, it must make it justice it, make it sanctioned. And it’s a dark, unsettling story that seeks to look at trying to find meaning and control in a situation, in a place, that is hostile to human life, that pushes people to embrace their cruelty in order to survive. And it’s a story about knowing something is wrong, knowing that you’ve been wronged, and just wanting the system to work for you for a change, instead of always being the victim, instead of always being the one to lose, and being told that loss is the will of God. It’s about people hurting people, and the world that creates, and the God that condones it, and it’s just not a pretty place all around. It’s gripping and it’s difficult and it makes for a great Western-ish story full of fire and doubt and fear. Definitely check it out!


No comments:

Post a Comment