REVIEW: “Like a Bell Through the Night” by Kayla Bashe

Review of Kayla Bashe, “Like a Bell Through the Night”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Jaffa Volkovitch like many other women had a childhood penfriend. Unlike many other women, Jaffa’s penfriend was a fairy, Rihannon; and unlike many other woman, Jaffa herself was a werewolf. Now Jaffa’s grown up, and Rihannon’s letter catches her by surprise: I’m coming. Help. But what kind of help can a fairy need? And what kind of help can Jaffa offer?

The story itself was fun enough, but I found the presentation/narration of it confusing; it started off in 3rd person, from Jaffa’s point of view, but scattered throughout were 1st person portions, which I never quite figured out who they were, no matter how many times I went back and re-read it. At first I thought they were actually Jaffa’s internal thoughts, but there was never anything that marked them off as such; however, after the third or fourth try, I suddenly realised that the POV had switched to Rihannon, which made me think then that maybe they were her internal thoughts. In the end, I felt the narrative issues in the beginning of the story preventing me from fully enjoying the plot, sadly, even once we got past the issues.

REVIEW: “The Incident at Women’s Town” by Lara Ek

Review of Lara Ek, “The Incident at Women’s Town”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The thing I struggled with the most was the fact that the story was written in dialect, specifically one that is intended to mimic the white American idea of how Black people, especially in the South, speak. It always makes me uncomfortable. In my own writing, I try to avoid phonetically representing dialects, because most of the time this sort of language is used as a means of othering a certain class of people/characters who don’t fit a particular set of linguistic norms — white, well-educated, English-speaking norms. As a reader, I am deeply uncomfortable when white authors try to write in a “Black” voice; on the other hand, I don’t think white people have any business policing Black authors who are writing in their own vernacular. So this is a particular stylistic choice where knowing the background of the author affects the way I interpret the choice. Unfortunately, spending all this time worrying about who the author was meant I never get to quite enjoy the story itself.

I’m also not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed the story without the issues of style, because of the unpleasant and sometimes disappointing nature of the content. The inciting incidents require a content note, of murder and sexual assault of a minor. Sarah, the FMC, turns out to be ace — which made me happy when this was first made clear, ace heroines are hard to come by! — but we find out she is ace just after she’s propositioned by a man, and just before she decides to go against a lifetime of, as she describes it, “I ain’t had stirring toward women nor men since I was born”, and agree to sleep with him simply because it “‘Could be interesting. Something I never done’.” Someday the default will be ace characters who are ace because they are, not because it can be turned into a plot point. But not in this story.

REVIEW: “Sex After Fascism” by Audie Shushan

Review of Audie Shushan, “Sex After Facism”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The story kicks off with Kris on her way to who-knows-where for who-knows-why, but she’s in the company of her new-boss-cum-new-crush, so she doesn’t mind. Her narration is filled with a wry humor, poking fun at the experience of being a modern woman (and reading modern women’s magazines) and constantly second-guessing and revising her descriptions. She is entirely engaging and loveable — except I have to say, who doesn’t like pecan pie?!

But the story itself seemed a story of two parts; and the quirky, enthusiastic Kris of the first half gives way to a much weirder and darker story in the second half. Without the second half, there would’ve been no speculative element to the story; with the second half, I’m not entirely sure how well the story functions as a whole.

REVIEW: “Genie’s Retirement” by Sarah Newman

Review of Sarah Newman, “Genie’s Retirement”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Retirement doesn’t mean quite the same thing for a Genesis Model household AI robot as it does for a human person. It’s not like robots have hobbies, after all, or need to move to warmer, sunnier climes to soothe their aching bones. But robot bodies get old, software gets outdated, and eventually their “life” must come to an end. Newman’s story explores what this end might look like, in a sympathetic and touching way.

REVIEW: “…But Not Too Bold” by L. M. Davenport

Review of L. M. Davenport, “…But Not Too Bold”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was an eminently peculiar story. I found myself reading it in fits and starts, going for a few paragraphs and then having to back-track and re-read. Ordinarily a story that makes me feel like I have to stop midway through and re-read because I’ve missed something crucial or something doesn’t make sense irritates me. This story, though, balanced on the fine line between fantasy/fairy tale and surreal that each read through brought with it a new detail or a new understanding, and helped build up different layers. No matter how often I read (or re-read) it, I was never quite sure what was going on, what was real, what was not. I really enjoyed it.

REVIEW: “How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend” by Kristen Brand

Review of Kristen Brand, “How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love a good title, and this is a great title.

From such a title, one might think that the feature characters would be Lady Nightmare and Captain Alpha. But instead, it’s the unnamed girlfriend (who gets her name, Sara, in the first sentence of the story) that is the center of things. The tone that the narration takes, through a close 3rd person POV focused on Sara, is chatty and accessible, even when Sara is in the midst of experiences few readers can relate to (how many people have been taken hostage not once, but twice? And by a supervillain?). I found myself grinning intermittently (how can you not grin at sentences like “If Sara had known someone would be breaking into her home today, she would have cleaned”?) and rooting for Sara from the get-go. It didn’t take very long into the story before I’d formed a hope of how the rest of it would go, and Brand did not disappoint: I got exactly the happy ending I wanted. This was one of the most enjoyable, laugh-out-loud-able stories I’ve read recently, and I’m so glad I went back into the LSQ archives and found it.