“This Is For You” by Bruce McAllister
Reviewed by Rebecca DeVendra
Bruce McAllister gives us a love story turned sinister in “This Is For You,” featuring a teen who comes back to Earth after spending time in a Red Dwarf system for his formative years. He learns to paint in an alien way, one that baffles and disturbs the common Earthling. McAlliser builds good tension and delivers the hard-hitting ending the narrative deserves.
“James, in the Golden Sunlight of the Hereafter” by Adam Troy-Castro ambitiously tackles the ancient and deep theological concepts of eternal punishment and reward, truncating them for a cynical take through the eyes of a Heaven-dwelling man who mourns the loss of his family. The narrative ends up being a rather good critique of the overly simplistic views of Heaven and Hell that permeate pop theology: is Heaven just a drug-induced euphoria? Is Hell really fair? Castro decides to follow those inquiries to their ultimate conclusion: if these things are really that simple, then it’s unbearable, and the only logical reaction one can have is revulsion.
“Octopus v. Bear” by Kendra Fortmeyer is told from the point of view of a man who wakes up in a woman’s body. That’s not an untried concept in speculative fiction, but Fortmeyer achieves an excellently engrossing narrative voice. As the main character revels in the feminine body at first, he becomes more aware of the dangers inherent to it. This is the kind of story that should be required reading in high school classrooms. Excellent.
“The Heart’s Cartography” by Susan Jane Bigelow is a charming tale about a neighborhood fascination with the time-travelers next door. Jade, a young girl questioning her identity befriends the time-traveling Sally. Both need the friendship desperately and bond over hiking and shared secrets. Inevitably, they must part, but the ending shows a glimmer of hope in the heartbreak that resonates.
Rebecca DeVendra is a figure artist and speculative fiction writer living in Boston. She grew up in Ohio and went to school there, and has a background in curriculum writing. 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.