Ideomancer, Vol 3 Issue 9, December 2004

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

"Vortigern" by Rudi Dornemann (Flash)
"Vanishing Point" by Chrisopher Barzak (Fantasy)
"The Watching People" by Paul Berger (Science Fiction)
"Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows" by N.K. Jemisin (Slipstream)

This quarterly installment of Ideomancer includes stories based on Arthurian legend, the manner in which people integrate into the world, anthropological research, and post-apocalyptic futures.

"The Flash story, "Vortigern", by Rudi Dornemann has an offbeat flavor.  The narrator is building a castle out of bricks supplied by spiders and knitting a dragon from their silk litter.  All of these efforts are for the benefit of King Arthur; a future monument to his triumphant return.   Friends drop by and provide color, and by the end, I was cheering for the castle to be finished before the king's return.  Most flash offerings, this piece included, are more anecdotes than stories, but I enjoyed the escapade.

"The Vanishing Point" in Christopher Barzak's fantasy story is the point at which a person disappears from the world.  Nathan has mysteriously chosen to vanish from the world.  He starts off being translucent so that his lungs, heart, and other organs are visible through his skin.  His mother, Miss Livingston, and sister Sarah nurture him as best they can while he transitions.  They use food to comfort themselves, eating exotic recipes as Nathan is "starving for solidity."  The story is narrated by Miss Livingston as she is interviewed by a doctor researching the phenomenon of the Disappeared.  It drives forward at a rapid pace, with evocative images from both the Mourners and a fighting fish that Nathan's mother places in his room.  The story peaks a couple of times—first when Nathan makes the final transition to being completely invisible, and second, when Sarah announces her feelings about her absent brother.  As a mother, I found the central idea particularly engaging.

In the science fiction story, "The Watching People," Paul Berger describes a marsh inhabited by the Watching People.  Questions are forbidden in their culture and so Jack, known by the villagers as "the Doctor," must perform his Xenological studies in a frustratingly slow and convoluted manner.  The environment is so harsh that vengeance bees will strip flesh from bone, and demon-gem butterflies will shred an arm to the elbow.  A young boy from the Watching People narrates the story and so the reader is more privy to the truth than is Jack.  We learn of the boy's discomfort every time Jack asks a direct question, and we wonder how he will use the technological items that he secretly discovers in Jack's cache.  I found some story elements funny and others disturbing.  Jack's predicament reminded me of the human relationship with the pequeninos in Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the Dead."  The ending was somewhat unsatisfying for me; maybe because the natives learned too much too easily, or perhaps because Berger left me wanting more. 

The speculative element is strong in the Slipstream story, "Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows" by N.K. Jemisin.  Helen is reliving the same day over and over again (the movie Groundhog Day comes to mind) and the "rollover" occurs after an interval of time that is unique for each person.  The survivors remember all of the days they spend trapped in their post-quantum proliferation lives.  They can communicate via the Internet, through blogs, instant messages, and email, though person-to-person emails are unreliable and often have to be resent countless times.  Helen falls for "SapphoJuice"—a boy who blogs to her circle of friends.  As their relationship intensifies, they discover an underlying danger within the realm of their existence.  The story is told through blog, messaging, and email excerpts as well as narrative passages from Helen's point of view.  Each person lives a solitary life—they can leave their homes and traverse through the world, but if they stray too far away, they lose sight of their dwelling and their connection with reality as they know it.

"Vanishing Point" and "Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows" are both exceptional stories that stayed with me afterwards, though "Vortigern" wins points for quirkiness.