"Mockingbird Girl" by Aynjel Kaye
"Hurricane Sandrine" by Daniel Braum
"A Hard Port to Configure" by Bruce Holland Rogers
"The Cycle of Predator and Prey" by Greg Beatty
"The Algebra of Heaven" by Jay Lake
The fiction is not lengthy in this issue, but there is a sharp bite to most of the stories–which is about what you'd expect when you encounter the names Bruce Holland Rogers and Jay Lake on the TOC.
We only review fiction on Tangent, but readers also ought to take note of Mark Rudolph's "Food for Thought." As a story, it would have been considered edgy ten, fifteen years ago, the contemporary reader thinking comfortably, "Oh, we're way past that message.". As a slice of real life, it stings rather hard because it's clear that, as yet, we are not 'past that message'–an uncomfortable thought to digest.
On to the stories.
First up is Aynjel Kaye's "Mockingbird Girl." It's a quick read with some lovely images, a fast pace, and a charming resolution, even if we realized pretty much at the outset what we were to discover at the end. The characterization of one of the two main characters seems to jink in one or two spots, and I wish the prose had gotten one last pass (especially at a crucial moment: instead of real insight there's the old place-holder of romance novel and wish-fulfillment fantasy Crucial Moments, a being-core). Still, the story is engaging enough to leave one with lingering images and a sense of poignance, which lends anticipation to the offerings further inside the zine.
"Hurricane Sandrine," by Daniel Braum, opens pleasantly enough as the protagonist, Forrest, deplanes in Belize City. He's here to try to make peace with the past, specifically the death by drowning of his wife, and one of the ways he intends to make peace is to find his wife's brother, from whom they had not heard for too long.
Off he goes to Caye Caulker, which is, he warned by a native, "a strange place, like an island of lost souls." Forrest travels on in spite of the warning, meeting characters that bring to mind the restless and somewhat dangerous characters you meet in the stories of Lucius Shepherd and others who are drawn to depict in fiction the ex-pats and wanderers who seem to be drawn to what used to be called the islands and shorelines of the Torrid Zone.
This island has been decimated by too many hurricanes of late, and the islanders have their own ways of adjusting to the grim economic fallout. Forrest tries to hold onto the rational cultural expectations of the north as he is warned in various ways what might happen, and will happen, when the next hurricane arrives. "Geckos are chirping. Mean's it's gonna storm." That is his, and the reader's, warning that a wild ride lies ahead-and you cannot guess what is going to happen. Just like any hurricane. Riveting story.
"A Hard Port to Configure," by Bruce Holland Rogers, is a very nifty story just one page long. We have a single character, exhausted beyond memory, trying to configure a computer port, encouraged by a voice. Not a single word wasted, and a repetition at just the right place for maximum impact. My favorite of the issue.
Even more brief is Greg Beatty's "The Cycle of Predator and Prey." Maybe 100 words long, this story serves as a prime example of how "tell" can actually "show" far more than is told. Neat–and quite chilling.
Another wonderfully chilling story is Jay Lake's "The Algebra of Heaven." Cedric, who is painfully (and I use that word advisedly) clean and neat, begins to find bones in his living space. What would his dead mother, who is never far from his thoughts, think? Especially when the bones begin to collect . . . a real viscera-kicker of a story to end the issue on, leaving the reader looking forward to the next.