“A Love Story, Told in My Monstrosity” by Anna Yeatts
“Into Dust” by Sofie Bird
“Souls Are Like Livers” by Aurelia Flaming
“…Or Be Forever Fallen” by A. Merc Rustad
“Going Green” by Jennifer Noelle Welch
“The Soul Mate Requirement” by Kelly Sandoval
Reviewed by Rick Cartwright
“A Love Story, Told in My Monstrosity” by Anna Yeatts is a dark fantasy of two individuals possessed by undefined monsters and their interactions over a lifetime. Told from the point of view of the female, the story is composed of several vignettes of different meetings over their lifetimes. While some of the individual scenes are emotionally wrenching, there is no consistent build up, leaving the reader to feel like they are in emotional stop and go traffic. The ending is a bit too pat but is very well done.
Sofie Bird chronicles the story of a colonization and terraforming mission told from the perspective of an engineer/psychologist in “Into Dust.” Ms. Bird elects to focus on the setbacks that plague the colonists as mishaps require the terraforming timeline to be compressed to dangerous levels and the consequences of those decisions. With the narrator being a psychologist, you expect that there will be an examination of the inner thoughts of characters. The author expresses much of the inner dialogue of the main character via a made up mythos. It‘s an interesting approach, but it was hard to determine if the observations were great insights or the ramblings of a mind sinking into madness. In fact, the story leaves you unsure of who is sane and who is not and by the end, you are fairly certain you don’t care.
“Souls are Like Livers” is my favorite story of the issue. Aurelia Flaming examines a possible evolution in our relationship with our computers through the eyes of a growing child named Lexi and her sentient companion Shane, operating out of an implanted microchip in her head. It‘s an interesting mix of spiritual, technical and relationship threads skillfully woven into a story and with characters that you care about. The ending is delightfully unexpected and satisfying.
The entry by A. Merc Rustad, “…Or Be Forever Fallen,” considers the price of finding lost memories. The unnamed main character is seeking those who stole his memory, guided by ghosts who he wronged in life. Over the course of a journey through a dark forest, the character learns that sometimes remembering is worse than the memories lost. The pain and anguish of the characters are brought out with skillful honesty, but it’s not a story for everyone. This is a very dark tale of a journey of redemption with the ultimate outcome left to the reader’s imagination.
Jennifer Noelle Welch takes us on a darkly humorous path in “Going Green.” As the title implies, it is a story of environmental responsibility and competition. Both gone horribly, murderously, wrong. Initially, you chuckle at the lengths that the characters go to win a competition about two co-workers as to who leaves the smallest carbon footprint. Humor gives way to horror as competition becomes obsession, and something worse. The story is an excellent cautionary tale as to how even the most noble of aspirations can be perverted into something horrible by obsession.
“The Soul Mate Requirement” by Kelly Sandoval in some ways is a counterpoint to “Souls are Like Livers,” describing a world where technology can find your “soulmate.” Think of a dating service on steroids and connected to a little black box. The couple who are the focus of the story seem to have a good relationship, but they have never both been tested to determine if they are soulmates. The man is determined to get the test, certain that their love is a clear indication that they are soulmates. The woman, from whose point of view the story is told, is not so sure and urges her lover to leave well enough alone. Ms. Sandoval expresses the angst of people who on one hand seek a technological validation for what is clearly true for them, versus the dread that a negative test might destroy the happiness that grew from the love the relationship created without being mandated by a computer.