Friday, May 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #96

The May issue of Lightpseed Magazine speaks to me of desires thwarted. Of childhood dreams dashed. Of adult desires frustrated. The stories focus on people who are not satisfied. Who are both hurt and a bit arrogant. Who want to push back against what they see as the injustices in their lives, though in rather different ways. Because some people take their hurt and use it to hurt others, which some people take that hurt and try to heal, try to inspire, try to protect others from those same hurts. It’s an issue that gets a little cloudy wrt consent at times, and is perhaps a bit bleak in a few places. But that, by and large, features characters wanting to change their lives and finding that maybe the change they thought they wanted isn’t really what’s for the best. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

“We Will Be All Right” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (940 words)

No Spoilers: A woman prepares to meet her son’s partner, a woman who very well could kill him because of a strange disease that is passed sexually and that is pretty much always fatal for the man. The women, meanwhile, live on. Non-sexual procreation is an option, but there is a certain inevitable feeling that the story focuses on that stopping her son from having sex is a kind-of wasted effort. It makes for a short and strange bit narrative, one that imagines the entire world as fundamentally changed and looks at the resistance young people have to resisting their impulses and acting in their own self preservation. And it looks at the cycles that happen here, adults full of grief and bitterness passing that along to their child, passing along this broken system instead of really dealing with it. Muted and difficult, the story lingers on the implications of a wholly different set of rules for our world.
Keywords: Epidemic, Parenting, CW- Pregnancy, Cycles, Protection
Review: Somehow my first question in these stories that look so closely at gender-specific diseases is...why isn’t everyone pushing same-sex sexual relationships? I know there’s probably a hesitation to just make all the men gay but like, I feel like you’d find way more gay and lesbian couples that would be just fine with this new world order. Now, I think there’s also a lot this story might be saying about teen pregnancy and about the way that parents pass along toxic roles to their children. I just hesitate about a lot in this story that doesn’t seem to meet up for me. Because I do believe that, given this new world, children wouldn’t just replicate the mistakes of their parents. Even now I see young people moving away from the mistakes of their parents, and being more responsible about sex and consent. But then, maybe what the story is focusing on is actually parental mistrust, the way that this mother doesn’t trust her son or his girlfriend to not make her mistakes. She assumes that they are inevitable, like he’s already lost, and so she’s giving up in many ways. Which I don’t like, but which does capture a view that many hold of their children, and of young people in general. And it’s certainly a short and interesting read that I recommend people check out for themselves to see what you come up with.

“A Green Moon Problem” by Jane Lindskold (6100 words)

No Spoilers: The stories of Tatter D’MaLeon are a dime a dozen on Cat Station, where Jurgen Haines has just arrived and where he rather quickly falls for Rita, a woman driven and passionate about finding alien life. The piece focuses most on Jurgen and his desire for Rita, and his frustration that she doesn’t seem to share his vision of romantic love. Though she’s fine having a relationship with him, she’s way more focused on her work than on Jurgen, and he just can’t cope with that. Which is when he ends up finding that the stories about Tatter D’MaLeon, though they might seem space fairy tales, are quite real. And that he has a choice to make—a bargain to consider. The piece moves quickly and with a sort of downward trajectory, like it’s a boulder rolling steadily downhill, waiting to crash into whatever’s at the bottom.
Keywords: Bargains, Love, Space, Aliens, Obsession, Transformation
Review: The idea of a sort of satanic figure on a hodgepodge space station is a rather great setup for this story. Jurgen, the outsider, tries to scoff at the stories about Tatter, and yet also finds himself drawn to this idea of someone who can offer a solution to any problem. The story gets complicated by his specific desire, which is all sorts of toxic and creepy. Because he can’t handle being second in Rita’s regard to her work, he goes off and tries to circumvent her consent. And Tatter, not exactly being one who understands the complexity of humanity and consent, goes along with his desire. What follows, though, is an interesting take on the “be careful what you wish for” trope, where Tatter proposes a solution that seems like it will work to everyone’s benefit. Except it doesn’t. Except it also kinda does. Well, it works out for Jurgen, at least. And I think that’s what I see the story as commenting on. That despite the “twist” that the bargain ends up transforming Jurgen and Rita into a sort of weird alien hybrid creature, and it being a bit messed up, it _is_ what Jurgen wanted. That his bargain was always as good as physically altering and twisting Rita to his will, regardless of what she really wanted. That the ugliness of the transformation is Jurgen’s desires made manifest, toxic and awful and fulfilled. And at that point, the piece becomes more of a horror story for me, because he does get just what he wants, and Rita...Rita never gets a say in any of it. It’s an interesting but bleak piece for me, playing with expectations and creating this mystery of who (and what) Tatter really is. A fine read!

