“Dear Sir” by Kaolin Fire (463 words)
No Spoilers: The issues kicks off with a short and light story framed as a letter from one Jonathan Silver to someone unknown to him. To, because of the framing of the piece, the reader themself. You become the recipient of this missive, which entreats you to make a sort of bargain. To help this Jonathan Silver recover from money and maybe fight back against an invasion of the Seelie Court itself. Underneath the fantasy trappings, though, this piece hides a clever bit of familiarity, and builds a world where magic might be real, where there might be a war going on against the Fae, but where there’s still no bad time for a good scam.
Keywords: Letters, Scams, Fae, Money, Bargains
Review: I do find it rather wickedly funny to sneak an “African Prince” spam scam into a bit of world building that imagines a real conflict between the Seelie Court and humanity. And I guess for me what I like about it is that it shows just how much nothing is sacred. That in an alternate world where magic is proven and where churches are waging holy war on the Fae, someone has taken the opportunity to try and cash in by taking advantage of people’s gullibility, greed, and ignorance. I mean, I guess there’s a chance that the piece is genuine, that this is an actual call for assistance, but it seems much more a bit of mischief that might imply that the war on the Seelie Court isn’t going quite so well as the letter itself implies. At least, I do feel that this is something coming from the Court itself, a trick that will hopefully lure in a few unsuspecting people and, like most Fae traditions, trap them in something they didn’t quite realize the scope of. It simultaneously pays homage to Fae stories with their forbidden fruit and promise of great rewards and updates it for a new age where there are calls all the time in people’s inboxes to believe in some weird fabricated fantasy. To buy into the lie. And it’s just a bit of fun, sharp but not crushing, with a hint of the darkness that comes along with Fae stories but leaving the reader still with the power to chuckle and metaphorically mark the message as spam. A great way to open up the publication!
“1078 Reasons” by Aidan Doyle (4087 words)
No Spoilers: Minako has a big day planned with her grandchild, Ayumi, something of a coup over her rival (and fellow grandmother of Ayumi) Ishikawa. They’re not just rivals in grandmotherly affection, though, but in magic as well, with Ishikawa specializing in light while Minako draws energy and abilities from numbers and special items that represent different numbers. When the two women allow their own rivalry to endanger Ayumi, however, it’s going to take them both working together to undo the damage. It’s a fun, wonderfully built story, with a magic system that makes sense and a family situation that is charming and sweet.
Keywords: Rivals, Family, Grandchildren, Numbers, Light, Demons, Shadows
Review: This is a really sweet story that manages a great edge of danger to it while keeping the focus on building bridges and putting down old rivalries. For me, at least, the piece breathes because of its characters, and Minako and Ishikawa are great, unwilling to bend to the other, holding this rather deep and old hurt that is at the heart of why their friendship fell apart. And now they’re caught in these old roles, these old cycles, in some ways because it’s easier to maintain them than challenge them. Even when their children fall in love and get married and have a child, which should perhaps have been opportunity enough to get over themselves. Instead they continue to but heads until it nearly destroys the person that’s tying them together—Ayumi. And not gonna lie these two old women going to war for their grandchild is just all sorts of kickass. I love the whole sequence and how it plays with (as I read it at least) action movie tropes of the heroes going and arming themselves to the nines. Only here it’s with numbers, with handbags and a strange mirrored helmet. And they ride in on a scooter, right into the lair of a waiting demon. And, of course, they have to learn not just how to put their differences aside but how to once more be friends. To let their magic build off the other’s so that, together, they can defeat a foe that is supremely confident that they can’t win. It’s a lot of fun, from the tone and voice to the dog sidekick to everything. And it’s complex enough, the magic based on math amazing and complicated and just wonderful. It balances what could be a little ridiculous with enough emotional stakes and physical danger that the victory the women earn feels wholly satisfying. And more, it opens the door to further collaboration and, hopefully, further adventures. Definitely check this one out!
