Inquisitive by Pip Coen, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, May/June 2018

This novelet takes place in a dystopian world in which inquisitors can question any member of the public and torture them by removing their memories of friends, family, self, etc.

cov1805lg-250It begins with Saffi, a brilliant, yet socially inept young girl who cannot read peoples’ facial expressions and cannot understand inflection, so will only speak when asked a question.

As the piece progresses, so does Saffi’s understanding of human interaction. Though as someone who judges everything on logical assessments, she is unable to understand why people laugh or smile–ever.

Eventually, she leaves home and seeks to become an inquisitor, though no woman has ever been one before.

On the surface of this piece is a dystopian society that story breaks the mold of having someone rebels, and instead has the main character buy into it. But the deeper subject matter is concerned with glass ceilings, social interaction, love vs logic, and the morality of hoarding educational opportunities. A piece that builds a whole world in a short time, that immerses you and demands to be read. (C+)

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The Barrens by Stephanie Feldman, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, May/June

I have not been so diligent lately in my reading. Luckily, I should have more time starting late next week, as a job I have been work is coming to a close.

Today (and yesterday, actually), I read The Barrens by Stephanie Feldman. It’s a longer piece (that’s why I took a couple days to read it) about a group of teens lost in the woods. Yes. That’s what it’s about on the surface. A group of teenagers wants to go to this party that this DJ throws. it’s a secret party and this DJ broadcasts on a pirate station, which is pretty badass. The only thing is, something is strange about the stories this DJ tells between sets.cov1805lg-250

As soon as the kids start talking about a girl, some years back, who fell in the lake while wearing her prom dress and her boyfriend’s dove in after her and she dragged him down with her in her panic, I knew this wasn’t going to be a happy story.

This story has the nebulous fright of a scary folklore tale, but that’s still not what’s special about it. What’s really interesting is the about this piece is the first person plural narration. Readers never get a clear sense of what the narrator is, but it commonly refers to itself as “we” or “I,” while at the same time the narration hops in and out of the teenager’s brains giving readers thoughts and emotions. This implies that the “we” or “I” narrator has some type of magical mind reading power. I think the writer pulls this interesting take on narration off really well. It’s certainly a unique piece that brings something out of the ordinary to the genre of folklore(ish) fantasy.

Fox 8 by George Saunders, The Guardian, Oct 2017

Fox 8 is one of the saddest stories I think I’ve ever read. It paints a really tragic picture about the loss of habitat and why foxes are so seldom seen, but also a lot of other stuff.

It’s written in the epistolary form, which is to say, in the form of a letter to humans from a fox. His name is Fox 8.

I’m typically not interested in stories that use a lot of weird spelling as dialect, but seeing that this is a story written by a fox, I forgive all it’s misspellings, mainly because Fox 8 asks that the reader to disregard his spelling because he is the only fox to know Yuman language.

When the rest of his den finds out he knows Yuman, he is asked to read a sign. While he doesn’t know what FoxViewCommons is, readers will automatically fear the worse–and for good reason. Soon the developers come in and destroy the foxes habitat and many of the foxes die.

It is up to Fox 8 to save his den–but not everything goes the way we hope–which is perhaps the point of the piece. Part magical thought piece and part eco-fiction, this piece had me on the edge of tears multiple times and makes me so sad at seeing animals scrounging for scraps near urbanized areas.

A wonderful tale that we could all learn from. (B)