“Henosis” by N.K. Jemisin
Reviewed by Rebecca DeVendra
“Henosis” by N.K. Jemisin is a non-linear narrative shot through with tension. Harkim is a published novelist dealing with the adulation of his fans. Jemisin could be projecting a bit of herself here through her choice of protagonist. It’s a very cathartic story that evokes some of the themes found in Stephen King’s Misery. It is certainly not to be considered a derivative work, however, because Jemisin does something fresh and worth considering in the space of a few thousand words, something that will make the reader question toxic fandom and the anxieties of a creator.
“Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde features plenty of pretty prose, the narrator giving directions to someone (“you”) entering a nebulous secondary world. This world is at times sinister and at others fascinating. Snapshots are taken of souls, body modification is done, and rooms are full of odd objects. There are many interpretations a reader could make of this tale. The experience of it is like waking up from a pretty dream, the details like sand through fingers, and a lingering uneasiness that cannot be accounted for.
“Though She Be But Little” by C.S.E. Cooney is an utterly charming and engrossing romp thought a magical world of pirates and their “endowments,” special objects with special abilities. Emma Anne is figuring out her endowments at the start, using a tin can to talk to another pirate through her faithful parrot. Several fantastical elements buttress one another throughout the narrative, resulting in a truly complex world and magical structure. To a less careful reader confusion might result, but fantasy aficionados will be delighted.
“Down and Out in R’lyeh” by Catherine M. Valente treats the reader to a story in the Cthulhu mythos. The protagonist (Moloch) starts by describing what it’s like to get high off of dead Cthulhu’s various bodily gasses. Normally, that is the kind of thing that might encourage an eye roll from a sophisticated reader, but Valente’s prose makes it witty and funny and utterly diverting. She’s the kind of writer who can spin any tale she wants, and Lovecraftian horrors bow to her pen.
“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad details the inner experience of an artificially intelligent computer called “Computron.” It details its thoughts on Anime and the fandom surrounding it, which is alternately perceptive and amusing. Computron becomes involved in fandom and helps another fan create content that becomes incredibly popular. It’s a feel-good tale with good humor and heart.
“At Cooney’s” by Delia Sherman is a beautifully told time-travel story about shifting cultural attitudes around LGBTQ issues as the protagonist (Ali) finds herself. It’s a coming-of-age narrative that makes for a pleasurable read, a fantastical history lesson made relevant by Ali, who is all heart. Read with a cup of tea. Those who like long thoughts and inner turmoil shot through with the hope of a new day will be moved, as I was.
Rebecca DeVendra is a figure artist and speculative fiction writer living in Boston. Her fiction can be found at Starship Sofa. She’s also a mom to three cacophonous, early-rising children. She’s probably in her pajamas, but she has an emergency collar shirt for video calls. Check out her blog.