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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Shimmer, #2, Winter 2006

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“Action Team-Ups Number Thirty-Seven” by Ken Scholes
“Sell Your Soul to the Devil Blues” by Tom Pendergrass
“Route Nine” by Samantha Henderson
“The Goldsmith” by Ian Creasey
“Music in D Minor” by Erynn Miles
“Neighbor” by Jason A. D. MacDonald
“The Persian Box” by Gerald Costlow
“One-Leaf-Two” by Edo Mor
“The Black Back-Lands” by Jay Lake

I missed the premier issue of Shimmer, but found this second issue a joy to read.  It was like opening a box of mixed chocolates.  Although I like some of the fillings better than others, all were delicious and I couldn’t stop eating (er...reading) until all were consumed.
 
“Action Team-Ups Number Thirty-Seven” by Ken Scholes takes us behind the scenes for a look at what really goes on in nursing homes.  With the graying of America, we’re seeing a lot more stories featuring... um... mature protagonists (and about time, sez I).  I snickered most of the way through this one.  Cal Carlson, formerly known as the Night Marauder, still manages to enjoy life even though he’s pushing 90 and running around in a wheelchair.  Then his old arch-nemesis, Lunatic the Clown, shows up, under the alias of Dirk Derringer.  None of the old gang will help.  Is the Night Marauder in danger?  Will there be bloodshed?  Or will we just learn a new use for Jell-O and Skittles?

In “Sell Your Soul to the Devil Blues,” Tom Pendergrass has managed to come up with a new twist on the old bargain-with-the-devil theme.  To begin with, the Devil, or his agent Beelzebub, doesn’t even want to buy Jimmy’s soul.  Hell’s overcrowded already, with souls waiting in line to get in.  Besides, he figures Jimmy’s already on a one-way trip to damnation, so why pay for something he’s sure to get eventually for free?  But Jimmy is a persistent and resourceful man, determined to realize his dream of being a famous bluesman despite his lack of talent, and comes up with a scheme that earns him the supernatural intervention he seeks.
 
“Route Nine” by Samantha Henderson is one of those spooky truck-stop stories.  Lock the doors before you read it. Close the curtains and turn up the lights, and don’t even think about going out for apricot pie. 

Joe has already been warned by his friend Manny about the dangers of route nine, but he shrugs it off.  Sure, he’s seen a few weird things himself, but nothing he’d consider dangerous.  “Weird’s got to go somewhere, after all.”  But a strange encounter at his favorite cafe, the Lemon Tree, is enough to change his mind.  Now the big question is, will They let him escape? 
 
“The Goldsmith” by Ian Creasey is short, but packs a punch.  Seeking to bind her lover to her forever, Corinne has commissioned a very special set of betrothal rings.  The results are not quite what she expected.
 
What would it be like, if you could hear everyone’s inner music?  Would it lead to greater understanding, a world filled with harmony?  In “Music in D Minor,” Erynn Miles offers us a tantalizing glimpse of the world as Ellie sees and hears it.  “We all produce music within ourselves—and each person’s basic instrumentation changes in the presence of others, creating grand symphonies and compositions.”

For Ellie, the compassion she feels for her patients and coworkers in the cancer ward where she works as a nurse, her love for her dying companion, Charlie, and her own inner needs are all expressed as audible music. This is a poignant tale of life, and love, and hope.

“Neighbor” by Jason A. D. MacDonald brought to mind Jack Nicholson’s wonderful portrayal of an obsessive-compulsive writer in As Good as it Gets.  Adam Connelly is obviously paranoid, and probably schizophrenic as well.  He carries on a running battle with his unseen neighbor, finally working himself up to confront his tormentor, who seems to know everything about him.  So did he imagine the whole thing?  Or was there really someone—or something—in the “empty” apartment upstairs?  Either way, you’re in for an emotional roller-coaster ride that may leave you, too, questioning the nature of reality.

“The Persian Box” by Gerald Costlow is a tale told in a bar, a variation on the classic theme of tantalizing, hidden knowledge: forbidden fruit, Pandora’s box, Bluebeard’s closet. Is the stranger on the level, or is he a con artist looking for free drinks?  What’s in that mysterious box?  Would you risk opening it?  How long could you resist the temptation?

“One-Leaf-Two” by Edo Mor is a moving, poetic story of lovers cruelly parted, seeking to regain that which was lost.  It doesn’t matter that they aren’t human; love and pain speak a universal language.

I’ve been told that I’m too literal-minded for my own good, and that may be so.  On the surface, “The Black Back-Lands” by Jay Lake is about an incident in the life of an ordinary village boy, who tends to daydream as he hauls water.  Okay, maybe not too ordinary, since he regularly converses with the Old Dead whose bones lie along the way.  It’s the encounter with the Silent Person and the pumpkin that I didn’t quite get.  On the surface, it appears that the boy has banished the Silent One, and the pumpkin is now just a pumpkin and can be safely eaten.  Or maybe not?