Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2020

September brings three stories to Flash Fiction Online that deal with...change and compromises. That find two people navigating a situation where they have to decided how to move forward when the path before them seems to be leading into conflict, separation, and destruction. For the first two stories, that touches on the divine, finding beings with supernatural powers faced with how to use those powers. Even the last story, though, deals with a force that is a greater magic, and how people relate to it, how people run from it and hide it. The stories all find the characters having to deal with big changes to their little worlds, and trying to make their decisions based on empathy, compassion, and trust. To the reviews!


“The Last Day of the Faith” by T. R. Siebert (1000 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is a god, one that seems to have lived in their temple for a long time. Generations. But who has, through attrition and conflict, been reduced to a single believer, just one faithful soul to present offerings and give them strength. Not strength enough to repel the invading army, though, who are carrying out the will of an angry god. And with the last of the time they have left, the narrator has to confront the last of their faithful and make a decision about sacrifice, and care, and continuation. It’s a mournful story, quiet and wrenching, but with a spot of hope still clinging stubbornly to it.
Keywords: Religion, Gods, Rituals, Invasion, Sacrifice
Review: I really like the way the story sets up this moment voiced by a god who knows that they don’t have time left. And how it sort of flips the roles that the two characters, the god and the faithful, play in this final moment. The god, who normally accepts offerings, sacrifices of milk and flowers. Who stands in such contrast to the angry god who takes blood, who seeks to crush all the other gods and become singular. And there’s no real fighting that, not for the narrator, who doesn’t have much strength at all, and who has used most of what they have left to make a path for their faithful, to give them a chance to get away, to escape the violence that the narrator cannot. And I really like that there’s the sense of sacrifice here, a correcting of the perversion of the angry god, where people spill blood for the divine. The narrator refuses that, commits instead to sacrifice themself so that this person can escape. It doesn’t save them, not really, doesn’t mean that the angry god will be pushed back. But at the same time there’s a sense I get that it does save the narrator. That it lets them live on in the heart of the faithful, slipping beyond the temple and into a place the angry god cannot follow. For me, it shows the power of that kind of action, that kind of compassion on the side of the god. That there is true power there that cannot be crushed or driven out, and that the faithful might bring them to somewhere new, where they might survive, where they might grow and spread yet, not on the back of an army but through that kindness and self-sacrifice. It’s not really spelled out in the story, except that in the end a whisper moves on, and that whisper might not grow silent entirely. It might yet grow, might yet become a voice capable of speaking louder. And whatever the case, it’s a lovely and touching read about faith and standing against an overwhelming tide, even if what that means is being destroyed by it, but refusing to destroy your principles on the process. A great read!

“Small Magics” by Juliet Kemp (1000 words)

No Spoilers: The main character of this story is a woman whose name changes over the years, as she moves from role to role, place to place. Always doing small things to try and make life better for the people around her. Always living among them, even though she is a more timeless being, able to do magic, though never permanent things, never incredibly large things. Her brother, Tew, is much more likely to try at larger magics, larger “fixes” what he perceives as the problems of the world. Destroying things, where his sister seeks to create. As time goes on, though, and both witness the consequences of their actions, they begin to refine how they act and how their work fits together, two sides of a thing called change, which hopefully leans toward justice.
Keywords: Change, Conflict, Knitting, Weaving, Family
Review: I really like the way this story plays out, especially because it’s not entirely about the main character either being entirely right or wrong about her approach to problems. Rather, it’s about both her and her brother realizing that change isn’t about just destroying things but also isn’t just about making new things. It’s a balance, and one that needs to be fairly closely maintained. It actually makes me think of the Ship of Theseus, that old thought experiment about a ship that’s replaced a bit at a time. You take too much damage, though, and you’ll sink. And if you don’t take out damaged parts and replace them, then at some point the extra weight, the bulkiness, is going to be a problem as much as the original damage. That’s required is knowing what to destroy, and knowing what to make new. For the siblings, it’s something they’re...not exactly on the opposite side of for a long time. They work together, but in very different ways, and without really cooperating, each essentially determined to show that their way is better. Except that both do good things, both try their hardest to help people. And both have something to learn about change. About the smallness of it, yes, but also about the largeness of it. For all the main character focuses on small changes, there’s a big picture as well that she can be paying attention to, and I feel that’s where the two come together most effectively, rounding out the other’s perspective and making it so that their small magics, their small changes, end up pushing in a consistent direction, can end up effecting the course of history, the world, one little act of good at a time. A wonderful read!

“The Liar’s Sun” by Filip Wiltgren (994 words)

No Spoilers: Vadis’ mother is very concerned about the upcoming “liar’s sun,” under which everyone tries to hide away, barricading their doors and preventing light from penetrating their homes. It’s something Vadis doesn’t understand, but then, that’s not really uncommon. She doesn’t understand why her father is gone, though she does know it means her mother has less bruises now. The reality of the liar’s sun might be very different than Vadis is being told, though, and the reason for it being framed the way it is a bit more complex than most people (especially Vadis’s mother) want to explain. It’s an interesting story of contradictions, denial, fear, and (ultimately) acceptance and joy.
Keywords: Suns, Breakups, Family, Lies, CW- Abuse
Review: I love how the framing of the liar’s sun is completely opposite it’s actual effect. And I love that it’s Vadis, a child, who sort of comes to question it from the start and then, once she learns the truth of it, she’s the one to break the spell of the myth of what the sun is. And I understand so well the framing, the reasons why the whole town would want to avoid the sun. Not because those under it lie, but because they have to tell the truth. And the weight of that, the idea of that, is terrifying to so many people. Because it preys on people’s insecurities, the fear they have that people will truly see them and reveal something ugly and bad. Vadis’s mother seems full of conflict and guilt. She’s broken up with the man Vadis thought was her father and is avoiding the man who, well, who truly loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her. The piece is just so full of unsaid things, people terrified of rejection, of the truth in case it doesn’t match what’s in their hearts. And all that worry and all that angst for nothing, or at least not at all necessary because the truth is that they are loved, that people see the best in them and not the worst. The piece really speaks to all the ways people try and inveigle the truth, to wrap it in layers, to call it lies not for what it is but for what they fear it will be. For the judgment they are sure they deserve except of course they don’t. Because they’ve really done nothing wrong, just followed where their heart lead and tried to get themselves into a better situation. If that means less bruises, if that means Vadis will get to know a new father, then that’s probably for the best, and certainly nothing to shy away from and deny. And I like that it’s Vadis who sees through it, who tears down these walls that the adults around her have built up, because to her they make no sense. Because the sun is nothing to hide from. And it’s a great story and an excellent way to close out the issue!


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