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.

REVIEW: “Itself at the Heart of Things” by Andrea Corbin

Review of Andrea Corbin’s, “Itself at the Heart of Things”, Shimmer, 38: [Read Online]. Reviewed by Sarah Grace Liu.

There are times that I feel a story is smarter than I am, and that story is “Itself at the Heart of Things” by Andrea Corbin. It is a story both dream sequence and metaphor, both apocalyptic and ordinary (in the best way).

The narrator and her husband are disassembling themselves throughout the story, piece by piece, in the face of a coming invasion. The world only knows that the Szemurians are coming because they are each and all dreaming of them, each dream a different path to destruction.

The narrative is lyric and beautiful. I was never sure whether the narrator was some kind of android, or whether she was speaking of her dream, or whether she was speaking in riddles. There was overlap, perhaps, and the entire thing feels more like a way of speaking about relationships than anything else:

I held the makeshift satchel of myself, and he held me, and we left.

And isn’t that like any disaster?

There wasn’t much more that we could do for each other. An arm each, a head each, leaving enough to hold each other, and not enough to come apart entirely. We would lay ourselves out in all our parts, reordered and useless

It is as if Corbin is saying, The world will end this way, and this way, and this way, and we are all doing our small things, and sometimes we do those things together.