REVIEW: “The Remains of Prophecy” by Rebecca Bennett

Review of Rebecca Bennett, “The Remains of Prophecy Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: Infant death, death in childbirth, abortion.

The queen has died in childbirth, the king has promised that the baby, their seventh daughter, will wed the seventh son of a seventh son.

Gracie is just a peasant wife, but her husband Hector was himself a seventh son, and Gracie is pregnant again. But so many of her other children have died, and she cannot face pregnancy again — not even for the possibility that their son might wed a princess.

This was a story infused with magic, and portents, and desperation. Gracie is torn between Hector’s desires and her own quietest secret, and in the end must make an impossible decision.

REVIEW: “Not Fade Away” by Shana Ross

Review of Shana Ross, “Not Fade Away”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Gabby, salty and brusque, is a witch in private practice — she’s building up a clientele of people in need of three wishes, a glimpse of the future, or, in the case of the anonymous young girl who arrived on her doorstep without any appointment, a potion. Not just any potion, but a particular one:

it was such a straightforward potion – you drank it, it gave you what you wanted most. And so everyone got what they deserved.

But as in any proper fairy tale, what is promised is not what is given. Listening to Gabby recount to her friend Natalie what has happened to those she has given this particular potion to in the past took the story from fantasy and back into a chilling reality — how many of the desires that were granted are ones that so many ordinary women desire, day in and day out? What could’ve been a somewhat saccharine modern-day fairy-tale ended up a sad commentary on modern society.

REVIEW: “Nora’s Potion Jar” by Emilee Martell

Review of Emilee Martell, “Nora’s Potion Jar”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The titular potion-maker Nora is six years old, living with her two dads, mixing potions to make the sunflowers tell her the truth or to lend some extra bravery to an abused and neglected cat. The trials and tribulations of a six year old are just as big and important as the ones adults face, and Nora must use all her cleverness and skill to face them.

I can often be found on twitter longing for more cosy short SFF — stories about extraordinary people doing ordinary and extraordinary things and being happy. To anyone else who wants the same, I can happily recommend Martell’s story.

REVIEW: “Three Small Sacrifices” by Janna Miller

Review of Janna Miller, “Three Small Sacrifices”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is the story of a witch who lives deep in the swamps, surrounded by Spanish moss and water running lazily. It’s a traditional fairy tale type story — a man comes to seek a boon off the witch, and in return is charged with three tasks — at times gruesome, at times predictable. The ending disappointed me, though, in that it lacked the satisfying resolution that a fairy tale usually has; instead, it felt like it just ended, abruptly.

REVIEW: “Song Xiuyun” by A Que

Review of A Que, “Song Xiuyun”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Clocking in at over 10k words, this is more of a short novella. An arresting take from the very beginning, it drew me in immediately.

The concept in itself is something that has been done before, but not quite in this way. Song Xiuyun loves her son Li Chuan very much, and will believe everything he says to her. Wu Huang drives a remote powered car from the comfort of her home, and picks up Song Xiuyun and Li Chuan as passengers. This is where Song Xiuyun is telling Wu Huang the story, and Wu Huang is often affected by the narrative in a deeply personal way.

The story’s narrative format does increase it’s impact on the reader as well. Both Song Xiuyun and her son Li Chuan try quite hard to make each other happy. The ambiguous ending could go in many ways, but none of the options are perfect. It’s significant because if you think about all the possible options that are presented there, you’ll see that all of them have a tinge of sadness in a certain way.

A lovely tale that is fairly emotional but also about how lies can sometimes be the only thing that can make a loved one happy. A grey area to be sure, but sometimes that’s justified, or at least it can be, if you’re willing to believe in people.

REVIEW: “National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity” by Youha Nam

Review of Youha Nam, “National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in a future dystopian timeline, this story focuses on acceptance, dignity and death. A world where, if you can’t pay survival tax, you’re. In effect, poor people who can’t afford it are taken to the National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity.

When our protagonist gets the final letter asking for payment, she knows this is it. Her hours, not even days, are now numbered. The story is a peek into how she handles this, knowing her own time and manner of death.

The National Center is a place of mild luxury, for people to her to enjoy their last hours. Everyone handles this news and revelation differently, and our protagonist seeks dignity.

Her dignity is a character of the story in itself, something that she clings onto quite strongly.

REVIEW: “An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God” by P H Lee

Review of P H Lee, “An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unusual sort of first contact story. Zhou is a young magistrate in a post where he has to do nothing but stay out of trouble. Indeed, his posting was chosen for this exact reason. Nepotism mixed with his inability to actually take decisions is a larger part of this story than you would expect.

The first contact, the girl creature, is not entirely human, but isn’t not human either. She shows a different kind of life, a different way of existence, one that may bring hope but may also be unsettling for many – and not just due to fear of the unknown. Her life, culture and way of communication is something humans have never seen before. Zhou himself is unsure of how to react to something possibly so monumental that he inadvertently doesn’t.

A nice insight into the bureaucratic systems of old as well..but in space.