Thursday, November 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Baffling Magazine November 2020

November brings three early stories to the Baffling Magazine Patreon, examines family and loss. Death and the way people have to process it, have to face it, given the worlds they live in, the relationships they have. The characters are all dealing with complicated relationships. Two of the stories focus on people who haven’t really gotten along with parental figures. For one, it’s the parents of his boyfriend. For the other, it’s their own father. The third story deals not with a strained relationship but an absent one, a person bereft because of the violence of an empire taking up the cause of their dead lover and finding strength in poetry. And all told it’s a wonderful mix of stories, featuring fantasy, science fiction, and touches of horror. To the reviews!


“Dreadful Necessity Governs All Things” by Rien Gray (1025 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story, formerly Elash Se, was lover to a powerful poet who sparked a war by defying an empire and emperor. With language. With poetry. And so Elash is giving something of a history lesson through the narration, but also a sort of ultimatum. A promise. That though poetry has sparked a thousand wars, there is one that is going to end this one. Through passion and through truth. Through a power that will not be denied or put aside. Through grief and hope and, as the title relates, a dreadful necessity. It’s a story that takes a poetic approach to war and remembrance, and it makes for a wrenching and powerful read.
Keywords: Poetry, War, Queer MC, Non-binary MC, CW- Executions
Review: I love the feel of this piece, the anger mixed with the grief mixed with the resilient drive to harness the power of poetry for something other than war. To take all its potential and turn it into a tool of peace. Not an easy lift, given the history of poetry, given how easily it can be turned into a weapon. But the narrator has a reason to believe in the power of poetry, in the power of their poem to be not a weapon but an implement to disarm. Not incendiary but rather a bridge, a bond, a way for people to come together, to dismantle the empire striving to smother them all. And the world building here is wonderful, the tragedy of the narrator’s loss but also the chilling familiarity of the empire’s drive. The way it tears, the way it devours. The way it targets those who would challenge it with language, with art. The way it knows that the path to victory is through poetry, through justifying its atrocities and framing them in something better and brighter. And here the narrator realizes that to fight that they first have to change. Not just in words, but they have to become the poetry, become the change. Have to act, because without that the poetry is just words, just beliefs, and without that physically reaching out, lifting up, shielding and defying, the words lose their magic and the power. By becoming poetry, the narrator becomes a myth, something stronger than empires, something worthy of the love they lost, the lives taken by war. And it’s a wonderful and moving story that I definitely recommend!

“Deadbeat” by Jacob Budenz (648 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this piece is a demon, the lover of a warlock and the two of them have returned to the warlock’s family’s home to...I don’t know, visit. For the narrator, it’s not exactly something to look forward to. Another instance of people seeing him as worthless, as a deadbeat, unable to do those kinds of demonic things that would at least make him impressive. And the piece is a rather quiet scene between the two lovers, one loaded with a lot of angst and emotional tension, one that seems to cast their relationship and maybe not in the best of places, but that might be partly down to the state that the narrator is in, and his drive to prove his worth.
Keywords: Relationships, Demons, Astral Projection, Family, Queer MC
Review: I love the slice of life feel of this story and how it takes that and weaves in the supernatural/magical elements, the natures of the characters. Because there’s something so small stakes about it, about the warlock coming home to visit his family, the boyfriend unsure of himself and his place and his trajectory, feeling like he’s being seen as useless, lesser, not good enough for the son. And I love that the narrator is busy with something that seems as almost silly as participating in eating competitions halfway across the world. Because it doesn’t seem like...super important work. But at the same time, that’s part of what is driving the insecurity of the situation, this tension that the narrator doesn’t feel appreciated, doesn’t feel valued, doesn’t feel seen. Feels in some ways that he must be just that demon this warlock is fucking. All his value then put into what he does for the warlock. And I like how that’s complicated, how at first the warlock seems like kinda an ass but that shifts, and he does seem to care, and he does see the narrator and what he’s trying to do. Knows that he’s trying hard, knows that he’s getting better. While also sort of missing the scope and the scale because, at their cores, the two men are rather different. Not just one a warlock and one a demon, their perspectives separated by their professions, but one a mortal, one not. And it’s there that the story leads to, to the vast differences that are between these men, the real ways they might not be seeing each other fully. And to the insecurity at the heart of the narrator, that for all he’s immortal, there is so much he feels inferior about. And tired about, because he’s trying so hard to push back against the idea that he’s lesser, a deadbeat, when that’s a feeling that seems to be mostly an echo of his own fears rather than how his lover really feels about him. And whatever the case the story is a lovely look at this relationship and the complexities of it, the ways the men fit together, or maybe don’t quite. A great read!

“Embrace of Memory” by Brian Rappatta (1104 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story has just lost one of their fathers. And in the aftermath their dad gives them a recording that Father made before the end. A tactile recording, able to simulate the feeling of a hug. And with that gesture the narrator is thrown, is left with the complex feelings they have that match the complex relationship they had with Father. A man they hadn’t really spoken to or spent time with in years. The story is short and about what the narrator does with the recording. What decisions they come to, and what that means for them. It’s a quiet piece that resounds with emotions, and all the things left unsaid.
Keywords: Tactile Experiences, Recordings, CW- Death of a Parent, CW- Cancer, Queer Characters, Family
Review: This is a story that looks at damaged relationships, and what death does to those relationships. The narrator doesn’t really even have a relationship with Father in the end, which is complex and kinda messed up, but it is what it is. They are estranged, and that sits heavy over everything. What does death mean for that? Especially with Father kind of reaching out in the end to leave behind this hug. We can’t know exactly what this means for Father. But we know that this isn’t something he’s done in real life for years. And the narrator struggles with the...authenticity of it. The realness. The way it might be meant to erase the pain between them.’s on Father’s terms. It’s not a conversation, not a negotiation. It’s just a recording. All of the actual importance lies with the narrator. It’s theirs, and in some ways it’s there to offer them a way of reframing the relationship they had with their Father. And I love that the narrator rejects that. That they basically say they don’t want this gesture. That indeed this gesture is sort of part of the same pattern that lead to their estrangement. It’s not a peace offering, because there’s no one left to make peace with. It’s about memory. it’s about legacy. And the narrator has to decide if they want Father to be able to rewrite his legacy as it relates to the narrator. And the narrator decides no. No he can’t reframe that. No he doesn’t need to be forgiven, and the narrator doesn’t need to forgive him. That’s not a weight on his soul. Indeed, the weight seems to have been shrugged off when the narrator broke contact. That...wasn’t a regret. Wasn’t a bad thing. And they don’t want to pretend that it was. There are absences that are not losses, and in the messy mix of family and estrangement the story I feel respects that and is careful to make this about the narrator and what they need, what is right for them. It’s an emotional story without necessarily being a tragic one. For me at least the ending isn’t tragic but rather revelatory. The narrator understands themself better, and takes control of the situation in a way that will allow them to move on and heal on their terms. And it makes for a powerful read!


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