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

Shimmer #24, March/April 2015

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Shimmer #24, March 2015

 
"The Scavenger's Nursery" by Maria Dahvana Headley
"The Cult of Death" by KL Pereira
"You Can Do It Again" by Michael Ian Bell
"Come My Love and I'll Tell You a Tale" by Sunny Moraine

Reviewed by Charles Payseur

The garbage of the world gains sentience and rises in "The Scavenger's Nursery" by Maraia Dahvana Headley. If that's not one of the most frightening images you've ever encountered, perhaps it should be. Because garbage is, nearly literally, everywhere. And the thought of our landfills standing up and deciding that they have as much right to the earth as we do is…well, the story makes good use out of this incredibly interesting premise, following the general collapse of human civilization as we know it now and focusing on various moments of a few people. A scientist who is among the first to study the new trash-creatures and who ends up joining them, abandoning her old life. A boy who found a young trash-baby and brought it home as a pet only for it and its mother to grow and destroy his city. There are instances of tenderness and caring, both with the humans and these new beings, but overall the story is a bit chilling, a bit unsettling. Certainly it confronts the reader with just how much trash is produced in this world, and how much each person contributes, and how terrifying it can be. It's a rather stark and almost nostalgic look at consumer culture contrasted with the end of the world as we know it (and hopefully we don't feel fine about that). A fantastic read.

KL Pereira crafts the story of a young girl with a voice that calls Death in "The Cult of Death." Told in second person, the reader becomes this child whose voice kills those who hear it. Though careful ever since accidentally killing her father as a young child, the girl cannot help but speak occasionally, and the guilt (magnified by her very Catholic community) makes her hate herself and her voice. It's not until a woman with metal hands and feet comes to town that things start to change for her, for you. Because this woman, Marsha, is also an outcast, and the girl finds that she can talk to Marsha, that her voice is not dangerous to this outsider. The two grow close telling each other their secrets, and they are some depressing secrets, the tragedy of both their tales entwining to form a pattern of oppression that they stand poised to break through. There is that glimmer of hope at the end that however tragic their lives, there is a way out, a way forward. Though both Marsha and the girl have lost things, they are certainly not monsters, not evil, and do not deserve whatever punishments people choose to inflict on them. While the girl's voice might indeed call Death, that ability is still a gift, something that she can use for good. It's a quiet story, broken by some brief moments of magic, but in the end the softer approach pays off well.

Marco, a dealer of the drug Redo, that lets the taker relive memories, finds himself circling through the same routine, unable to get beyond a single event in his past, in Michael Ian Bell's "You Can Do It Again." From a young age, Marco was on a path that would take him to where he's ended up, a drug dealer living in a small apartment, eking out an existence and hoping desperately that he can still change himself. Instead of working on his present, though, he uses his drugs to try and change the past, to try to change a single event, the last time that he saw his brother Francisco. And yet every time he goes back he finds himself unable to form the words needed to connect to his brother. Every time Francisco drives away and Marco wakes and starts over again, telling himself that he has time, that he can do it again. It's not a happy story, mixing the rather crushing conditions of his upbringing with the regret of not knowing how to tell his brother that he loves him. And that failure to express, that way that he's been trained not to show his emotions like that, keeps him locked in his cycle, keeps him dealing and near to death. The story works, manages to evoke a strong sense of loss and yearning and a sort of hopeless circle, because in reality there is no going back to change things, and as long as that's what Marco keeps on after, his goal will forever be out of reach.

A plea from one survivor of an apocalypse to another, "Come My Love and I'll Tell You a Tale" by Sunny Moraine is a series of begging requests for stories of happier times. Through them, through the desperation of the survivor, the landscape of the world is revealed, and it is ugly. Fires and hunger and a collapse of everything and so much death. The sort of numb need of the survivor stretches on, agonizingly pulling out detail after detail, horror after horror. It is a testament to the story that it managed to leave me just sort of staring blankly ahead, a dull ache inside me and the feeling of just having crawled up from somewhere dark and hot and hostile. The structure of the story, which isn't all that long, is designed to seem like it's taking forever, delaying the realization that the person the survivor is pleading with is already dead, and that the survivor is going to have to make, or has already made, some very difficult choices as to what to do about it. Wow. This is a sort of punishing story, effective but difficult to read. For people looking for something that feels truly lost, that gives a glimpse and taste of what it must feel like to live through something so terrible, look no further. Just make sure you have a folder of happy animal pictures to follow it up with, because they will be required after this story.


Charles Payseur lives with his partner and their growing herd of pets in the icy reaches of Wisconsin, where companionship, books, and craft beer get him through the long winters. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and Nightmare Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @ClowderofTwo