REVIEW: “Winter Flowers” by Alessia Galatini

Review of Alessia Galatini, “Winter Flowers”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love new tellings of old stories, and even more when the retelling makes the story itself become now. “Winter Flowers” is the story of Demeter and Persephone, not just transposed into the 20th century, but reincarnated. For Demeter and Persephone are goddesses, never dying; why should their stories be limited to ancient Greece?

The story is in four parts, one for each of the seasons, two for Demeter, two for Persephone. It’s San Francisco in the summer of 1967, and Persephone has returned to Demeter to enjoy summer, while Hades is busy in Vietnam, for “somebody has to take care of the bodies in Vietnam”. But it’s also the fall of 1929, and depression has hit, spiralling towards sadness and darkness. And it’s winter of 1943, in the bleakness of Auschwitz; there cannot be any better symbol of death than that. And then it is spring again, at the turn of a millennia, and Demeter and Persephone return to the Greece they once knew, where “Staring at the world from the ruins of our old empire, we are back to the gods we once were.”

Neither Demeter’s nor Persephone’s story is an easy one, to tell or retell; but I enjoyed Galatini’s very much.

REVIEW: “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer

Review of Naomi Kritzer, “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies”, Apex Magazine 112 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

The scene is 1960’s America, the protagonist a 14 year old girl who is more interested in her science project than in hair, makeup, and boys. Her parents assure her that will all change when she catches a fairy and becomes pretty (as is the normal series of events in this version of the world), but Amelia is skeptical.

First of all, I have to admit how much I love alternate history and fantasy, so this story had an easy time winning me over. The sexism and societal pressure to conform fit with my understanding of the period (and honestly varies from my own, much later, adolescent experience by detail and degree), and adding in twee fairies who allow girls to blossom from awkwardness to beauty is such a perfect way to externalize the process of learning to perform femininity and beauty.

The character of Amelia could very easily have turned into a “not like other girls” trope, but thankfully, the story stops itself from going there. Yes, Amelia is not interested in being beautiful and getting boys to pay attention to her. She’d rather do science. But her neighbor, Betty, who caught her fairy at age nine and is said to be absolutely gorgeous, turns out to be a well-rounded, believable character who is both kind to Amelia and also actually interested in science. I appreciated that the story didn’t pit the two girls against each other, but let them subtly join forces, allowing for the option for a girl to care about her appearance and also her mind.

When Amelia does catch her fairy, it obviously does not go the way her parents or Betty expect it to. But Amelia manages to get what she wants out of the experience regardless. This was a fun story about sexism and adolescence, that I think will speak to people of any gender, wherever and whenever they grew up.

REVIEW: “Better You Than Me” by Natalia Yanchek

Review of Natalia Yanchek, “Better You Than Me”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Death is final, death is permanent, death cannot be changed or escaped. It seems easy and natural to feel that death is the worst possible outcome, to be avoided at all costs.

But death is quick, it is easy, it is momentary, while “sadness is ongoing.” Is it better to die and be wholly extinguished, or to be left behind alive, to mourn the one who has died forever?

In this story, who is dead, who is dying, and who is being killed isn’t always clear. Unfortunately, I felt like it needed to be more clear than it was to really follow what was going on, so in the end I think I missed out on a key piece of the story. This may be one worth rereading, since it was intriguing enough that I would like to know exactly what was going on.

REVIEW: “Eight-Step Kōan” by Anya Ow

Review of Anya Ow, “Eight-Step Kōan”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 103-113. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a beautiful story, of Shyenmu and her mother, who had driven away the dragon that poisoned the river with a seven-step quatrain; of Shyenmu and her own daughter, Mirren, died but a month gone from the water of another dragon-poisoned river; of Shyenmu and her granddaughter, Mirren’s daughter, Kaeyen, and how the two of them set off to see if they can do what Shyenmu’s mother, Kaeyen’s great-grandmother, died: to find the words of power that will shame the dragon and make him leave. It is a story of love and sacrifice, of selfishness and regret.

There were so many layers to the story, getting deeper and deeper as I read, full of myth and detail and great feeling — and the author’s note at the end provides added background. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: “Pulling Secrets from Stones” by Beth Goder

Review of Beth Goder, “Pulling Secrets from stones”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Rachel has too many memories, and “when the secret memories rubbed up against the regular ones…the magic became duller”. So she stored her memories in stones, locking each secret up in a rock, and hiding the rocks in a lake where the touch of water meant she could still access them when needed. But then drought came and now her memories are lost. Rachel cannot find them again until she can master her fear of what they contain.

This story weaves the speculative and the ordinary together in a marvelously seamless way, very enjoyable.

REVIEW: “One Last Ride on the Horse With Purple Roses” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Review of Jennifer Lee Rossman, “One Last Ride on the Horse With Purple Roses”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death of a child.

This story of Eleanor and the little green monster Gidget starts off bright and cheerful. It’s a bit confusing at first because of the lack of context, but the more context we are given, the sadder the story becomes. Really, really sad. By the end, I was crying. If you’re a parent, don’t read this story without having your kid nearby to hug when you’re done.

REVIEW: “Escape” by K. G. Anderson

Review of K. G. Anderson, “Escape”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Shulamit Pelz is on her way from New York to Santa Fe, golem in tow. Ahead of her is a fiancé she’s never met; behind her, two “crazed Kabbalists” tracking her golem. When robbers set upon her carriage, Shulamit is forced into the company of Billy McCarty, “a city boy’s dream of a New Mexico cowboy” for all that he, too, was born in New York, not far from where Shulamit lived. Can she keep the secret of the golem from Billly? What secrets is Billy keeping from her?

Half-way through the story, we find out at least one of Billy’s secrets, and the revelation had me grinning until the end. I very much enjoyed this Jewish speculative Western — the first I’ve ever read of such a genre. One thing that has really become impressed upon me, the more diversely I read, is just how boring lack of diversity is, what a distinct lack of imagination it shows. I’m really glad we have stories like this and journals like Luna Station Quarterly to make it easy for everyone to read diversely.