Monday, July 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2018

The three original stories from Flash Fiction Online’s June issue feature women put into difficult and oppressive situations. By their partners or by their mothers, intentionally or not, they are stuck. Stuck in an abusive marriage, or a work that they are toxic to, or a place where they can’t express themselves. They struggle with the weight of doing what is expected of them, of being the good wife or perfect princess. And they falter, and they stand. They push back against the expectations put on them, and embrace a part of themselves they had always struggled accepting, and it’s just rather fantastic. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

“-Good” by Sunyi Dean (994 words)

No Spoilers: A man has cancer and less than six months to live. It’s the end of the road, except that there’s a way to extend that road, a way to put his memories into a clone. The story centers his wife, who has been manipulated and coerced by her husband to do everything that he wants. To be his property, to do with what he wants. Always, when he demands something, she resists, but he doesn’t give that resistance room, steamrolls over it so that he gets his way. Now, with his life on the line, she finds that she might have power that she can leverage, knowing that he doesn’t have the time to do much to punish her. The story is tense and it is wrenching, following the contours of abuse and the hope of maybe being able to break free.
Keywords: CW- Pregnancy, CW- Abortion, Reincarnation, Cancer, Marriage
Review: There’s a lot to like about how this story depicts a deeply abusive relationship that isn’t, however, physically abusive (exactly). It shows how men can often leverage so much into getting what they want, never having to be so crude as to be physically violent, but also using the threat of physical violence to accomplish their goals. The gaslighting and abuse at work here is difficult to read at times, especially because it has cost the main character so much, her entire being bent in service to this man, to this asshole. Who doesn’t let her refuse. Who violates her autonomy and then tells her that it’s her idea, that he’s not doing anything wrong. It’s chilling because of how authentic this comes across, because of how everyone around them would be completely okay with letting her suffer, with pressuring her into suffering. The only thing that saves her is actually corporate liability. If the main character “consents” to essentially being legally stripped of her property and autonomy, then no one will lift a finger to help her. And if this guy was going to live longer, there’s a feeling that he might be able to “convince” her. But because there is a time limit, and because this process requires her and only her to say she wants it, and because in public her husband’s power is so much more fragile, because he doesn’t want to _seem_ like an abusive asshole (but totally is). So it does point to the importance of consent in these situations, and more than that, the importance of people being protected from coercion legally. It’s an interesting if rather difficult and uncomfortable story, and very much worth checking out!

“Untimely Frost, Unlikely Bloom” by Hayley Stone (999 words)

No Spoilers: The main character of this story has been cursed while a fetus, with what was meant to be a prayer. She is safe, but safe only because she kills any who get to close to her, visit on them a sickness that will take their lives. It’s not something that she wants, and it’s something that sends her into the forest to live alone so that she won’t have to live with having killed any more people. And yet people still follow her, and she must decide what to do then. The story captures an interesting fairy tale feel, dialing up the darkness even more than normal and given a sharp edge. It’s a story that works with hope and despair, with sickness and health, and leads the reader to a place where they must decide what happens next.
Keywords: Sickness, Curses, CW- Childbirth, Loneliness, Forests
Review: So I love the setup for this story, where there is this victim of fairy tale magic, a princess who has been cursed because of a careless prayer. It has elements of Sleeping Beauty, because something that might have been a prayer, a blessing, has become a curse. The main character is safe, but only from certain quarters. She is still harmed by the guilt she feels and by the isolation that comes along with her safety. It’s something that weighs on her, and I like that she refuses to die, that she wants to live and continue, even if it’s in the forest. At the same time, she doesn’t want to remain alone, wants to find connection and wants to break through the limitations that have been put on her. She suffers for something she had no control over, and while it’s not exactly Okay for her to knowingly infect people, she’s not exactly in a situation where she can win. Which is why I found the ending rather conflicting, because her choices lead her to continue on the same series of cyclical “mistakes” that led her into the situation she is in—miserable but not wanting to die. That she wants to have a child as a way to end her own isolation only means that she furthers the abuse and harm. And that could be the point, to show how, when this woman has been denied compassion and help, she can’t exactly help but do more harm. By killing more people, and by perhaps dooming another to life she’s despised. It’s a difficult story but certainly one to spend some time with.

“Gathering” by Jonathan Louis Duckworth (743 words)

No Spoilers: Paige is an artist who has to give up her art because of how dangerous it is to her. Because her art has life, and that life threatens Paige’s own. Portraits are coming to call on her. Landscapes are getting under her skin, into her blood. And meanwhile birds are gathering things for a doomsday machine that will wipe humans from the face of the planet. It’s a strange and rather magical piece, featuring addiction and fatalism and love. It’s a bit of a weird piece, that might speak to repression or appearances or the destructive power of frustrated creativity. Whatever the case, it’s nicely strange with a hint of longing and beauty.
Keywords: Art, Birds, Doomsday Machines, Addiction, Garden Parties
Review: There’s a certain amount of pretentiousness that I associate with garden parties, a certain affectation. They ooze with an atmosphere where people pointedly don’t say what they mean and instead engage in social posturing and insincere politeness. And here seems no different, where Paige is supposed to be lost in this vapid dance instead of painting, because painting has become more and more dangerous. And to me it speaks to the ways that art can effect a person, can make them feel more acutely than if they didn’t have that. Paige looks at the world, and more and more of herself is going into her art, perhaps because the world writ large seems a more and more broken place, where the birds in the sky are trying to build a weapon that will dispose of all humans. To me at least, the added danger seems to come from caring, from being too engaged in art, which in turn is a reflection of the larger world. Paige cannot distance herself from the damage being done and so she’s being pushed to tune it out, to engage instead with the shallow and hollow pursuits of garden parties and conversation that isn’t about anything. It’s a distraction, as everyone is distracting themselves, and for all that Paige knew this was coming in a way, could see it and that’s why her art was hurting her, avoiding it and ignoring it don’t save her. There is no safety when the situation is a certain kind of fucked, and the world is fast reaching that point where ignoring it won’t help, because the birds are almost done with their machine, the temperatures are creeping up, and something’s got to give. So yeah, it’s a fascinating piece and a wonderful read!


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