With summer in the rear view, I’m now gearing up for my next trip in January, 2022, when I’ll be attending COSine in Colorado Springs. Both Connie Willis and C.J. Cherryh will be there, two of my long-time favorite authors, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet them. Hopefully get them to sign a book as well.

I’m a bit miffed about travel arrangements, though. Flights are running $350 and up, which isn’t terrible, but like always I’d hoped to take the train. Alas, though the prices there are much better ($181 for coach), the time it takes to ride a train from here to Colorado Springs is ridiculously long. 43 hours is the least length of time. Two days to travel there is silly and far too long. We need to rethink and redo our entire passenger rail system. If I can get someplace faster by driving, even with an overnight hotel stay, then our rail system is completely broken. That’s probably by design, too. Because nothing says “‘Merica!” like fucking up mass transit in favor of more cars.

Maybe I’ll drive. Who knows. Plenty of time between now and January to work that out, but the hotel room is book and I’ve registered for the conference. Travel will wait. And with the Delta variant ravishing parts of the nation, travel may still be something that’s best put on hold for the time being.

Let’s get to the reviews…

I Wear Spiders in Remembrance of Myself, by Kel Coleman – This story is bonkers weird, and I adored it for that alone. But when you dig deeper into this tale of people who can see and must live with the spiders that they create throughout their lives, it becomes much more than a simple piece of surreal fiction and a deeper reflection of how we carry our trauma with us and how acceptance of those parts of our lives, rather than denial and hiding them away, are one step towards healing ourselves and being seen. Lovely damned story.

The Godmaker’s Cure, by December Cuccaro – This was a beautiful and charming story. I loved the central speculative concept – people who have the ability to forge out of natural materials the gods others might worship; materials including the very bones of their mothers. But I also loved that the story used that concept as a fulcrum that twisted the tale to become something quite different and deeply personal to the god maker herself. Knowing myself and my relationship to my older brother, I felt that twist deep in my heart. An enjoyable and heart felt read.

Mushroom Head, by Marla Bingcang – So phew. I’ve read this story twice now, and I’m still. Just. This story is a hard read for a lot of reasons. It’s also fucking amazing, so let’s get that out of the way. The horror of this story is revealed inch by painful inch through the letters the narrator writes to their missing father. Its first line rocks you, and you’re left unbalanced all the way to the last. Your discomfort made worse by the obliviousness of our young writer to what you gradually realize has happened and is going to happen. It reminded me of The Bletted Woman from the March/April edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction, in that we have someone who is going through dysmorphic changes to their body, changes that they approach with less revulsion than you think should be warranted. At the same time, there are themes of poverty, starvation, and neglect through the narrative that hit me with an emotional brick given my own childhood of deprivation. Crazy good story, crazy HARD story, one I wish I hadn’t put into my eye holes and one I can’t now forget.

She Dreams in Bronze, by Sylvia Ho – A darkly sweet story about a statue and a curse and a magical hotel. Which, by the way, has always been one of my favorite tropes. I expected a darker ending to this one, and was pleased when the author twisted it and gave us a “happily for now” end, because this issue was already a hard read and I wasn’t sure I could handle any more tragedy. A different kind of contamination for this one, and much appreciated.

Poems by Ewan Ma and Venne Hrzaan round out this excellent, dark, deeply thoughtful issue. In all honesty, I had some trouble with these stories. Not because they are in any way bad, oh no, no, no. They troubled me, got inside me, wormed into my brain… just like contamination should. It’s a well-themed issue, with strong stories all around.

 

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