Friday, February 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #60

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories of Diabolical Plots' February content deal with trials and struggle, though in very different ways. One is a contemporary sci-fantasy, an invasion story, about resistance and complicity. The other is a second world fantasy where winged people fill the skies, except for one youth who must deal with living more grounded. The pieces find characters who are faced with choices of either accepting a status quo that is stifling, or taking a chance and risking everything to fight for something different and better. The characters don't exactly all make the same decisions about what to do. So yeah, to the reviews!


“Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau (854 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is a patron in a Starbucks who has noticed that maybe the water towers on the tops of the buildings have begun to move. It’s a small detail, but almost as soon as the idea is voiced the water towers descend, invading the city. The piece is strange, the narrator not exactly reliable. As the action comes filtered through their perspective, it’s difficult to tell what exactly is “real,” what allegory or metaphor, and what straight up hallucination or fantasy. But it’s a story that provides some striking visuals, a somewhat cute crush on a too-perfect barista, and an ending that twists it all nicely.
Keywords: Coffee, Invasions, Water Towers, Resistance, Capitulation
Review: This is a short and weird one, a story that builds around this bizarre series of events where the water towers of New York City come to life and begin taking over the city while the narrator and few other people barricade themselves in their local Starbucks. The piece just has an air of fantasy to it, not of the classic sense but almost like a day dream, the narrator getting this idea in their head and then it sort of running away from them. Only if it’s a fantasy it’s not one they’re wholly in control of, or else it’s something that actually happened that they’re then telling someone else about to make themself look good. But it has that feel to it, the narrator wanting to seem impressive, wanting to cast themself in the best light. Ultimately, though, it might be a bit more about the lack of imagination. The narrator is there and sees the barista being more active, more decisive, trying to save them all. And while the narrator says they do heroic things, they don’t opt to help the barista go out and get food. Don’t help when the water towers come in, don’t really do much of anything. There’s a sense for me that even if this is all a daydream, just lies, it shows that ultimately the narrator can’t imagine a way to stand up to the force that they are confronted with. The water towers are powerful, are active and creepy, and in the face of that even the barista bows, accepts being conquered. For all that the narrator seems to want a way to actually talk to the barista, actually make that contact, they don’t. It’s like they’ve given up without really having fought, because it seems so much like a given. It’s strange and I’m not entirely sure still how much of it I’m supposed to read as 100% factual, but regardless it’s an interesting and entertaining short very much worth sitting down with.

"The Cliff of Hands” by Joanne Rixon (2869 words)

No Spoilers: Eešan is a young person who was injured when they hatched, giving her them a pinwing that prevents her from flying. Which, in turn, prevents her from becoming a full adult, because to become an adult young people have to fly a rather daring maneuver and add their hand print to the Cliff of Hands. But she’s not letting that stop her, and one way or another she’s determined to push her way into adulthood or die trying. The piece is tense, dangerous—Eešan is surrounded by friends and not-friends alike, none of them really understanding what her climb means for her, what all she’s risking. And she’s got a lot to prove. Not really to the people of her community (though that, too), but to herself, to know that she isn’t a child, isn’t lesser, regardless of how other people treat her.
Keywords: Wings, Birds, Trials, Rituals, Disability, Rock Climbing
Review: I really like how the story shows how clueless the rest of the people around Eešan are, to what extent they just don’t get what it means to be disabled. For them flight is this thing that they take for granted, and they rely on it on a level where they are completely over-confident in it. And that speaks to real to me, to the way people are who have never come up to the real limitations of their bodies, of their abilities. Who have never known what it’s like to be so completely...powerless. For Eešan, there’s a feeling that it’s something she’s intimately aware of because of how important flying is in her culture. And she can’t, no matter the effort, no matter the skill, no matter the practice or training or anything. But that’s given her a better understand of what doing things means. It’s given her a better understanding not only of what she can’t do, but what she can. Which is why she decides to climb the cliff, to put her hand against the rock that should signify that she’s an adult. To prove that she belongs there, even if no one else truly understands what she had to do in order to get there. Even if for some it seems impossible and foolish, for some it seems simple and safe, for some it seems...just strange. I do love how some of her friends seem like thye almost get it. When she says that she could die, they are frightened. But they also calm themselves by assuring themselves (and Eešan) that they could save her. That their wings would be enough, when she knows they wouldn’t be. And I love that she just does this thing. Yes, she needs some help at times, but she does it. She does it to quiet the voices who would seek to silence her, including maybe the one inside her own head. It’s a story of being tired, of being so fucking tired and still going, still doing, because the alternative is shit. It’s fierce and it’s wonderful, and you should definitely go and check it out!


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