May has arrived. Spring weather sprang and we’ve even had some heat already. I’m finally back in the groove of writing and have churned out a few new short stories as well as made some solid progress on the new novel. I even have a new story sale I hope to be able to crow about soon. But, as usual, most of my stories aren’t a fit for most magazines, or ‘zines aren’t currently open, and so I sit on a pile of unpublished works. Maybe I need to put out my own short story anthology. Hmmm… we’ll see…
Reading short stories has been cramped lately due to work, SFWA volunteer activities, and doing the first of several novel critiques I’m undertaking this year with some Viable Paradise alumni. But I have finally managed to finish the latest issue of Apparition Literary Magazine.
And so…. the stories…
Cover – another gorgeous cover by Erion Makuo, by the way
Queen Minnie’s Last Ride, by Aimee Ogden – The old west has proved a fertile setting for any number of different stories, but particularly ghost stories (and we never get enough of them in my opinion). Aimee takes the basic premise of an old west ghost story, wraps it slickly in a unique and shiny curse, and gives the reader a protagonist and antagonist whose spite and admiration for each other courses clear and bright throughout the story, despite the pain of their relationship and its outcome. I totally dug this tale and its spook gun.
Fifteen Steps, by Marisca Pichette – I’m not entirely sure if this is a story or a poem, though I took it as a story (pretty sure it’s a poem). But what it is to me are fifteen solid pieces of advice for living life and being happy with the choices you make. It doesn’t matter which road you take, pick one. Or pick none. The choice is always yours.
Bride, Knife, and Flaming Horse, by M. L. Krishnan – Dating can be a tough business full of disappointing matches that don’t live up to their billing. It becomes even dicier when your relatives are involved in insisting on your need for marital bliss. The parents of Kalavati are overbearing in this tale of a woman who succumbs to their desires that she wed, but it’s she who takes the reins and finds the right suitor for herself. Or in this case, two suitors, neither of whom is human. The writing is a delicious delight, the choices the author makes surprising, and I’m impressed with the story’s open minded inclusivity about relationships, no matter what form they take. Absolutely loved this one.
Watcher, Worker, by Rona Fernandez – One of the scariest things about dystopias can be the lack of access to relatively common things people take for granted to manage their lives, let alone a serious medical condition. This story hinges on just such a medical crux, but also plays around with concepts of relationships and how things change as time goes on, how our perceptions can vary. How we let our promises define and guide us. This story bogs down a little in the middle with the weight of its backstory, but still has enough heart to get you through to the end. It left me wanting to know what happened next, and that’s always a good note to conclude on.
The Swamp Exchange, by Laura Barker – This story is deliciously, creepily good. One of those stories were we start out sympathizing with the protagonist and, by the end, we’re no longer certain what to think of her. Or anything for that matter. This is the kind of ghost story I prefer, one that comes with its own sense of rules and reality, and which bucks the normal tropes surrounding tales of the spooky. Toss in a wicked not-step-sister and you end up with something that hits the broad strokes of a fairy tale, but not the modern Disney kind. The older, darker, the world is going to drown you kind. Brothers Grim, eat your heads off.
All in all, this was a fine and wonderful issue with some seriously great stories involved. Kudos to all the writers! I kept thinking this issue was lighter than past ones, but nope… I just enjoyed the reading so much it went by much too fast!