Monday, May 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #43 [May stuff]

It’s a rather dark May for Shimmer Magazine, with two original stories that explore the idea of home, sacrifice, pain, and death. Of course, for those similarities, the stories themselves are very different, the first a contemporary fantasy with Norse gods, sex, and cycles of abuse while the second is a science fiction story about distance, longing, and the annihilation of self when confronted with the alien. Both feature people reaching to reconnect with something that seems to have changed in their absence. When, really, what’s changed is them, and the nostalgic vision of their homes that have got them through so much ends up being not enough when it’s finally reached. These are two beautiful stories, so let’s get right to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

“Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate” by Anya Johanna DeNiro (5900 words)

No Spoilers: Freia is a prisoner, trapped in the magnanery where she must extract silk from worms in a rather grisly manner. She lives for her moments of escape to the mortal world, to Vienna, a trip possible only through the magic of her blood. The story follows one such sojourn, in a time when Woden has consolidated his power, using it to embrace the worst of humanity in an attempt to maintain significance and influence. The story is dark with danger and threat and the inescapable pain of Freia’s situation. There is joy as well, especially when Freia meets Agatha, a trans woman, and the two hit it off. But the piece seems much more about vulnerability and the fragility of safety. It’s intense and complex and beautiful and aching, and it certainly doesn’t pull its punches.
Keywords: Norse Myth, Imprisonment, Gods, Sex, CW- Anti-Trans Violence, Queer MC
Review: This is a difficult story for me because of how it doesn’t really offer up much of a happy outcome. From the beginning it plays with Norse iconography and ideas, of inevitability and progress. Freia is a god in love with the mortal world, and yet one largely above it. She returns to Earth time and time again, walking its streets and perhaps even getting involved in its struggles, but it’s an escape for her I feel more than a destination. And as much as it could be her home, as much as she could join it fully by becoming mortal, she also doesn’t want to fall victim to the system that she participates in, where the souls of the dead become worms that are boiled for their silk. She wants to remain beyond that, and so she maintains this cycle even as it grows more and more abusive. Even as she loses more and more. Because she still gets something out of it, and doesn’t want to lose everything. Only the story shows that by clinging to what is familiar, what is nostalgic, Freia is unable to really fight back. She can and does still fight to protect Agatha, to save a woman in danger because of her proximity to Freia, but it’s not a fight she can win exactly, merely a bargain with herself and her freedom as a price she must pay. Which, for all the story is sexy and fun at times, lends the piece a much more tragic feel, of a pantheon reduced to pandering to the worst elements of humanity in order to stay relevant. It’s a bracing, rending read, but one very much worth spending time with and experiencing. Go read it!

“Gone to Earth” by Octavia Cade (3800 words)

No Spoilers: Alan was an astronaut on the first human mission to Mars—was one of the first to step onto its surface. Screened for any number of psychological conditions deemed appropriate for such an undertaking, he thought he was prepared for what he’d find there. The truth, though, is that waiting on Mars was something no one quite expected—an overwhelming longing for Earth. For the home that had been left behind. Now back on Earth with the rest of those that went, Alan is still dealing with his Earthsickness, and story explores what that means and what forms it takes. Dark and uncomfortable, the story reveals Alan trying to reconnect with a planet he feels in some ways he has betrayed. It’s a strange, heavy piece that finds its character damaged in profound ways, finding their way back to Earth not just physically but emotionally as well. I hesitate to call it a bleak piece, though it’s certainly a dark piece, full of pain and death and ideation.
Keywords: Mars, CW- Self Harm, Sickness, Space, Exploration, Home
Review: Mars is such a great place and idea to explore because most people think of it as just like the moon, but a little farther on. Except that in terms of scope, it’s an entirely different planet, cut off from the gravity of Earth. And Alan and the other astronauts that go there find that the experience is wounding in a way that they didn’t plan for, that it cuts to their ability feel at home on Earth, because of how different Mars was, how alien. And they return and the feeling lingers because of what they experienced, a sort of PTSD that leads them to try and reconnect with their homes in different ways. For Alan it involves trees and soil and his own blood, which is wrenching and uncomfortable and yet it’s so far to tell what’s healthy and what’s not when dealing with trauma this intense. Because there’s no other data about this Earthsickness, about what these people are going through. There’s no treatment because there’s no study. All that remains is trying to cope, and finding that it takes more and more, desperation fueling bigger and bigger steps until they realize they may have walked well past where it was safe to go. I love how the piece explores what leaving Earth could do, how humans might be challenged and broken by being away from our home, and how it might effect people to come back and feel like a part of them has become alien. It’s weird but it’s striking and real and t’s another story you should definitely make time to check out!


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