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.

REVIEW: “Evangelina’s Dream” by Jasmine Shea Townsend

Review of Jasmine Shea Townsend, “Evangelina’s Dream”, in Fairy Tales and Space Dreams (Jasmine Shea Townsend, 2019): 96-105 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This final story in the anthology, and the last of the space dreams, picks up the story of the titular character of the previous one, “The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld”, which, despite the title, was more about River Seung than it was about Sophie Zetyld.

The story is divided into six parts, Negatio (“denial”), Iracundia (“irascibility”), Pacisci (“to bargain or negotiate”), Exanimationes Incidamus (“deaths might happen”), Acceptatio (“acceptance”), Excitatus (“I woke up”). Each is a snapshot of a dream, a dream dreamt by a body that is not used to dreaming, not used to eating, not used to being human. How much is real and how much is merely a dream is not clear, as it is in the truest and most vivid of dreams, but in it we learn much about Sophie’s previous life and her current desires. This one didn’t make me laugh quite as much as the “Cosmic Adventures” did, but I think I appreciated it more.

REVIEW: “An Astronaut Lights a Candle” by Megan Neumann

Review of Megan Neumann, “An Astronaut Lights a Candle”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The most curious and intriguing aspect of this story, for two dozen or so of paragraphs, is the title — without the information that the character lighting the candle is an astronaut, we would never know from the narration itself. What we know from the start is that Siobhan, the narrator, is the one who must put out the candle — but is she the one who lights it?

Who lights it, who the astronaut is, why Siobhan must douse the candle, all these questions are wrapped up in a story of cancer, time travel, and love, a solid, engaging story.

REVIEW: “Wired” by Tianna Ebnet

Review of Tianna Ebnet, “Wired”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In this story, people are hired to become “the Wired”, a short-term lucrative job in which they give up their body and autonomy to become cogs in a giant human-AI machine, keeping systems running efficiently, purifying and filtering air, running security interference.

The narrator of the story tells his experiences in the second-person — you, you, you — a narrative choice I usually dislike. (I don’t like people telling me what to do and feel, or do feel.) But here the “you” doesn’t feel directed at the reader; it feels more like a way of one person explaining how radically othered this portion of their life feels — there is continuity of something between Before and After becoming one of the Wired, but it’s certainly not bodily continuity, and it’s not entirely mental/personal continuity either. So the choice for the narrator to tell their own story with “you” rather than “I” serves to emphasise this split, as if the narrator is telling the story to himself, in a way which felt both realistic and sympathetic. The story only got stronger and stronger as it went on, and this one definitely wins ‘best in issue’ from me.