|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Find On Your Body the Bruise” by Maricat Stratford (1600 words)
No Spoilers: You are dead. That’s not a spoiler. You are a dead lesbian poet. And you’re not surprised about that, because of how inevitable it always seemed, even when it seemed like maybe you had a future, could have a future. But you’re dead. You’re nto surprised. But you are angry. And that anger needs an outlet. This is a story dripping with tragedy and grief, with rage and frustration. It imagines a situation that’s not really far-fetched. And it captures a bit of the feelings that might surround that, the shock and the need to do something. It interrogates what justice might be, what revenge might be, and how you might haunt the world. It’s unsettling and heartbreaking.
Keywords: CW- Murder, Queer MC, Ghosts, Violence, Anger, Dogs
Review: This is a rather gutting and upsetting story, because of how it focusing on this violence, on this murder. To good effect, too, placing the reader into the place of having just been killed for being a woman. For reacting appropriately to a man being an asshole. And finding that in death you really want to do something. I’m not a huge fan of stories that center revenge, and in some ways that’s how this story can be read. Because you do connect to this guy by his blood and you do seek him out and kill him. But I’m not sure that the story is really about revenge. For me it’s about justice. And, more closely, the lack of justice. The weight of that expectation that the you of the story has been carrying around at all times and the outcomes that it allows. Kill and be killed. And it leaves behind all the hurt and all the unresolved foundations of this tragedy, of this grief. For me, the story beautifully and hauntingly explores the sort of numb anger of the you of the story, her simultaneous rage and acceptance. It’s about the way that this kind of violence marks us, unites us. It’s a reminder that this cycle isn’t about victims forgiving their killers. Isn’t about victims absolving their killers. How the ones that have to change are the killers. And if they don’t, then all that’s left is this violence, on and on, in all its shattering sorrow. Definitely a story to spend some time with!
“Lighthouse Waiting” by Gwendolyn Clare (2400 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story, an orbital lighthouse warning against a rift in space that could destroy unwary ships, is waiting for its creator, Guilhermo, who has gone away to fight in a distant war. It’s a situation that leaves the lighthouse alone for the first time, and in that absence they reach out to passing ships, hoping to help pass the time until Guilhermo returns. Time, though, is exactly what the story plays with, and to devastating effect. The narrator speaks with such enthusiasm, with such naivety, that it’s just rather heartbreaking to read along as they meet ship after ship and the implications of their interactions...don’t exactly make it through.
Keywords: AI, War, Loss, Waiting, Lights, Warnings
Review: Ahhh, this story goes right for the feels and is brutal in its impact. The piece starts out so slowly, so simply, with this lighthouse waiting for its creator. It seems like a fairly sophisticated AI, and yet at the same time there is something child-like about them. Because there is so much that they were never taught. And absent everyone else, there’s not really a way for them to learn more. Indeed, their failure to learn more is what drives a lot of the tragedy of the story, because for the reader it becomes more and more certain that too much time has passed for Guilhermo to still be alive. That whatever conflict had been going on that he was conscripted into, he isn’t coming back. And yet the lighthouse believes because that’s what they were told. And they never learned anything other than what Guilhermo said is true. And so they wait, and wait, even as a lot of time must pass between visits from ships. It’s like all the galaxy has constricted, and I love how the story conveys that, showing how little traffic there is and how banged up the ships are. Gone is the grandeur that they were used to at the beginning. Now the galaxy seems rather empty save for the occasional criminal or explorer. And it’s just this brilliant and wrenching experience, seeing more and more how much they can’t see what’s happened. Can’t hear it. Can’t even understand it really because they don’t understand death. And being put in the place where the reader has this sinking feeling that we need to break the news, that we have to say something, is a ball of tension the story lets sit and settle, and it makes for a wonderful read!
“Dead Things” by Becca De La Rosa (4000 words)
No Spoilers: Death is a kingdom ruled over by a dour lord who lives in a big house where Odile tidies up. For her, it’s a fairly solitary life, but things change when a new woman arrives, muddy and screaming and, at first, not at all suited to this dark house and its ruler. As this woman, Anyechka, spends more time in the house, though, and with Odile, things between them begin to chance, and Odile will be forced to take some risks in order to pursue what she wants, even if that means changing some of the rules in the land of death. It’s a rather gothic story for me, full of loneliness and a isolated house and a sort of dread that comes from a powerful and brooding presence. It’s a bit creepy, quite strange, and rather beautiful, focusing on transformation, love, and triumph even in the face of death.
Keywords: Death, Sacrifice, Hunger, Queer MC, Bargains
Review: Why yes I am a bit of a sucker for gothic stories, and I love how this one builds up this house in the middle of the land of death, where Death himself resides and where Odile isn’t entirely sure why she’s there. She doesn’t seem to have made the kind of bargain that got Anyechka trapped and fed upon. And I like this depiction of Death, too, as a sort of vampire in his castle, haunting the space, there to prevent Odile and Anyechka really get to be happy together because he can’t stand that. Because he’s lonely and angry and always hungry, and because they have something that he doesn’t. But that’s ultimately that gives them power, that even in the land of death they can come together and find love, find something in each other that is bright in all the ways that Death desires but can’t have. And for me at least it’s the way that Odile can find the bravery to stand up to her boss and make her own bargain. And in so doing bring a little bit of brightness into a house that hasn’t known it. It’s a strange but touching story, one that builds the relationship between Odile and Anychka quite well, where they love each other in part because they are different, because they sometimes argue and disagree. Their story becomes the one that Death never through he could have in his land or his house—one that ends in a sort of happily ever after. A great read!