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

Shimmer, Winter 2007

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"Juana and the Dancing Bear" by n. a. bourke
"Duets" by Philip J. Lees
"Tom Cofferwillow Comes Undone" by Stephen L. Moss
"Catch of the Day" by Michael Livingston
"Eagle-haunted Lake Sammamish" by Cat Rambo
"Night Milling" by Mike Driver
"Dwell on Her Graciousness" by Dario Ciriello

The Winter 2007 issue of Shimmer, edited by by Beth Wodzinski, is full of magic, love, poetic prose, and again, magic. Not the kind of magic you expect in traditional fantasy stories—spells and bewitchment—but the kind of magic that pulses through the veins of a well drafted collection to enchant the heart. You will remember these stories long after you have tucked the small paperback among your other collectibles.

"Juana and the Dancing Bear" by n. a. bourke is a fresh romp through an old fairy tale. It is told with charm and warmth. The Bear is a doomed animal living in servitude, but he has a beautiful secret that he wants to share with the princess, Juana. Juana is an extraordinary character, fraught with frailties and flaws, but possessing a heart forged by Mother Earth herself. In the end, there is a sacrifice, a revealed secret, and a true "happily ever after."

"Duets" by Philip J. Lees explores the seduction of a young man. He meets "her" while she is dispatching her last lover. She is beautiful and clever, a deadly combination for the unwary, yet he thinks he can handle her. After all, he is a talented con man himself. Lees lays the story out in lavish style, keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. I didn't know who to root for, but it didn't matter in the end.

"Tom Cofferwillow Comes Undone" by Stephen L. Moss is written in the most unusual style. The language seems like it is from some forgotten time or perhaps from a time conjured completely by Moss.

'Tis a dark tale to be told at half-past Criventide, when any quavman would be doing a cranny-search for a nail to smoke. Where the kith-rats flee from a skirling joon and a man can look tezzle-timbled to hold tibb with fairies. 'Tis a fine story to lay your lashes, of a man thrashed about between good and evil like a hogsplatter of mortality.

"Catch of the Day" by Micheal Livingston is reminiscent of Men In Black with its dark humor and gritty what-ifism treatment of an alien invasion. There's even a character named "Will."

In it, Dr. Harris rambles on, not sure whether what happened to him is real or not, yet relating it anyway to black-clad government men. The narrative is a flashback to events that happened to Dr. Harris on a seemingly normal day while he was engaged in a seemingly normal activity. The ending is not much of a surprise, but the story was a joy to read.

"Eagle-haunted Lake Sammamish" by Cat Rambo is an offering of well sculpted magic realism that succumbs to turns and twists too numerous to name. At first, it seems to be a quaint tale about a hardhearted modern woman who finds a mythical creature that softens her view of the world. Then, in a climactic turn of events, it becomes a sad horror story with death in the lead role. Though the set-up for the ending was a little pat, it somehow worked.  Rambo's strong voice and voracious style throughout make this a real must-read.  

I couldn't help thinking that Mike Driver has worked a night shift or two after reading "Night Milling." Through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, readers are shown a crime and its perpetrator. Shuttling back and forth, from crime to decades later cover-up to aftermath, it makes a complete 180 towards the end, so drastic it changes the story's genre. While the style wasn't to my liking, the story itself was wickedly gratifying.

"Dwell upon Her Graciousness" by Dario Ciriello is the sort of sci-fi a reader will either really like or really dislike. While I fall into the latter category, this piece kept me reading. Some parts were hard to get through because of my own genre preferences, but even techno-paranoids like me will be drawn in by the strength of the plot.  The characters, while a little shallow, manage to hold together a complex story of commitment and betrayal on the highest scale. Lines become blurred, making it difficult to choose sides.  The ending comes out of nowhere and goes the opposite way that I expected. Ciriello's abilities shine, and I highly recommend this to the sci-fi habitué.