Thursday, November 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #57

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories from Diabolical Plots this month are...well, they're rather weird. In one, a young girl reaches out to the shadows of her world. In another, a man finds himself having to fix something he thinks is too far gone. In both, the stories are grounded by a rather profound trauma. A death. A looming disaster. And they find the characters facing the prospect and reality of these situations with compassion and hope, pushing back against apathy and lethargy. To the reviews!


“Consider the Monsters” by Beth Cato (876 words)

No Spoilers: A disaster is imminent on Earth. At least, that’s definitely the feeling I get as Jakayla’s grandma rushes around to try and gather up the family so that they can all shelter in the basement for the event. Because Jakayla is a young child, though, the specifics of what is going to happen take a back seat to what she does understand, that something bad is coming, and that the only safe place is going to be in the basement. Armed with that, and left alone while her grandma tries to reach who she can amid a failing telephone and power infrastructure taxed by the panic, Jakayla has to decide who she’s going to save, and how she’s going to face the unknown. It’s a bit of a grim piece, containing as it does a young girl and what might be a truly devastating global crisis/calamity. But there’s hope, too, wrapped in the way that when bad things happen, people have a tendency to pull together and try to offer what solidarity and protection there can be in cooperation and kindness.
Keywords: Monsters, Family, Disasters, Meteors, Warnings
Review: This is a really ridiculously cute story. I mean, it goes right for the feels and doesn’t relent. And I do read this as a speculative story, despite the fact that the monsters don’t appear. I mean, either way it’s completely adorable, but I chose to believe that this isn’t a story about a little girl reaching out to imaginary creatures in a way to quell her own fear, but as her reaching out to actual beings living in and around her house, reaching out because she recognizes that her grandmother doesn’t believe in these monsters, doesn’t see them. But Jakayla does, and so she knows that it’s up to her to spread the world and more importantly to invite these beings to safety, to let them know that they are welcome, that even if it’s their job to be scary, and even if it tests the limits of Jakayla’s bravery, they deserve to have somewhere safe just like she does. It’s so heartwarming to see her reach out in that way, extended to them that respect and dignity that shows that she doesn’t view them as evil, as “monsters” in the sense that they are Other and therefore deserve to hurt and suffer. It’s great to see especially because it shows what she’s learned from her grandmother—bravery and compassion, which are incredibly necessary when facing disaster and destruction. Because it shouldn’t be the loners and the cruel who thrive in times of trouble. It should be those who come together as communities to help each other when the worst happens. A wonderful read!

“The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer (3367 words)

No Spoilers: Charlie is trying to take the temporal train to next Wednesday. The rules of the trains are actually quite simple—they only run forward, there’s no exit but for the approved stations, and the system is getting old, and maybe starting to fail. Mostly Charlie just wants to skip some awkward family drama by skipping ahead to his father’s funeral, an especially loaded moment given the two had drifted apart a bit before the end and the temporal trains are one of Charlie’s earliest memories with his dad, a nostalgic fishing trip when he was a boy. The train he wants to take is late, though, which spells a trouble he is roped into fixing when the train attendant brings him along to investigate. It’s a bit of a weird story but sweet and heartwarming, about the conflicted feelings Charlie has about his father’s passing and his resolve to live up to his father’s lessons and example.
Keywords: Trains, Death, Repairs, Family, Funerals
Review: I like the set up for the story, that Charlie is using this train as both a shortcut to avoid dealing with his family and as sort of a nostalgia machine that will allow him to connect to a happy memory of the father he lost and feels guilty about. And of course the trouble on the track, the general worn down state of the temporal train system, mirrors the way that Charlie’s relationship with his father was less than ideal, had broken down until they really didn’t have much to do with each other when the father died. And that the trains can’t go back in time is sort of the reminder that there is no going back. That we don’t really get a chance to fix things that have such a definite termination. Only of course this is speculative fiction, so while “there’s no going back” is part of the rules of the trains, it’s really not so because Charlie going to try and fix this train is a way of saying that it’s not too late. Even when, like, it is too late to connect again in life, it’s not too late for him to come to terms with his loss, with his grief, and with the messy relationship with his father, even if now it’s one sided. Going back and working on the train, learning to put down his hesitation and embrace fully getting his hands dirty allows him to go back and reconnect with the memory he’s been chasing and the man who now has gone on ahead. It’s a rather heartwarming read that finds him breaking through his guilt and hesitation and finding a way to break the rules and perhaps find a way to fix what had fallen into disrepair. A great read!


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