“The River” by Tori Cárdenas (1655 words)
No Spoilers: An absolutely beautiful and haunting story about the future of anti-immigrant legislation with a focus on one man who finds himself having to make an impossible decision. Chilling at the same time that it seems full of a tragic numbness, the story unfolds to show a situation and world where people adapt to new realities by turning inward and opting for ignorance instead of fighting of justice.
Keywords: Immigration, Queer MC, Adaptation, Law
Review: This is a wonderfully heartbreaking story that looks at the reality of anti-immigrant legislation and the personal impact it has, as well as the cyclical, reaffirming nature of passing laws that make it harder for immigrants to work and contribute and then punishing them for not contributing or working enough. The narrator here is forced out of a marriage, out of a life that they shared with their husband, back to a country they don’t even remember. Back to Brazil. And I love how the story follows the narrator as they try and acclimate to this new reality but cannot, cannot because they have lost their bearings, have lost any ability to really fit in and thrive. They are left in this space where everyone expects them to get on, to move forward, but where they are adrift, severed from their sense of home and security. There’s a lovely parallel where the story reveals creatures living in the Amazon River, adapting to the destruction and disappearance of their land by becoming ghosts, essentially, losing their color and ability to see. Once everything else has been exiled, these white, blind creatures are all that remain, living in a more sterile environment, but one that doesn’t really suit even them. And in many ways I read this as showing just how much damage this kind of legislation does, harming not just those forced away from their homes but robbing the rest of the US of its vibrancy and diversity. What remains is more muted, more ignorant, willfully ignoring but the damage being done to others and to their own world, thinking only that things will get easier when in reality everyone loses. It’s a wrenching and beautiful story that looks at love, distance, and hope when the world seems slipping away. Just a remarkable piece!
“Dream Job” by Seamus Sullivan (1333 words)
No Spoilers: Aishwarya is a young woman dealing with the weight of expectations and exploitation, her dreams of coding and launching her own startup being slowly smothered by the need to make money at all times, to monetize every aspect of her life, and most lucratively of all, her sleep itself. Frantic and hopeful but with the feeling of slowly being pulled underwater and drowned, the story is hitting and difficult but also a careful and sharp critique of how young people (and really most people) are being pushed into increasingly impossible situations in order to afford school and the hallmarks of success.
Keywords: Employment, Exploitation, Dreams, Student Loans, Pain
Review: The story captures so nicely the furiously kicking nature of growing up and trying to enter into the “adult world” of the current capitalist moment. It’s a giant mill wheel that grinds people up and spits out money for the already-wealthy to enjoy. And it just keeps on rolling. For Aishwarya, it’s a slippery slope, as she’s starting with so many disadvantages, so much hope and ambition, and she’s being told by the world that everything can be hers if only she tries a bit harder. It’s seductive, this idea that effort alone can actually earn rewards. It’s also a lie. A lie that leads her to give up more and more of her time, her health, and her dreams chasing after money enough to be secure, to buy back her time. And that, really, is the painful truth the story reveals, that what Aishwarya is really reaching for is more time to work on her own projects. And what she keeps losing, more and more, is time. And it’s the case for so many, that there’s this idea that if you have money, you’ll have more time. Only the system is designed to do exactly the opposite of that, to allow those without money already no real access to greater leisure. Instead they are used as drones, as human machines, in order to maximize profits so that other people, richer people, can enjoy their lives more. And it’s incredible the effect of the story, the addicting nature of this hope, of the promise of just giving up a bit more, a bit more, and then maybe... It’s a situation in which a great many people are drowning, and it makes for a gutting, devastating read. Which means you should definitely go and check it out!
“Airplane Mode” by Kelsey Atherton (2488 words)
No Spoilers: Jayden travels across the U.S. by plane on a trip he’s experienced many times. Something goes very differently on this occasion, though. Expressing the fragility of life in the age of atomic weaponry, the story looks at the allure and illusion of security and just how close we might be to losing everything. Intimate and almost numb in its presentation, the story does a great job of capturing a feeling that seems too large to be properly expressed.
Keywords: Nuclear War, False Alarms, Airplanes, Interception, Defense
Review: What I love about this story is the way that if reveals just how normal it is to be an inch away from complete destruction. The story shows Jayden as he’s getting ready to fly, as the news and everything encroaches in on him and he...tunes it out. There is such a vivid picture of the numbness with which people move through the world, the way that we’ve learned to just accept certain things as part of life, all the while unable to really understand or come to terms with what these things mean. The threat of nuclear war is almost too unbelievable to take seriously, and though we spend a lot of money trying to find a way to protect ourselves from missile strikes, a lot of these shields and protections are illusory, are just ways of trying to make the reality of the situation, the horror of nuclear war, more distance so that we can continue to go about our regular lives. Only in that distance there are people working who are trying to make something off of this threat, who are monetizing the fear of annihilation. And the story shows an outcome from that, when the rhetoric of the day is full of bombastic threats and posturing. When everyone is ready for something big to happen but also hoping that it won’t, but also not doing anything to put calmer heads in charge. And so it all rests in this precarious state, unaware of how close we come, time and again, to completely fucking over everything. The story is wrenching and the ending shattering, and it’s just a wonderful read that you should definitely check out!