Reviewed by Stephanie Wexler
Shelly lovingly likes to call her Grandma a Ghostbuster in Allison Mills’ “If a Bird Can Be a Ghost.” Shelly’s mom isn’t fond of ghosts. She would rather Grandma refrain from teaching Shelly about them at all, but doesn’t put up much a fight against the lessons. Shelly’s talent builds a sweet rapport with the departed until her mother passes away. Time passes and Shelly wonders why her mother doesn’t appear. Hope becomes confusion and Shelly reaches out to the spirit world for help before Grandma discovers her activities. Allison’s graceful story shines on a difficult and heart wrenching topic; childhood grief. It is a treat watching Allison weave Shelly’s world where she is never quite alone, liberating herself by accepting her future through loss.
Jesse Turnblatt works for Sedona Sweats providing Experiences, Vision Quests being the most popular in “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse. Jesse is married, staging Vision Quests that keeps Tourists happy. Of course, he didn’t count on a Tourist tracking him down. It isn’t long though before he warms to the stranger’s (aka White Wolf) casual conversation. However, White Wolf becomes a sinister invasion of Jesse’s wife, job and sanity. Somehow everyone now sees Jesse as a Tourist. This psychological thriller preys on Jesse’s insecurities ratcheting the tension in every situation. Even if Jesse is a sorry excuse of an employee and spouse, it’s tough not feeling sorry for him as his identity is taken away, or maybe never was his.
In “Skinny Charlie’s Orbiting Teepee” by Pamela Rentz, Skinny Charlie is aboard a spaceship, sort of a floating exhibition hall in space. Ship life is complicated and unsympathetic to those without connections or tech ability to slip past protocols. Still, Skinny Charlie, with Earth artifacts, prepares for the cultural spectacle. Insufficient promotion aside, the rush of people trying to get a look at the ceremony makes his job a nightmare. It isn’t until Skinny Charlie crosses paths with the Ceremonial Leader Rufus, who is too busy to talk, catches the attention of his subordinate Zane. Before he knows it, Skinny Charlie’s life takes on a charismatic turn. Rentz’s space backdrop stresses the stark bureaucracy and opportunistic characters that make up the ship. It is a truly discouraging look at what was once a colorful people.
“The Trip” by Mari Kurisato has Cori, the best programmer on the spaceship, working double time to cure Amy (her girlfriend). Unable to afford cancer treatment on Earth they head to Saturn where they can grow Amy a cloned body. However, Amy’s cryostasis condition worsens and Cori’s specially augmented body and enhanced intellect strives to distract a clever ship AI. Trolling around an android body, Cori finds her answer and hopes her quick thinking gives Amy a chance to preserve their relationship. Kurisato sets the stacks high in this society that demands money, smarts or an adaptable body. Cori alone leaves us with the only impression of Amy, which isn’t much other than she is dying, though perhaps letting love speak is enough.