Chizine, #24, April-June 2005

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.
"Hippocampus" by M.K. Hobson
"Brimstone Orange" by Livia Llewellyn
"Standard Deviation" by Anil Menon
"Memory" by Matthew G. Nelson
"Alienation and Love In the Hebrew Alphabet" by Lavie Tidhar

Another issue of Chizine, a new reviewer, the dawn of a new age. Even though I didn’t review the previous issue for Tangent, I did have the opportunity to read it. I must say that issue was significantly better than the current issue I’m about to review.

But let’s start by talking about adverbs. Four of the five stories suffered from poorly used adverbs. Now I’m not one of those puritan readers/reviewers who say, "you must avoid every adverb at all costs" but when I do see an adverb, it shouldn’t stick out like a sharp pin in a couch. And if you don’t like that metaphor, you try sitting on a nice comfy couch and see if you’re in the mood to keep reading when the pin pierces your ass. Yeah! That’s what I thought…

Are these the sins of poor editing/lazy writing/mass conspiracy by aliens? I’ll leave that for you to decide when you hopefully go read the issue for yourself.

The issue starts with "Hippocampus," a flash story by M.K Hobson about seahorses, the hippocampus, and a bizarre female who doesn’t speak like any human being I’ve ever known. I think my main problem with the story was I found the dialogue a bit vague, and I just couldn’t imagine real people speaking this way. Also, I didn’t think the imagery was strong enough to pit a whole story around, even one as short as this. Safe to say this particular story didn’t work for me. However, for a much better offering by this particular author you may want to check out the story "Hell Notes" on SciFiction, which I loved! 

The next story, "Brimstone Orange" by Livia Llewellyn is an idea story where one girl’s persistence brings a barren tree to life. The main character in many ways is the tree and not Cyan, the young female protagonist. The story’s biggest weakness is that it should have been longer, taken more time to develop, and Cyan’s motivations should have been clearer. I think the story would have been improved by having a major internal conflict for Cyan to battle. In other words, I don’t think this story should have been flash. But hey, if I want to see this story become longer, then the author couldn’t have done that bad a job, right? In particular, the prose stuck out as exceptionally life-like. This is Livia Llewellyn’s first sale and it’s a pretty impressive start, even if it does have a few noticeable weaknesses.

"Standard Deviation" by Anil Menon is about a character named Nicholas who’s ostracized by his peers because he doesn’t understand how to conduct himself socially and tends to laugh at things nobody else finds funny. It’s not really a speculative fiction story, in my opinion. But who the hell cares if it is or isn’t? Every word kept me riveted and wanting to know what happens next. Anil Menon takes on a very tough issue: whether to medicate or not to medicate your children for mood/brain disorders. He makes it believable and shows both sides of the problem (showing both the negative and positives associated with each). This is a story everyone should read right now!

Matthew G. Nelson’s flash "Memory" starts off as a fantastical surrealist trip, but somehow ends up in the realm of sci-fi. Hard to describe in any other terms without giving the punchline away, I found this story to be commentary on the now-deceased Terry Schiavo, and I’m curious if the author extrapolated from this issue. I’d highly recommend reading it.

"Alienation and Love in the Hebrew Alphabet" by Lavie Tidhar is reminiscent of Tim Pratt’s story, "Annabelle’s Alphabet" (which originally appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Oct. 2001). Tidhar’s story is structured around related scenes using the Hebrew alphabet as scene breaks. The plot features an alien who befriends a little girl forced to move to a strange land with her mother. At first the structure will seem arbitrary, but the theme of love and alienation brings everything together at the end. Overall, this was not only a huge success as a story, but the best one in the issue.

Although it’s not Tangent’s policy to review poetry, Chizine this month offers some great poems worth checking out. Particularly, you might want to read Mark McLaughlin’s "A Flaming Death Is Not For Me" and Mary E. Choo’s "Keepers (From Grannie’s Garden)."

Although not as good as last issue, this issue still packs quite a few offerings worth your time.