This issue: January/February 2015
Editors: Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota
Cover artist: Julie Dillon
Where I got it: Kickstarter reward
Where you can get it: Weightless Books
Got a quick but enthusiastic review for you today! I am so behind on things here, but I’m working (well, reading) my behind off to get up to speed and to have awesome things to write about. You are, I have no doubt, in for a few treats over the next couple of weeks at least. For now, however, it’s time to chew on some short fiction – and more!
First up in the fiction spotlight for this issue, and this is probably my favourite of the stories featured in it, is Sam J. Miller’s “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History“. It’s SF/F meets an essay on social movement, via a ‘retelling’ of the Stonewall Riots. As stories go this one had a powerful punch for me, and I think the biggest compliment I can pay here is that it left me wanting to go out and find out more on the subject. I’m a sucker for any story that can take a subject or event so apparently dark and leave the reader feeling hopeful instead of grim. This one does just that. Definitely recommended, and absolutely memorable.
Continuing in that ‘grim but hopeful’ vein is Sunny Moraine’s “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained”. It portrays a woman dealing with the aftermath of the loss (and replacement) of a limb, and the result is an examination of self-identity that’s both harrowing and uplifting. This is another story I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Though it’s quite the opposite in terms of its overall tone, Amal El-Mohtar’s “Pockets” is equally as enjoyable. This is a much lighter story, straight-up delightful in the telling, whimsical yet thought-provoking. I loved it! This story (and “Love Letters”) won’t be available online until February 3rd, but I’d also thoroughly recommend catching it. Wonderful stuff.
Now, the poetry. This medium is still one that I find to be even more hit-and-miss than short fiction, which is a bit of a personal nuisance that I’m hoping I can overcome. Of course, the best way to do this is to keep reading it.
Making that goal feel easier to achieve here is Rose Lemberg’s “archival testimony fragments / minersong“. The structure of this poem did, I admit, make me a little nervous at first glance, but my fear that I wouldn’t get it was quickly left behind because whether or not I got the complete message, this felt surprisingly – delightfully! – easy to follow. In fact, I was drawn in remarkably quickly, and I have to say that whether you’re an established fan of poetry or a dabbler like me, this is one you should give your attention to. When the podcast featuring this poem is released I have GOT to get my hands on it, because the way its imagery haunts me just demands it. I tend to get along much better with poetry when I’m hearing it instead of just reading it, so this is a must, but either way I loved this one. Loved it.
On to the non-fiction, and this issue features a couple of essays I really enjoyed. Jim C. Hines’ “The Politics of Comfort” makes solid points about politics in genre fiction and just how pervasive it really is. Jim makes his points plainly and to good enough effect that it’s got me reconsidering my own views on “comfort reads”, or at least the ones I think of as such and why.
Michi Trota’s “Age of the Geek, Baby” (high five right there for the Leverage reference) also takes a thoughtful look at politics, this time within the geek community in general. Acceptance and openness about our nerdery might be the thing these days, but we’re still bringing a lot of baggage to this shiny new table, and in many ways marginalization is as much a problem as it’s ever been – perhaps even worse, because it’s perpetuated from within. Gatekeeping, ‘fake geek girls’, sexism, racism, and online harrassment are clear signs that something is still wrong in our community, and the message in this essay is that we’ve still got a lot of work to do – together. She says it better than I can, so I’ll leave this review here with her own words:
“What began with underdog geeks and nerds creating communities by sharing fandoms, hobbies, skills, and knowledge like secret passwords, hasn’t ended just because we’ve achieved mainstream success. It’s time to write the chapters where we don’t just revel in the power of that success, we use it to rectify the disparities that exist within geek culture. The story of the Age of the Geek should be one that reflects the full spectrum of our identities, and speaks to the truth of all of our experiences, even if those truths are uncomfortable ones.
So say we all.”