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.
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.
Speculative City, Volume Five: Occult
Speculative City is a small, but quality speculative fiction magazine, only published online. They run a Patreon here, but it’s mostly to supplement/offset the money the editors spend (out of pocket) in order to produce the mag.
Sparkle and Shine by Tonia Laird is a flash fiction piece that focuses on the occult dealings of humans with demons. Goes with the territory I suppose.
Flash fiction works in some pretty confined ways, and with this piece just under 700 words, you can see why. The premise is built quickly. A husband and wife have arrived home. Everything from the syntax to the word choice feels gloomy. Whatever the reason for their late arrival can’t be good.
Then the information of the plot, which is also backstory comes to life.
This is common in flash fic. The form often deals more with the consequences of what has already happened than the events themselves, simply because there aren’t enough words to go, step by step, through the whole plot. The plot is implied and the consequences of it are now becoming clear.
For me, Sparkle and Shine does this well. It establishes plot, mystery, setting, and then turns the circumstances back on those who created them.
A quick and satisfying read over a morning coffee.