Diabolical Plots #45, November 2018
“The Memory Cookbook” by Aaron Fox-Lerner
Reviewed by Kat Day
Diabolical Plots edges towards the end of 2018 with two very different stories for November.
“The Memory Cookbook,” by Aaron Fox-Lerner, takes the form of a series of instructions for a member of the serving staff working at a strange restaurant where memories are served alongside the food. After a brief introduction, it lists the different courses, suggesting the sorts of memories that should be served and accompaniments to go with them. It’s an intriguing idea and a very original approach. The intention is clearly to explore the dismissive and condescending way certain groups of people are treated by privileged individuals. These are important issues but, personally, I’d prefer to see them explored via the creation of compelling characters with a strong story to tell, than though a lecture with a thin gaze of speculation and a side-order of finger-wagging.
Speaking of creating compelling characters, in “The Coal Remembers What It Was” Paul R. Hardy does exactly that. The piece is narrated by Elsie, a woman who’s remembering her childhood in a mining town. The speculative element appears early on when she tells us that there are ‘demons’ in the coal her father mines. Her mother tells her it’s not demons: the coal just “remembers what it was.” We’re drawn into a beautifully described world which manages to be fantastical whilst also feeling very realistic. Underneath an action story of monsters and explosions, there’s some real pathos in the way Elsie expresses her feelings for her mother and father. Beautifully done.
Kat Day makes children handle fire and dangerous chemicals for living (it’s okay, she’s a chemistry teacher). When not doing that, she spends her time writing and trying to wrangle her own two children into line (without fire or dangerous chemicals, because that would be frowned upon). She has had a short story published in Daily Science Fiction, another in the anthology “24 Stories,” and one upcoming on the Cast of Wonders podcast. You can follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask.