Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #58 December 16, 2010 and #59 December 30, 2010
“Red Dirt” by Ian McHugh
“Lession’s Tower” by Fox McGeever
“The Summer King” by Megan Arkenberg
“Transitions of Truth and Tears” by David G. Blake
Reviewed by Bob Blough
These last two issues of 2010 for Beneath Ceaseless Skies are examples of good beginning work in writing genre short fiction. There are no potential award winners here but there is promising work from authors who might write such fiction in the future.
Issue #58 starts out with a story by Ian McHugh called “Red Dirt.” Ian McHugh is the most polished of the bunch and is set to spring to some prominence in the field. “Red Dirt” does not disgrace that promise. It is a horror story set in a quasi-historical milieu of Australia in 1792. It concerns one Capitaine Bruni of the French Navy who refuses to pay the bribe needed to get his ship replenished in Zwaanstadje, a small town on the coast of Australia. This town is hounded by sentient shadows that seem to be brought into being by the controlled dreaming of the aboriginals. Bruni is a prideful arrogant man and thus not my favorite type of narrator, but he is well realized and the account of the battle between his pride and the shadows is effectively rendered.
The next is “Lession’s Tower” by Fox McGeever. This writer is still learning his trade and there are clunky passages involved, but the story itself shows a wide and interesting imagination. Lession is a human-eating demon who has been exiled to an abandoned lighthouse. He has had his wings clipped so that he can no longer hunt to die of starvation. (I do not understand why the mayor did not just kill him, but then we wouldn’t have a story, so…) He has a female of his kind similarly mutilated as a companion and, since they also emasculated Lession before making him an outcast, there are pride issues involved as well.
The story revolves around his ability to glide into town (since the surgery on his wings did not go deep enough, and he built wings out of sticks and leather) and hunt for human flesh. What happens in the raid is well handled. The best part, however, is the character of Lession himself. I cared for him even as he was searching out children to eat. Fox has talent.
Issue #59 begins with “The Summer King” by Megan Arkenberg.
It is a straightforward tale set in a kingdom after our time—or else some fantasy world—where the king has been killed and his duties taken over by the “Assemblies.” The real work of ruling is handled by “Bosses” who look after their sectors with various degrees of competency and care. The story begins just as the assembly has appointed a new king. The reason behind this is to consolidate power by having the king kill off the bosses (seemingly universally loved even though we are introduced to several who would be hard to believe were loved by their people) which would inflame the masses to anger and then hang this “Summer King” as the responsible party. The politics just do not ring true to me. The protagonist, a boss by the name of Livy, is dispatched to kill the king before it all starts. Again, why she is chosen is murky. The eventual outcome is nicely thought through, but the story is not as good as it could have been with a little more editing and thought.
“Transitions of Truth and Tears” by David G. Blake is the final story in the year. It fictionalizes the heavy topic of what is truth? How do we recognize truth? And, what do we do when we act on truths about which we have doubts? That is a wonderful topic for a writer.
Garren is a follower of He’Rahaman, She Who Is All. He’Rahaman is a foreign God whose son was killed by the locals. She is out for revenge and has chosen Garren to be that revenge. He is to travel to the city where her son was murdered and drink from the fountain that sprang up at the moment of her son’s death. She says the fountain is made up of her tears and the time for tears is over. The story follows him into he city. What he finds there does not completely match up with what he has been taught and shown in a vision. What is truth and what is fabrication? Again, an interesting subject but not fully realized by the writer. Mr. Blake though is willing to take on heavy topics and writes well enough that I look forward to more work from him.
This was the final issue of 2010 for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I look forward to 2011 and the enjoyment it will bring.