Thursday, January 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #243

Normally with Beneath Ceaseless Skies, it’s pretty easy to tell the binding theme or element that holds the two two together. It’s one of the reasons I always look forward to sitting down with a new issue, because of this resonance that allows the stories to act in synergy, and if D&D has taught me anything, it’s that synergy bonuses are the best. Now, this second issue of 2018 might seem oddly paired at first glance. Certainly the mood of the stories is very different, one wrenching and one fun. But I think the element that binds and complicates these stories, and this issue as a whole, is the idea of banishment. In each, a character finds themself cast out of what they thought of as their home, looking for a way back to the way things were. In each, it’s not really through any fault of these people that they’ve lost a place, and there’s a part of them that feels it’s unfair that they should be cast out. Only, in both, getting back seems an impossible thing, though for very different reasons. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!


“Benefactors of Silence” by Nin Harris (1782 words)

No Spoilers: Two people, living in the ruins of a city they used to share, orbit around their shared loss, and the way that they can never truly share it. Examining what is left after war and violence have effectively destroyed a place past recovery, it rings with the desire for absolution, for forgiveness, for a sense of belonging. And it’s about the distance between people, between peoples, that atrocities and violence can create. Yearning and dense, it captures a feel of fallen elegance, and festering wounds.
Keywords: War, Aftermath, Music, Longing, Identity
Review: Lusini, a place between empires, a place caught between the gears of war, has been ravaged again and again, worn down until almost nothing remains. Only the narrator has returned, a foreigner who was still from Lusini, in some ways _of_ Lusini, and finds in the wreckage a woman, a pianist, who takes them in and plays for them, and feeds them, and keeps them close, even as she keeps them at arm’s length as well. I love how the story is so defined by distance, by loneliness. Both characters have lost pretty much everything they knew, but in two very different ways. The narrator was a part of Lusini, but also part of the empire that destroyed it. As the child of the foreign ambassador, Lusini was the narrator’s home, and yet they get to own no part of the grief of its destruction. And they seem bereft, cut off from this place they felt they belonged to, finding that it was in part an illusion, their own position, for all they might have loved Lusini, for all they might miss it, not the same as someone who was connected to the land with deeper rots. The narrator remains part of the group that destroyed this place, and even if they were too young, too powerless to stop what happened, they still were a part of it, and going to those who lost everything and asking to be let in, being jealous of them in part because their loss is not tinged with guilt...well, I like how the piece examines how identity works, and how this distance cannot be bridged. That with the destruction of Lusini, the possibility for absolution was also destroyed, and the narrator is left on the side of the conflict where they are forever severed from what was the place they lived and grew up, but can never be their home. A wrenching, powerful read!

“Nneamaka’s Ghost” by Walter Dinjos (5338 words)

No Spoilers: Ebuka has been banished from his village for failing to prevent the death of the daughter of the local leader, only to be contacted by her ghost, who has a proposition for him. Ebuka’s predicament is ripe with humor and action as he is pulled between various forces trying to coerce him into doing what they want. Fun, brash, and full of a speed and momentum, the piece makes for a tightly-paced comedy of errors.
Keywords: Ghosts, Necromancy, Self Preservation, Betrayal, Exile
Review: There’s something about the mood of this story that makes me smile, despite the way that it unfolds around death and the threat of worse to come. Perhaps because Ebuka seems like such an unfortunate character, banished from his village for something that doesn’t seem like his fault, approached by a ghost who wants him to risk death or else face death. Trapped in so many ways, trying to dance to everyone’s song, never really free of it. Part of this is that Ebuka doesn’t really seem like the best of guys. Not the worst, but full of his own little prejudices and opinions that make him a bit clueless, dense if not altogether an awful human being. And that lends the awful luck that befalls him an air of comedy, because at his core Ebuka is just a bit of a flake. Not a coward exactly, but willing to do just about anything to save himself. He agrees with first one plan, than another, each time sure that he needs to in order to survive, each time not really caring about what the consequences might be. He’s a patsy, and it gives him just enough sympathy that you kind of root for him to...well, not be rewarded exactly, but not be punished or killed, either. There’s the hope that he will escape, not by his wits but by some accident, and stay just ahead of the storm to get wet but not dead. And the story pulls this off beautifully, giving the feeling of a boulder rolling downhill, hot on Ebuka’s heels, poised to crush him and...well, that would be telling. It’s fun and it builds a great sense of place and magic, lore and stories. And it’s another great read!


No comments:

Post a Comment