“Hic Sunt Leones,” by L.M. Davenport
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
When I last reviewed Shimmerzine, I was unimpressed by the stories. I wanted to try it again in the hope that it just happened to be a weak issue.
“Hic Sunt Leones” by L. M. Davenport starts things out with a version of the house from the Baba Yaga legend, one on legs that travels around the world. The narrator becomes interested in the house, believing it to be real, and starts to track sightings. This leads to the discovery that his or her mother once went inside while she was pregnant. There’s a lot of poetic imagery, but not much story, and the main character is so emotionally repressed that he or she barely reacts even to the most horrifying of events and just sits wistfully around doing nothing but feel melancholy. The character is a cypher, “sensitive” without actually being sensitive to anything, and, in the long view, something of a monster.
Malon Edwards‘s “Shadow Man, Sack Man, Half Dark, Half Light” is set in Little Haiti in Chicago where the unnamed protagonist—a young girl with a clockwork heart—is saving Bobby Brightsmith from a monster. But as she takes him to safety, she finds a dark stranger outside, who exudes malevolence. The story starts out at a run and keeps at it, where surprising twists of emotion and horror await. The Haitian background and mythology only adds to a fascinating tale.
“Trees Struck by Lightning Burning from the Inside Out,” by Emily Lundgren is about an intriguing alternate fantasy in which werewolves are real and are a semi-tolerated part of society—within certain parameters. Arlo is a werewolf hunter, going after them because they killed his parents. He’s part of a group that finds a pack of them, but one escapes, so they go out for a late night snack, and see a werewolf couple in the restaurant. The story is all about Arlo and how his past defines him. I really liked the world, and the revelations of Arlo’s past, but once revealed, the story just stops. I think in many ways this situation is best served as a much longer work—the result is some very good work that just presents a situation without examining it.
Mary Robinette Kowal contributes “Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting” which is an odd juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane. Told in the second person, it recounts several different vignettes of your mama doing various deeds, much like a child’s dreams of glory. Each section of fantasy is followed by a quick image of a mundane mother going about her life. While the pattern is clear, I don’t see what is trying to be accomplished here. It reads much like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” except that the adventures are told second hand and lack any real emotional coherence.
Overall, I found this issue better than the earlier one, with a couple of stories that show lots of promise.