Fantasy #87, January 2023

Fantasy #87, January 2023

A Brief Catalog of Humans, as Observed by the Cryptids of Encante” by Ruth Joffre

Monsters” by L.D. Colter

Skyscrapers That Twist to the Sun” by Erin Brown

Broodmare” by Flossie Arend

Reviewed by David Wesley Hill

A Brief Catalog of Humans, as Observed by the Cryptids of Encante” by Ruth Joffre, one of two flash fictions in the January issue of Fantasy Magazine, presents itself as a reference work written by and for Encantados—mythic Amazonian shape-shifters. It ends, however, addressing a human audience directly, as you. The abrupt change of perspective interrupted this reviewer’s willing suspension of disbelief and left me thinking more about the storytelling contrivance than of the tale’s many pithy observations…. An interesting read compromised by an unfortunate narrative decision.

In the other flash of the issue, “Monsters” by L.D. Colter, an unnamed narrator is hiding out in their apartment, afraid that they will encounter a monster if they open the door. Worse, they are undergoing a strange metamorphosis themself—their skin is peeling off and there’s a “red line of irritation” down their chest. Then, rummaging in the closet for some old home movies, they discover a pile of handwritten journals that seem to suggest that this process of transmogrification has been repeated many times before…. An enjoyable small tale with intriguing metaphoric undertones.

Next up is the story “Skyscrapers That Twist to the Sun” by Erin Brown, in which Shaundra’s young daughter, Dineisha, takes her mother’s box of 3/4” nuts and buries the hardware in the ground—where they begin growing. Slicing open her hand on one of the unnatural plants, Shaundra is understandably alarmed. She contacts the Apex Tools support line and learns that—contrary to her fears—the living metal may actually be something miraculous…. Part science fiction, part fantasy, “Skyscrapers That Twist to the Sun” is ultimately a reflection on growing up and on what we lose as we mature.

The longest story in this issue of Fantasy, “Broodmare” by Flossie Arend, takes us to a disturbing, all-too-real near-future dystopia where Texas has sealed its border to prevent its female citizens from traveling north for abortions, and to prevent the importation of abortifacients into the Lone Star State. Marge, however, regularly drives into this accursed territory, ostensibly to distribute organic pies baked by her commune, but actually to assist desperate Texan women with their unwanted pregnancies. Marge, you see, possesses a—mystical? magical?—power to spontaneously terminate a pregnancy without drugs or surgery, through the simple laying on of hands. Sadly, though, despite a riveting premise, and a truly chilling scene in which Marge and her partner Trace pass through the border checkpoint into Texas, the remainder of the story allows the narrative tension to dissipate without revelation or catharsis…. A timely tale with unrealized potential.