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

Apex Magazine #67, December 2014

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Apex Magazine, #67 December 2014

Anthracite Weddings” by John Zaharick
Keep Talking” by Marie Vibbert
Griefbunny” by Brooke Juliet Wonders
Henrietta’s Garden” by Rebecca Kaplan

Reviewed by Clancy Weeks

John Zaharick in his horror tale “Anthracite Weddings” gives us a peek into the lives of the McCormicks and the Sewards in the coal mining town of Collierburg. The McCormicks own the mine, and everyone works for them in one form or another. Katherine Seward is Elisha McCormick’s “double,” and therefore able to confuse the Blind Ones—evil spirits—to keep Elisha safe from harm during her wedding. When Elisha disappears, Katherine is out of a job, but none of that matters anymore because a Blind One has already begun to visit her. There is a rich history hiding between the lines of this story, and I always feel there is more just around the corner. In the end, it all boils down to class warfare—but while all the physical tools that matter belong to the rich, other, less corporeal, are often wielded to better effect by those who need them most. The writing here is clean and tight, and the characters each have a strong voice. Recommended.

Keep Talking” by Marie Vibbert is not your typical first contact story. While the aliens are the driving force for the narrative, they are really only backseat drivers where the plot is concerned. This is, indeed, a first contact story, but the action centers around the relationship between Gerald, a single parent, and his eighteen year old daughter, Sarah, who is functionally autistic. While Miranda, Gerald’s girlfriend, is a bit of window-dressing, her character does at least propel the narrative when necessary. Overall, I like this story. Gerald, like most fathers, believes he is absolutely a necessary part of his daughter’s life, believing she can’t function without him. At last, he must come to terms with the fact that she is independent, and meets this new young woman for the first time. Good stuff.

Griefbunny” by Brooke Juliet Wonders is a beautiful tale of the world’s strangest grief counselor. Lola and her younger brother, Teddy, are orphaned by the death of their father and subsequent abandonment by their mother, living in a trailer in the desert. The night their mother leaves, a small jackrabbit enters their lives, and Teddy takes to it immediately. As the story progresses, the rabbit grows to enormous proportions, matching the growth of their grief. Metaphor and imagery come together quite well in this story, and the pain both characters feel is palpable. By the end I was drained, much like the movie The Pursuit of Happyness did to me a few years ago. This is definitely worth the read.

I’m not sure how to feel about “Henrietta’s Garden.” Rebecca Kaplan has crafted a nice story about a woman who embraces her grief to the point where she allows it to take her over completely. The whole time I was reading this, I couldn’t help thinking about it as a mirror image of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Ms. Kaplan also manages to capture much of that writing style in this tale, and I appreciate the tenor and atmosphere she injects into her writing. The ending, however, has such a jarring shift in point of view character that it weakens the narrative. Without that, I would have liked this story much more than I do.

Clancy Weeks is a composer by training, with over two-dozen published works for wind ensemble and orchestra, and an author only in his fevered imagination. Having read SF/F for nearly fifty years, he figured “What the hell, I can do that,” and has set out to prove that, well… maybe not so much. He currently resides in Texas, but don’t hold that against him.