“Mag, the Habitat and We” by Lia Swope Mitchell
Reviewed by Ben Wheeler
Rat things show and declare their love for their ‘mother’ in “Mag, the Habitat and We” by Lia Swope Mitchell. This story is from the pov of the rat things that adore Mag. Mag is not fond of them, and they must worry about the coming ‘City Men’. This piece is short and concerns characters driven to pursue their safety and desires at all costs.
“Next Station, Shibuya” by Iori Kusano concerns Nagiko and her experiences with a mysterious being who makes electronic things work in her favor. A second person short story set in Japan is nice, but it didn’t have enough depth or descriptions to satisfy. The being who favors Nagiko does not have enough substance, as it is never shown what or who this being is. The narrator could be a thunder god, the genius loci of Shibuya or the island of Japan where she lives, just to mention a few possibilities.
“The Dark Birds” by Ursula Vernon is a modern fairy tale with a terrible ogre, a horrible mother, and a very scared child telling us the story. This story hearkens back to the good old days of fairy tales where the only thing keeping the brave little girl or boy from being eaten is their own cleverness and a little luck. The horror of the actions of the mother and father along with their excellent descriptions make this a worthwhile read.
In “Soliloquy in a Cheap Diner off Route 66” by James Beamon Lonnie, a nearly omnipotent being, tries to seduce normal waitress Aliza with judicial use of Time Travel Powers to undo his verbal mistakes. Every time he loses her, he reverses time and tries again. This story is riddled with interesting, and potentially great ideas about time travel and how to use it to get what you want, but the writer spends as much time on beating up or insulting a strawman racist as he does misusing the logic of his characters. The overall philosophy of this is also treated with kid gloves and characters treat the morality of it as arbitrary or meaningless beyond themselves, as they simply correct their actions through time travel. For a story that better handles time travel without ruinous political undertones, please check out The City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of the Metachronopolis by John C. Wright.
Viola has her revenge on a corrupt retirement home director in one of the more creative ways seen in science fiction in “The Invisible Box” by J. J. Litke. This revenge fantasy has a few clever ideas but is quite short. It is worth a look, if only for novelty’s sake.