"Bright Wings and Wax" by Chelsea Polk
"Bonefields" by Margaret Ronald
"Likewise" by Daniel Kaysen
"Like The Cold If You Were Dead" by Jennifer de Guzman
"The Grammatical Ghost" by Elia W. Peattie
This quarterly installment of Ideomancer includes new fiction with themes of hope, destiny, progress, and the agelessness of art.
Deadala, the young girl with the "broomstick legs" in Chelsea Polk's Flash story, "Bright Wings and Wax", yearns to fly. She lives in a bomb-damaged church with her uncle Russ. He designs motorized wings made out of waxed parchment and feathers, modeled after the wings of starlings. Polk lyrically captures the essence of hope and determination in this flash piece, though it reads more like a vignette than a story.
The first Fantasy offering, "Bonefields" by Margaret Ronald, postulates that a bonefield grows stone statues from the bodies buried in its sacred soil. Rhode has spurned his birthright for twenty years, but now that his destiny is forcing his hand, he enlists the assistance of a young girl named Wist to accompany him home to his bonefield. His father was a member of the priesthood–the anointed who tend to the sacred graveyards and follow the rites and rules for promoting the statues' growth. The mystery of Rhode's past and the interplay between his father and sister unfolds along his journey, until the confrontational climax. With classic "time is short" tension, Ronald illuminates the intricacies of a fantasy world where stone can live and destiny cannot be shunned. Rhode's interactions with his companion provide ample sympathy for his plight as well as the occasional comic relief.
"Likewise" by Daniel Kaysen is a Slipstream story with a poignant message. The "madman at the side of the road" is to me a metaphor for progress. So long as he continues to "wave things on," the world will continue to prosper as goods are shipped, fields are tended, and cows are fed. A stranger arrives and seeks the landowner for permission to build Pain Road through his field. The madman consults an angel who shows him two dreams–one with the road built and one without. Though the choice isn't entirely the madman's, he lives in a future sculpted by his decision. As he becomes more and more distraught by the circumstances of his world, he first reluctantly acknowledges the atrocities around him, and second, hurries them past. The format of the piece deviates from the traditional dialogue and narrative formula; the lines are arranged like a poem yet the piece is an easy read. Kaysen's words are saturated with haunting clarity concerning the nature of choice and the darkness of progress.
The most literary offering in the issue comes from Jennifer de Guzman's Fantasy story "Like The Cold If You Were Dead." In the introduction, de Guzman states the theme for this story derives from the Yeats poem "Sailing to Byzantium" in which humans attempt to perfect the soul through art which is inherently ageless. And so her protagonist, Em, follows Lu as he struggles to be beautiful, a true poser, like their mutual friend Greta. Try as he may, Lu cannot manufacture what comes natural to Greta, forcing him to the coldness of frustration. The three converge on "Dead Air" where Em says, "There's your Byzantium." The club is timeless, like the old city, and Lu becomes ever colder as he faces his reflection and the failure it represents. The story cleverly modernizes the Yeats classic, and is filled with a richness and depth that makes for a juicy read worth repeating.
The last story is the Classic "The Grammatical Ghost" by Elia W. Peattie. Originally published in 1898, this yarn follows Miss Carew, a proper and well-mannered woman from Philadelphian society. She dies "very unobtrusively of an affection of the heart" without even wrinkling her dress. After her death, she haunts her former house, visiting the new occupants until they produce distasteful china or act rudely. In the end, she flees her parlor "with mortal haste" after incorrect grammar is spoken in her presence. I found the nostalgic tale charming and delightful.
Although I didn't have an obvious favorite story in this issue, I particularly enjoyed the premise of "Bonefields" and the tone of "The Grammatical Ghost".