“Atlas” by and translated by H. Pueyo (1120 words)
No Spoilers: Miss Esposito is something of a dissident, expressing her disapproval of the police using Android officers by vandalizing the home of one of them, a male-modeled AI named Soriano. In the face of that, though, he’s rather patient, if also efficient in his job of getting her cited for her actions. Until she breaks into his house and finds he has a cat—and things get interesting. The piece is just a bit vulgar, filled with fuckwords, but then the narrator has her opinions and isn’t quiet about them. It’s almost a romantic piece, too, though, and in that it’s pretty fucking sweet, the two occupying this space for each other, the one outlaw the other authority, circling each other in a kind of dance with a cat in the middle of it all.
Keywords: Vandalism, Cats, Police, Androids, AI
Review: This story has a great energy to it. I love the punk feel that the narrator carries around, the resistance to authority, the way that she specifically seeks out trouble. At the same time, I love that there is something between the two character, between the narrator and this AI. That the moment she finds a cat in his house something changes between them, where maybe she begins to see him as more than just this police android, less as the enemy, and more as a person just sort of trying to make the most of what he has. And it’s just too cute and pure that the two of them bond over this cat, that the cat is the glue that ends up sticking them together. Which means it’s fitting that the cat’s name is Atlas, bearing the weight of their worlds by being the connection between them. And all around them and whatever is budding between them there is the lingering sense that the world is still kind of a sucky place and that it’s getting worse. But that together they might be able to make it work, might be able to help each other cope in a way that will allow them to vent some of their dissatisfaction and maybe reach for something warm and safer, if not ever fully safe. It could be seen as a retreat that the narrator does, no longer protesting so directly what the police are doing, but I think it’s more to do with finding something just as important and much more personal. And if it helps them survive, and if it helps to distract from things they don’t seem to be able to do anything about, then maybe it will bring some good in the end. And I just love the voice, love the mood, love the cat. A fantastic read!
“The Idaho Ghost Job” by Laura E. Price (5099 words)
No Spoilers: The Misses Teachout, Corwyn and Gwen, are...specialists. Not just because of their Knacks for finding people and violence, respectively. They are freelancers who do a bit of this, a bit of that. So when their local museum gets a lead on a haunted new acquisition, they are tasked with transporting it. A prospect that starts getting complicated the moment it starts thrashing in the trunk they locked it in. Taking refuge at a hotel, their journey goes from bad to worse as circumstances conspire to push them to the edge, and maybe beyond. It’s an invigorating story, the two main characters brash and to the point and kind of disasters but in a great way. The setting is steampunk-ish, with a more contemporary feel mixed into the alt-historical setting. It’s fun, and it closes out the section of the issue quite well.
Keywords: Ghosts, Sisters, Museums, Bargains, Landlords
Review: I love how matter-of-factly the sisters deal with the things going on around them. They’re rather used to dealing with messes, used to being messes, and so they’re in their element when things are going wrong. Which I guess is lucky for them that they have terrible luck and things are often going wrong for them. And really it almost seems mean typing that out but there is a sense I get from them that they really do like being in a bit of a clusterfuck. They do things like purposefully antagonize their landlord, and make decisions that...probably could have been made better if they stopped to think about them a bit. But that’s boring! That cuts out all the good juicy bits where Corwyn wears a haunted boot into town while it’s trying to possess her and she accidentally triggers her Knack which means she Must Act on it or risk some heavy repercussions and all while the people around her are just trying to ignore the train wreck that is her everything. Yes, Gwen could have gone to buy boots on her own while Corwyn looked after the ghost boot. But I honestly can’t see it as a plot hole because it seems legit in keeping with her character. There’s an impulse and an impatient that might be bad for stability but that is a hoot to read about. It’s fun and funny and I the banter is top shelf, the characters in general endearing and awesome, and this is another wonderful story you should check out immediately!