“Crocodile Love Machine” by Mackenzie Suess (997 words)
No Spoilers: It’s something of a showdown at the laundromat when Sobek walks in and finds his maybe-partner Bast hanging out with rival Apep. The piece takes the pantheon of Egyptian gods and sets them in a very modern setting, setting what is essentially a laundromat AU fanfic starring a Sobek feeling insecure about his masculinity, Bast inhabiting her catliness fully, and the way they orbit each other. It’s a fun piece, for all that Sobek’s voice comes across as a bit...retro, I’ll say, with a number of comments that might rub readers the wrong way. Still, It’s an imaginative and interesting reimagining of the characters where they retain their power and impact even in this very different setting.
Keywords: Gods, Cats, Relationships, Laundry, Rivers
Review: I’m not sure if laundromat AU is quite as big A Thing as coffee shot AU, but I definitely appreciate that here we see these characters still very much being these characters but put into this more modern situation that they have to navigate as they can. It’s a situation made more strange by their animal (or at least anthropomorphic) bodies, and their history that has lasted millennia. Sobek here is a crocodile, King of the Nile, used to being feared and respected. Bast, however, is cast as, well...a cat. Seductive and teasing, eager to play with her targets to see how she can provoke them into giving her a show. She’s trying to twist the situation to her benefit, pitting Sobek and Apep against each other because she seems to enjoy people fighting over her. It’s something that Sobek is rather susceptible to, because he ties his masculinity to his strength, his ability to mark Bast as his even as it seems obvious she does what she wants. As long as he leans on that toxic expression of masculinity, where he needs to dominate, needs to compete, needs to prove he’s stronger better more manly, he’s controlled. He’s manipulated. Not that his journey is perfect, but at the least when he begins to see that he doesn’t always have to win in the way people expect, he also begins to take more control of his anger and his reactions. Again, it’s not perfect, still very much wrapped up in putting others down in order to make himself feel good, but at least it’s twisting away from his worst impulses, and it puts him into a space where he can get some distance from the role that’s expected of him, where he might be able to figure out what comes next. A fine read!
“Roommates” by Shannon Peavey (898 words)
No Spoilers: Hannah was in a accident, after which she was...different. Now she’s back and dealing with what all happened to her. Which is much more complicated than it might have been. It’s a story that speaks to survival, and injury, and loss. It traces the curve of expectation of how her life was going to go, and hits the jagged trauma of the accident, and struggles to find where to go from there. But despite the difficulty, and the grief, and the lingering and probably permanent damage she’s suffered, the piece still holds to hope, and a future where Hannah can still reach for her dreams.
Keywords: Accidents, Ghosts, Possession, Loss, Doctors
Review: I really like the idea that a ghost can inhabit a human body whose...soul(?) has been temporarily evicted. For Hannah, a very traumatic accident (one that killed her best friend and/or girlfriend) left her out of her body, and a bird came in afterward and took up residence. Things...didn’t go too well, with Hannah’s schooling and other things suffering bc the bird wasn’t as good at being Hannah. But Hannah has managed to return to her body, retaking everything but one arm, which is now numb to her and mostly dead. And I think the piece is both looking at how impacting an accident can be, a traumatic brain injury can be. How it can feel like someone else has emerged, and how sometimes those changes can retreat, and sometimes they can linger, and sometimes there’s something in between. And I love that Hannah is left after all this without a clear direction, without really knowing what to do. This accident has completely rearranged her life, and it’s both destructive to all the hopes she’d had before, but also freeing. Because for all that it has wiped the slate clean, it’s also, well, wiped the slate clean. She’s still carrying a heavy weight, a grief and loss that she can’t erase as well as injuries that will probably always be chronic. But she also has a chance because of this bird who came into her body, to still live. To still find a way forward, changed but not defeated. A great read!
“The Order Taker” by B. Pladek (828 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is a galactic class chef, a profession for humans that has come with extremely narrowed prospects after a series of laws has criminalized most aspects of being alien in human spaces. They now work for the government, cooking last meals for prisoners condemned to die. And the piece is a dive into complicity and resistance. To the nature of cooking and living in an authoritarian regime. It’s a look at what it means to fight, and what it means to be brave, or to be a coward, in a world where even the smallest resistance can end in death.
Keywords: Cooking, Laws, CW- Death Penalty, Prejudice, Aliens
Review: The world that this story introduces is familiar and terrifying, a world that seems to take a look at the vast diversity of the galaxy and all that possibility, and then sees the reactionary prejudice to it. The narrator is someone who has devoted themself to understanding alien cuisine to the point where they can combine elements to create new and unique culinary experiences. With the new laws, their livelihood has been largely taken away, so that they can only get work inside the system that has made most of their passions criminal. Worse, it’s work that makes them a part of the specific system that kills people for what they themself get to engage in through this state-sponsored program. And they live in a constant conflict because of it, their desire to fight more struggling against their desire to cook and their training to take orders, to try to please as much as possible. They just want to cook, and to cook the food that they believe in, and so they try to do something with that, offering death row prisoners last meals that hopefully give them a taste of home as well as maybe a drop of relief that makes it easier to deal with, well, getting murdered. And really I feel that the narrator and the story struggles to try and say if this is resistance, if this is enough. And at the same time that nothing can be enough as long as this kind of government is in power and hurting people, it’s also something, and it’s not that they aren’t risking their life for what they are doing, for taking away some of the pain and anxiety for these people right before the end. It’s a difficult piece but also a careful one, beautifully and powerfully told. Definitely check this one out! A wonderful story!