“Godmeat” by Martin Cahill (7020 words)

No Spoilers: Hark is a chef working for a group of would-be gods who, once banished from the physical world, are staging a comeback. Along with Spear, a woman who actually kills the current godbeasts for Hark to cook up and serve, the operation is going quite well—the story opens with eight out of nine beasts already dead. As the story moves forward, though, Hark’s motivations and outlook on life is questioned and shaken. Deeply hurt from a childhood of abuse and an adulthood of failure, he must examine what he wants and what his wants would mean for the rest of the world. It’s a dense and simmering piece, one where Hark’s flavor is slowly complicated as the pressure and heat of the situation begin to work on him, drawing out things that he thought were gone forever.
Keywords: Queer MC, Gods, Cooking, CW- Child Abuse, Pessimism
Review: I love me some good SFF cooking stories, and this one (about cooking literal gods) does a great job of examining Hark as a chef. And not just as a chef, but as a failed chef. As someone who has been hollow and selfish, seeking to satisfy his own sense of importance while always coming from a place of hurt and fear. He’s lost his faith in the world for good reason, because he was abused as a child, because he was never helped. Hark is messed up, and rather harmful because of it, turning his own pain into a weapon to revenge himself on the world that hurt him. Only as the end of this operation comes to a close, when the old gods will be able to return and destroy the world, Hark has to face that maybe his own pain isn’t enough to justify the death of all there is. That for as consuming and complete as his hurt is, he has to carry some of the responsibility for his own actions. Not for the wrong that was done to him, but for the wrong that he’s doing to others. That, essentially, revenge is always a hollow act. So I like that he decides to try something different, to resist even when he’s been helping to bring about this ending. He shows that it’s not exactly ever too late to try to do something decent, even though it might indeed be too late to stop bad things from happening. And he might just realize that it’s his actions that he can control, and that he always has the choice to pass along the pain that’s been visited on him or try to turn it into compassion and empathy. It’s a story of food and hope and it’s a great read!

“Our Side of the Door” by Kodiak Julian (3240 words)

No Spoilers: A man, a writer of fantasies about children going through Doors into other worlds, struggles with the realities of being a parent and his own desires to capture a bit of magic he was never able to find when he was young. The piece looks at the weight that the main character feels trying to raise a child and specifically dealing with his changing role as guardian as the child grows older and more able to handle his own life. Meanwhile he’s also dealing with his own disappointment in the world, that he doesn’t have what he wanted, that he never got to experience things that might have given him some added wonder. That he’s lost a brother quite young, and that he’s still in some ways scarred by that. And he wants to do better by his son. Soft and nostalgic, the piece has a more literary feel to it, featuring a writer struggling with the point of his writing and finding that maybe, in his heart, he knows why he’s doing what he does.
Keywords: Doors, Portal Fantasy, Parenting, Loss, Writing
Review: This story unfolds around the idea of fantasy and magic. For the main character, the father, it’s about his own relationship to magic as a writer of fantasies and as an adult who has largely given up on finding real magic in the world. Until he finds it. And then the story becomes about how he might use that magic, and what it might mean. At its core I read the story as about the way that he tries to put magic in the world for people like his son, for people like who he was, hoping that they’ll find in those stories a spot of magic that allowed him to get through some hard times, that still remain powerful because of how tied the idea of magic is to his dead brother. And here we see a moment where he’s working and writing in the hopes that his own son will experience the magic that was denied him. Whether that happens or not is left vague, as we never get to see if the Door gets opened or not. What we are left with is the main character coming to some sort of resolution, that even with his son aging out of needing his perpetual protection and guidance, there is still value in trying to fill the world with magic. So that his son will have enough magic to get him through the more mundane and difficult parts of life. It’s a story that takes its time unfolding, and is filling with a lovely and luminous glow. It’s an interesting story, moving and quiet, and it’s certainly worth checking out!


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