REVIEW: “The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto” by Annalee Newitz

Review of Annalee Newitz, “The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto”, Robots vs Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Gallery / Saga Press, 2018): 83-98 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Susan T. (Read the review of the anthology.)

RealBoy is a manufacturing robot in a toy factory, who wakes up one day to find that the titular Blue Fairy is infecting them with malware in an attempt to bring them around to the cause of the robotic revolution. It is an interesting story, and I think I can appreciate what it’s doing – RealBoy, once they have done their research, is in favour of choice, free will, and working with others, while Blue Fairy is a propagandist who wants short cuts to revolution.

(Why put the work in to change minds when you can inject your propaganda directly into your targets and force them to believe as you do? Why take part in incremental progress or the work that other people are doing, when you can just burn it all down overnight and damn the consequences? Why do your research when you can just cherrypick the things that agree with you? … Why does this all sound familiar from arguments on twitter?)

I’d be interested in knowing more about the world setting – all of the robots in the factory appear to have been salvaged from other roles, for example, and there’s very little sense of scale until RealBoy gets out into the real world – but on the whole, I found it to be equal parts fascinating and exhausting as a political allegory.

REVIEW: “Streuobstwiese” by Steve Toase

Review of Steve Toase, “Streuobstwiese”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 27-33 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The jerky cadences of this story gave me little snapshots of the world in which it is set, but never quite enough for me to feel like I knew what was going on. While I like writing slice-of-life/vignette fiction, I’m never entirely convinced how well it works as a story-telling technique, and in this case, I don’t think it quite worked for me.

When I finished the story, I went to translate the title — I recognised it as German, and recognised part of the compound, but did not know the sense of the whole thing. Unfortunately, the translation I got — “Orchard” — did not help shed any light on what, exactly, was going on.

REVIEW: “Rotkäppchen” by Emily McCosh

Review of Emily McCosh, “Rotkäppchen”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 7-18 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I enjoy fairy tale retellings that give me something new. At first, I thought this was a retelling from the point of view of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother; but then some ways in it became clear that in “Rotkäppchen”, McCosh is telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood grown up, and now a grandmother herself, living alone in the forest. Her son is dead and her granddaughter, Fern, lives on the edge of the woods.

When Fern comes to visit her grandmother, there is a sense of the story cycle repeating itself, for Fern, too, finds a wolf in her grandmother’s cottage. But there is always so much more to a story than what you are first told, and this story is as much the wolf’s as it is Little Red Riding Hood’s.

REVIEW: “From the Void” by Sarah Gailey

Review of Sarah Gailey, “From the Void”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 95-104 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There are so many stories of space ships full of crew in stasis pods, and then inevitable things-going-wrong when they come out. This story is yet another one.

I would’ve sighed and shook my head (and continued reading nonetheless) after seeing that this was the case, were it not for the very interesting way in which religion plays counterpart to the traditional sci-fi model these stories usually fit — there is a lot more praying, creeds, baptisms, and high priestesses in Gailey’s story than in the usual space odyssey story. A lot more religion, and a lot more horror, too. It’s not a pleasant story, though it is finely constructed.

REVIEW: “40 Facts About the Strip Mall at the Corner of Never and Was” by Alex Acks

Review of Alex Acks, “40 Facts About the Strip Mall at the Corner of Never and Was”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 44-47 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

1. I love the title.
2. This piece is exactly what it says it is.
3. It’s surprising how well you can tell a story through a series of facts.
4. Ordinarily, strip malls feel to me like the last defense of a city against the end of civilisation: They are horrid and desolate things. But this one is not; perhaps because it has already gone beyond the pale.
5. I find it hard to believe that no one ever buys the butter pecan. Butter pecan is one of the top three ice cream flavors (joint first with mint chocolate chip and caramel cashew).
6. Sprinkles should never be optional.
7. Instead of giving you 40 facts about this story, I’ll end with a seventh and final one: You ought to read it.

And that’s a fact.

REVIEW: “Thistledown Sky” by Stephen Case

Review of Stephen Case, “Thistledown Sky”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 107-111 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story is told in five parts, moving from factual to elaborate to finally each more spare and pared down than the last. Ostensibly it’s a story of faster-than-light space travel, but really it’s that story from the point of view of those left behind. How does one cognize what has happened when one’s child or friend or parent or lover has slipped beyond the bounds of lightspeed? “I just called it death,” the narrator tells us, but this is not because FTL travel is an irrevocable severing, but because maybe perhaps death is not.

REVIEW: “The Witch in the Woods Falls in Love a Third Time” by Kate Lechler

Review of Kate Lechler, “The Witch in the Woods Falls in Love a Third Time”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 21-23 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

One of my favorite fairy tales is the tale of the two sisters, the one cursed by a witch so that toads and frogspawn fell out of her mouth whenever she spoke, the other blessed by the same witch so that jewels and gold fell out of her mouth whenever she spoke. Lechler’s story is a completely different telling of this story, a short but sweet — but at the same time ugly and harsh — story of a witch and the two girls she loved.