Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/19/2018 & 02/26/2018

Closing out the month, Strange Horizons brings a new original story and two new poems. The story features magic and feeding, faith and community, and the poems deal with the monstrous and the terrible. And in many ways, all three piece deal with beings who are dealing with the darkness of others, with the darkness around them. The pieces are about confrontations, about overcoming something terrible and powerful, and they make for some powerful reads. To the reviews!


“Early Morning Service” by Irette Y. Patterson (2628 words)

No Spoilers: Geneva is an usher at a small church that is struggling with a dwindling congregation. Efforts to expand interest in the church have sputtered, and because of it, Geneva finds herself in a difficult position. The story seems to explore the power of faith and the nature of Geneva, what she gets out of her faith and her rituals. It’s a story of temptation and struggle, about pushing back against what might seem inevitable, because sometimes it’s very much worth fighting to keep something alive. Kind, quiet, but powerful.
Keywords: Religion, Candy, Temptation, Faith, Power
Review: This story has an interesting take on magic, building up Geneva as someone who can feed off the belief of others, the feelings of others. I’m not sure if this quite qualifies her as a vampire, but there are a few parts in the story that seem to kinda imply there’s something like that going on, though perhaps on a less blood and more empathic level. Geneva can do magic, but it’s based off of the power of the faith she’s near. With the church struggling, her powers are down, and the piece opens as she hits a new low, not even able to conjure up a hard candy for one of the children of the congregation. And that failure leaves her vulnerable, signals to one who does not seem to want her well, though perhaps one who shares much of her abilities. It’s a story that plays out very religiously, with temptation and resilience, with a refusal to give in to the pressure to give up on kindness and community. Geneva seems to have the ability to take her power from other sources, more corrupt sources, and yet she refuses to play that game, and I like how that works, how it separates her from the man who comes to call. I hesitate to say that it’s a struggle between good and evil, though it certainly has some god/devil vibes to it, but I do like how it sets up corruption as something it’s easy to slide into, and that it shows the constant power that’s required to operate in good faith. But that, ultimately, it’s the only way to help people. It’s a fun story with an archetypal feel to it, and it’s very much worth checking out!


“Before I Opened My Eyes” by Maggie Damken

This is a dark and rather disquieting poem that is framed as coming in the voice of Frankenstein’s Creature. And part of what I love about that, and how I feel the poem works in many ways, is that it doesn’t really say that the Creature is speaking. Rather, it says that it’s in the voice of the Creature, and for me it gives the piece a sort of ambiguity. It’s perhaps stage direction, giving anyone the ability to speak this poem. Which in turn could give the poem a feeling that it’s being spoken in many different voices, a chorus of people trying to capture how they think the Creature sounds like, and in so doing producing a rather eerie effect. The actual text of the poem just further strengthens the creepiness, detailing the way that the Creature was created, built from discarded parts, made into a sort of gestalt whose whole might not equal the sum of their parts. And there’s something about that discarded nature, that here is a person who has been salvaged, but not exactly through a...rigorous or clean method. There is no consent here, just this need in the creator to create, to build, to make this entity that must then navigate the fact that their body was once not their body, must seek to find an identity of their own and yet there’s something of that multitude that remains, some part that looks inward for some part out of any of the people who have gone into their creation that can show them what love is. Because it has been so fully absent in this whole process. And the result for me is dark and brooding and breaking. The poem reveals a person who wants to know love, who wants to feel what it must have felt like, because they are alone and yet not alone, because they are unique and yet constructed from older parts. It’s a compelling poem that digs deeper, in my opinion, than to just point back to the text of Frankenstein. Rather, I feel it calls on the reader to reflect in themself, to speak with the voice of the Creature, and to feel how that voice echoes from their mouth, through their mind. A wonderful read!

“Hey Man, Nice Shot” by Gretchen Tessmer

I love the way this poem works in contrasts, moving between something huge and dark and terrible and the complete and utter no-sell from the narrator, standing there like the god of the sea rising up in anger and frustration is just nbd. Which is delightful, and in many ways captures so many different kinds of interactions. Either between parent and child, where the drama of the child can only be captured in something so large, so epic as a god, as the end of all things. Imagining this in some ways like a teen being told no and throwing a tantrum makes it seem a bit more mundane, and I like how (in this reading) the poem doesn’t seek to minimize or dismiss the severity of what is happening. It’s not just that this person is behaving like a Greek god throwing a fit, it’s that in some ways they _are_ that Greek god, their wrath that intense, their swirling power and fury that immediate and real. Which does make the narrator, standing there as if this is something that happens all the time, all the more badass. Because whatever the case, whether this is supposed to be considered literal or not, it’s about standing up against something that is a force of nature, that would require a full five thousand words by Edith Hamilton to fully express. The piece is short, and manages a lot in the relatively small space it has, building this scene and making me at least wonder at the title, the casualness of it, matching in many ways the final line of the poem, which gives not the narrator but the king of water and fish and things a bit more of a juvenile feel, a more petulant feel. It does speak to me of tantrums and the feeling of standing up to them, of trying to quell them by taking the wind out of them. The difficulty and the emotions and the danger of it, because it might all blow up, might all explode. But that you have to take your shot at putting it down, even as the one throwing the tantrum feels they must take their shot at getting what they want by force of will and threat of violence/drama. And in any case, it’s a delightful and fun poem that you should definitely check out!


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