Oof. Another really gut-punching story from this year’s Artemis Rising series. “My Heart the Bullet in the Chamber” is more of an alternate history than a fantasy, per se. What if a town in a nebulous Old West setting decided that the solution to anarchy and violence was to forbid guns to men and to arm women instead? But that’s a facile description of the premise here. This is a full-out imagining of a woman-centered alternative society reminiscent of the sort of matriarchal/separatist experiments of 1980s SFF, but here the background worldbuilding is all to tell the story of one young woman’s quest to redeem a youthful mistake and avenge her sister.
In the community of Founding, a woman earns the right to carry a gun when she gives birth and joins the Matrons. But Alice has a deeper goal than simply coming of age. She and her sister had gone on a forbidden adventure outside the community. Only Alice returned and the true story would destroy her sister’s reputation. The plot is fairly straightforward: a quest, a duel, a coming of age. What makes this story powerful is how solidly detailed the setting and atmosphere are and how very real Alice feels as a character.
Content warning for sexual assault and violence. Not recommended for those suffering from male fragility.