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

Diabolical Plots #34, December 2017

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Diabolical Plots #34, December 2017

The Leviathans Have Fled the Sea” by Jon Lasser

Hakim Vs. the Sweater Curse” by Rachael K. Jones

Reviewed by Colleen Chen

Hakim Vs. the Sweater Curse” by Rachael K. Jones is a disturbing but darkly funny piece about the narrator, Hakim, receiving a sweater hand-knit by his boyfriend Kit. It’s not the hideous pattern or irregular shape of the sweater that bothers him, but the fact that it’s undulating, moving of its own volition. Still, with Kit’s tears and insistences, Hakim realizes how much it means to Kit and decides it’s a worthwhile sacrifice to put it on. As he does so, he feels the sweater burrowing into his skin. A trooper in love, he makes the best of it.

The author adds some background to this story that’s worth reading—talking about the “sweater curse” that any time a knitter makes their loved one a sweater, it spells doom for the relationship. The story is a tongue-in-cheek literal imagining of that curse, with a creep factor only matched by its cleverness. I can’t say I exactly enjoyed it, but it gave me a discomfort I appreciated and the writing is wonderful.

In “The Leviathans Have Fled the Sea,” by Jon Lasser, former whaling captain Elizabeth Jackson recounts a tale of the first mermaid she ever met. Whalers fly airships over the seas, which has increased the efficiency of whale-killing to the point that hunters have difficulty finding any more. Elizabeth’s crew of women, needing to find a more lucrative occupation, decide to hunt recently-sighted mermaids. When the crew finds and catches a mermaid, she kills one of them—and is killed in return. Elizabeth, finding a metal plate with name and address engraved on it amongst the bolts and brass flukes that made up the mermaid’s fishtail, is troubled enough to seek the address to answer questions about the mermaids’ existence.

This is a satisfying, cleanly written story with a moral message about the short-sightedness that often accompanies technological advances. It also emphasizes female strength—almost all of the characters in the story are female, and they are doing things that men typically do—sailing and whaling, hunting, killing. The roles of the heroine and anti-heroine are the same, though—that of protector, and it’s a role for both genders at their full maturity. I enjoyed this story for its messages as well as its uniqueness and depth.