Speculative City is an awesome little ezine that explores fiction from all the different genres that are combined to make up speculative fiction. I’ve written about this publication before, but I recently subscribed to their Patreon and I really can’t stress how impressed I am with the quality of the work they publish. The editors, Meera Velu and Devon Montgomery should really get some love for their selections. If you have enough for a beer at a bar, you probably have enough to support Speculative City’s Patreon on some level.
A Trick of Light is in the newest issue, issue 7–which explores the aspect of horror in speculative fiction. And it rocks. Hamilton Perez takes a world we all know–that of hell, and inverts a lot of the classic ideas we might have about the place.
First, the demon readers are introduced to is a clerk. He gages the quotes of screams and moans and things like that. That’s funny. So originality is there for sure.
Then the language is great. It draws from the lore and legend of the tiered levels of hell, it’s infiniteness. The place doesn’t feel particularly tangible, but it doesn’t need to. It just needs to feel otherworldly, and I think it does.
Then there’s the magic by which our clerical task demon, Eligor, can use to move from the Hells to our world. It just–works. There’s no cheesiness to it, instead, it’s nuanced and implied magical things happening through everyday actions.
With all this in mind, I’d say this is the type of story I’d love to see more of. If you would too, check out Speculative City’s website.
Rejoice, My Brothers And Sisters
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction: Nov/Dec 2019
Rejoice, My Brothers And Sisters is something of an inverted Matrix plotline. It tells the story of “an Angel” who has become corporeal and visits a “zoo” in which humans live. That zoo is our real-world–or at least a world that is very similar to our own.
Many who live within this zoo believe/know they are living in a contained and fake environment. Many people protest and want to ascend to the place the protagonist has come from, which involves porting your consciousness over to “the cloud.”
Since the story is narrated by a sliver of consciousness that would fit in a human brain, compared to a consciousness unbridled by physicality, and instead in an infinite processor, readers can’t trust the main character. First, they start out trying to convince someone the idea of ascension is impossible. But the longer the story goes on the more I began to doubt whether this narrator was in the zoo to tell the truth, or merely spread propaganda.
The unreliable narrator is cool–I love unreliable narrators–but some of the concepts in this piece just seemed tired. I didn’t really buy into the world either. I think, ultimately, this piece is trying to establish too many things in the short word-count it has. The result is that the world doesn’t feel persistent. Instead, it feels thin, washed, the people living within the zoo unreal, or simple plot devices.
Check out what Benjamin Rosenbaum is up to: here
The Converter of Time:
By Mina Ikemoto Ghosh
The Converter of Time by Mina Ikemoto Ghosh explores how industry capitalizes on the fears of the populace it claims to benefit.
In the story, there are two societies–those who live within the Converter of Time (or CT) and those who live without. Those who have escaped the CT are free from the fear of death, willingly infect by a genetically engineered virus. It sounds a bit like toxoplasmosis, but there aren’t any cats involved.
The narrator isn’t human. There is talk of braiding “fur” and slicking ears back when something bad happens. Part of me thinks this was an effective way to tell the story, part of me wonders if it’s necessary. The fact that the characters aren’t human gives them license to act decidedly different than humans, which at times they do. On the other hand, up until halfway through the story I didn’t know they weren’t human, and so had to adjust my mental image of the story in the middle of reading. I can see why Ghosh didn’t introduce their alienness to readers from the outside. You tend to lose people when you start something off with alien main characters. I know I immediately wonder if they’ll be relatable. If they are, that’s good. But if they are overly human in their logic and emotions, then I begin to wonder why they aren’t just human. So–I guess Ghosh is walking a thin line here. Aliens or humans? For me, this story is a good one. I like the themes, the structure, the world it is set in. But I don’t think the alienness of the characters is essential to the plot, and so it tends to distract.
The finished product, however, is an intriguing and well-crafted, excellently written, and darkly imagined look at how industry leads us astray.
Mina Ikemoto Ghosh is a British-Japanese writer and illustrator. Her style incorporates brushpen and bold, dark, dynamic linework – drawing on the influences of the manga she grew up with and Japanese calligraphy – and the fine pen lines she saw in illustrated English books. She admires Chris Riddell and Amano Yoshitaka, and draws on her love of nature and BA in Natural Sciences for her story subjects. Trial and error over a couple of million words’ worth of manuscripts has taught her enough about narrative to know that she’s got many, many miles to go. She would like to see more illustrated YA fiction.