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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Challenging Destiny, #24

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Image“The Dao of Stones” by Ian McHugh
“The Little Cat in the Attic Window, the Blue House on the Corner” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer
“The Chermasu” by Brian Patrick McKinley & Mark Jenkins
“Camouflage” by Corey Brown
“Abigail & Chang” by Harvey Welles & Philip Raines
“Freya's Flight” by Andrea McDowell
“Like Water in the Desert” by Hayden Trenholm

First up in Challenging Destiny #24, “The Dao of Stones” by Ian McHugh is a strangely compelling tale. Centered in a planetary world where two intelligent species coexist remarkably well, one creature seeks enlightenment through study of the humans. McHugh manages to not only make the Way and enlightenment frustratingly vague, complicating it with differences in species and language, but to also make it a universal truth by showing how it spans planets and words. The tale would have worked better with smoother prose to compensate for the language and philosophical barriers which are essential parts of the tale.

“The Little Cat in the Attic Window, the Blue House on the Corner” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer is a tale of a woman searching for someone to love her. Its dreamy feel often comes off more like over explaining and wordiness than atmosphere. There's not quite enough to the character to make her likable in the story, and in the end, the story fades, much like a dream, before a concrete story is told.

“The Chermasu” by Brian Patrick McKinley and Mark Jenkins is the little story that wants to be a novel. About a modern Hopi maiden discovering what her ancestors have left in her blood and what it means for her life, it's a sociologically slanted history lesson slightly hidden behind mention of werewolves. The Native American angle is interesting, reminiscent of the first Prophecy movie. But the story is overdone, with spikes of history and explanation, and underdone on plot and resolution.

“Camouflage” by Corey Brown is a nicely written tale of an old science fiction trope, viewing humans from an alien's perspective. The story ends just as it's getting good, and has a few unexplained conveniences, but otherwise is an enjoyable spin on life on the red planet.

“Abigail & Chang” by Harvey Welles and Philip Raines is an enjoyable, amusing tale where “visitors” is more accurately read as “vermin.” The practical, down-to-earth voice employed to tell the story lends weight to the laugh-out-loud moments and a solemn resonance to the bit of sadness within. The best of the bunch, this one makes the issue worth checking out.

“Freya's Flight” by Andrea McDowell is a delightful blend of ancient pagan ways and modern time. Something of a coming-of-age story about a young girl called to be a follower of the Huntress, if only she can prove it by flying rather than falling on the day of her most important ritual.

“Like Water in the Desert” by Hayden Trenholm is a science fiction tale set in the thirties, starring a man wandering the U.S. who finds someone, or perhaps something, far past ordinary. There's an unexpected deepness to the story, and it serves as a nice ending point for this issue.