The October offerings from Shimmer Magazine capture a feeling of isolation. Of loneliness. The bittersweet reality of being alive, of having survived something huge, only to find that they are alone and wanting to change that. And in both stories the main characters do, do work toward a reunion, toward a community that accepts them and where they can be themselves. But the stories concentrate more on the longing than on the finding, and as such are on the sadder side, though it is only with such a lack that hope can be more fully felt, and both stories are hopeful, showing characters striving to overcome, striving to remember themselves when the world seems set on blending them into everything else. So without further delay, the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"The Invisible Stars" by Ryan Row ( words)
This story is quite short for Shimmer but hits with a weight well above its word count, evoking isolation and longing, difference and fear, nostalgia and risk. It features an alien being who names himself Asunber crashing to Earth and having to find a way to live. To keep on, despite everything, despite the loneliness and the proximity to despair. He is faced with a task that seems impossible, to fix his downed ship for a possible return home, but mostly it's about what he does to live in a strange land, surrounded by people so unlike him. There is a lyric quality to the prose that I love and that fits right in with Shimmer, which captures this image of an alien being trying to fit in, trying to pass enough to get a job, to get money to try for repairs, while staring up into a night sky where the light pollution has washed the stars away so that he is denied even that comfort. He is left with memories and hope and the knowledge that he's not dead, that as long as he continues to try he can keep himself sane, can imagine a future that is worth fighting for. The life of Asunder is captured beautifully, the way that everything is foreign and how people treat him because he doesn't fit in, how everyone wants his story to be a tragedy, how he seeks to use that to fit in, so that people won't look too close, and yet he seems to want to be seen, to be acknowledged. It's a lovely story and one full of feeling and distance and you should definitely check it out!
"What Becomes Of the Third-Hearted" by A. Merc Rustad ( words)
This story pairs quite well with the previous on in that both feature a heavy dose of isolation and fear, desperation bordering on despair. In this story, Morgan has survived the end of the world only to have to navigate it. Only to have to search through all the unimaginably broken and disjointed wounds of reality dying to try and find their wife and daughter. And I love how the story reveals this wasteland that is not a wasteland, that is alive and dreaming itself into reality, that seems at every turn hostile and dangerous. And for Morgan the main danger seems to be erasure, an understandable concern given the character and their gender, given the relationship they are in, that they have a child. [SPOILERS] The end of the world here in some ways has the possibility of tearing down all the barriers that Morgan faces regarding their identity, might finally allow them to be seen for what they are, but first they must escape the crushing possibility that it will simple wipe them out. That, if they don't survive, if they don't find a way to keep going, they might be rewritten, misremembered. It's something that happens often in history, people's stories altered, glossed over, erased. To me it seems that for Morgan the danger of this is manifest in an impassable wall and an erasing rain in which they might drown, never having reached those they love. And they have to reach back to the support of those who have affirmed them, who have loved them. They have to take the love that has collected in their second heart and use it to find their third, to find the tool that will allow them to overcome, to find a way forward that doesn't mean bending or breaking or drowning. It's an incredible story with a rich language and haunting landscape, but with a heart, or hearts, that beat with the power of love and hope. Go read this one!