|Art by Tyler Edlin|
“The Blighted Godling of Company Town H” by Beth Cato (5291 words)
No Spoilers: Dreya is the godling of Company Town H, which has declined sharply following a peace that has sent the Company, which specialized in munitions and other materials of war, into dissolution. Living in symbiosis with the town, Dreya is much reduced, but still doing her best to protect her citizens from the toxins of the planet. But the faith that sustains her has been waning, not just from the townspeople but from herself as well, despair knocking on her door in the form of recriminations and regrets. When her creations begin to fail, though, unmade in a way that should be impossible, it wakes Dreya up to what she has to do, and leads to a rather dramatic confrontation. The piece looks at aftermaths and purpose, conveying a fallen feeling. It’s a teetering on the edge of complete ruin, asking if it’s worth it to try and stand again, knowing that it will never be the same.
Keywords: War, Production, Peace, Decline, Contamination, Faith, Gods
Review: So much of this story speaks to me of despair and doubt and faith. Dreya lives off of the will of the people she’s supposed to protect, but she’s not even sure of herself, so how can anyone else be? And the situation is just so complex and layered, the people having for so long been defined by the Company, by this drive to provide for wars. And now it’s gone, and for the people of the towns it seems like a loss. However, the story explores how it’s not really a loss. That the hardships that the godlings were supposed to alleviate were mostly manufactured to keep the workers under control and producing. Dreya is brought to a place where she realizes that it’s not herself she needs to lose faith in—it’s the Company. Despite that Company being what made her, and what seemed so long to care about her and the people of the towns. The truth is that the Company never cared. Which doesn’t make Dreya’s love or devotion any less. But it does mean that she needs to drop the shape that the Company demanded she fit into. It does mean that the contracts that give her power need to be renegotiated in good faith instead of in the hopes of exploiting and controlling the people. The piece shows the power that comes when the godlings and the people truly work together, not as boss and employee but as people, peers, partners in the endeavor of living and trying to make the best of what they have, no longer churning out war but able to try and grow something that can last and prosper. A wonderful read!
“The Beast Weeps with One Eye” by Morgan Al-Moor (6650 words)
No Spoilers: Shamaness Nwere is the leader of a village on the run from a murder of ravens intent on their destruction. Forced to flee their homes, they are pushed on and on, losing many, before coming to a place of power for one mostly-forgotten god. A god who offers the people sanctuary, as long as they are willing to pay the price. The piece explores the impossible position that Nwere finds herself in, having to protect her people while at the whims of a god who is using her for his own dark purposes. The piece focuses on grief, and on the ways that it can shatter and break. At the same time, it also looks at how people can step back from grief, and embrace joy, and it doesn’t lose the hope of healing.
Keywords: Trials, Ravens, Gods, Sorrows, Bargains
Review: I love the way the story takes Nwere and pushes her to the edge of despair. The entire situation is one where she doesn’t have much of a choice, where once this god decides he wants to use her to break his own captivity, her options are basically obliterated. She can die, and watch her people die, or she can deal, and risk the same thing but even worse. And I like how the world is built, where Nwere is shamaness of gods who she believes in, who she tries to call on for help when she is beset by the strange plague of ravens who seem intent on killing everyone she knows. And yet she doesn’t know the full story of the gods, and it’s not like they answer her call. Instead, they leave her to the fate that they have wrought, because their part in all of this isn’t exactly innocent. It’s a test that no one expects her to pass. He’s a human pawn in a game of the gods, and yet there’s such power in her. Power in the care she has for her people, and in her resolve to protect them and their joy. Because for all the sorrow and grief and loss that the gods visit on her, she never reaches the point her tormentor did. He feels betrayed and full of the sorrow of having his role taken from him, having his dignity taken from him, having his hope taken from him. Only he embraced the sorrow, which only made the chains holding him down that much stronger. The more he despaired, the more he became certain that he couldn’t escape, that he needed to do something evil in order to escape, the more he doomed himself. And I like how Nwere shows that, shows that the strength that can come not from rage or spite or sorrow, but from joy, and laughter, and caring. It’s a wonderful moment that doesn’t exactly resolve everything but leaves the door open, I feel, for understanding and healing, and might indeed by the key to unraveling the tragedy that anchors the god in place. A great read!