Friday, November 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #69

Art by Joey Jordan
The stories of Diabolical Plots’ November issue are…rather weird. Haunting. Featuring characters to have lost, who are faced with the prospect of a world different from the one they know. Absent the people who have given structure to their lives. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the characters are truly worse off, though. Because these losses, these changes, provoke the characters to introspect, to make changes, to better understand their own needs. And they find that independence is something they need, even if they’ve always been treated like independence would be impossible, or painful, or wrong. It’s an interesting issue and I’ll get right to the reviews!


“Many-Faced Monsters in the Backlands” by Lee Chamney (3484 words)

No Spoilers: Arturio is sent into exile for having unpopular opinions and letting them known to the Bureaucracy. In the Backlands, things are...strange. He is told to build a homestead. And he starts growing faces. Faces that are parts of himself that can talk to him, that take things from him. Memories. Skills. But that might keep him more sane than otherwise because there’s no one else around. At least not until a woman shows up and things get really messy, really quick. The piece speaks to the ways that isolation changes people, the way that distance reorders life, reprioritizes it, and how Arturio is changed by his experiences in the Backlands. For better, for worse, but profoundly whatever the case.
Keywords: Faces, Exile, Split Personalities, Love
Review: This is such a weird story, the world building light so that aside from there being a Bureaucracy there’s little know about the world except that “enemies” are exiled to this weird, magical place where they are changed. And for the narrator, for Arturio, the change is a series of confrontations as he faces who he is and who he’s been. The different parts of himself, the optimistic Second Face, the cynical and toxic Rough Thing. The isolation allows himself to confront these parts of himself in a way that would have been impossible in the Bureaucracy, and I like how the process of confrontation and negotiation becomes this rather transforming thing for him. Positive. Giving him control, allowing himself to correct poison attitudes and actions. He’s able to cast out Rough Thing, is able to come to a greater peace with himself, happier and seeing himself as deserving of happiness. And so when faced with the idea of going back, of being reintegrated into the Bureaucracy, I love that he balks, that he flees, that he sees that his discussion with himself, his discovery of himself, isn’t over. And can’t be stopped early, lest he fall back into the same patterns that left him miserable and exiled. To come to terms with himself, he needs the space from the source of a lot of his issues--which is the society that pushed him down his more toxic paths. The exchanges with the woman he meets in exile are also interesting because it sort of reveals the ways he sabotages his relationships, and sets up the reckoning that allows him to take back control of his body and personality from the elements that seem to want to do him harm. It’s a really weird piece, but it’s also a fascinating read that is well worth spending some time with!

“Mama’s Hand of Glory” by Douglas Ford (2752 words)

No Spoilers: Leann is something of a A problem solver. One who keeps the severed hand of her dead mother in a cabinet so that she can commune with her mother, to ask questions, to talk. Not that she really ever wants to. Leann is independent, and doesn’t really like what her mother wanted for her. But neither did she want something to take a big bite of her mother’s hand, which is exactly what’s happened. And so it’s up to her to face what this is, the ways that people around her are trying to make decisions for her, and to deal with it. It’s a story with a definite weight to it, a grimness, and a resolve through it all to do what needs to be done...on Leann’s terms, and only hers.
Keywords: Hands, Family, Séances, Hunger, Relationships
Review: I like how the story evokes popular media surrounding supernatural elements, and Leann makes an interesting protagonist in that, practical and rather uninterested in the sentimental elements of the job. She’s there to get things done, and when she does talk to her mother, it’s to ask where things are. It’s not to chat. It’s not for personal reasons. In part because she doesn’t seem to need that kind of relationship, and in part because her mother never seemed a particularly affirming part of her life. Her death maybe wasn’t a relief, but it also doesn’t seem to have slowed her down any. And having that hand around, having it be this thing she might have to return to, is a kind of reminder that her life isn’t wholly her own. And that’s a theme that gets complicated when the man she likes, that she’s kind of with, seeks her mother’s approval and blessing to ask Leann to marry him. Which sort of proves to Leann at least that the relationship isn’t really what she thought it was, and isn’t really what she wants it to be. The tragedy is that she loses two different relationships that worked for her on some level. The sexual relationship with Rufus. The ability to ask her mother simple questions. Both people want different things from her. More things from her than she is willing to give. And so she has to walk away from them both. And I like that she’s willing to do just that. That she can do that, that she can stand by herself that way. Yes, it’s not the happiest of moments, because these people are gone from her life, then. But they also needed to go, if they couldn’t respect her and her life. And as blunt as that is, it makes sense, and makes for a fine read!


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