Shimmer, #3

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"Dog Thinks Ahead" by Clifford Royal Johns
"Drevka’s Rain" by Marina T. Stern
"The Dealer’s Hands" by Paul Abbamondi
"Melancholix" by Joseph Remy
"Litany" by John Mantooth
"Rubber Boots, Mr. President" by Bruce K. Derksen
"Paper Man" by Darby Harn
"A Warrior’s Death" by Aliette de Bodard
"The Little Match Girl" by Angela Slatter
This issue of Shimmer is full of the well-written slipstream and interstitial stories that show why the magazine has become a favorite with both the fans and the critics.

"Dog Thinks Ahead" by Clifford Royal Johns is a curious editorial choice to be the first story of the issue. Hallmark Shimmer stories are dark and more dramatic. "Dog Thinks Ahead," while a delight to read, is more punchy, and certainly less serious than usual for the publication.

The story relates the misadventures of a nameless protagonist and his dog. There’s questions about which of the misfits is controlling the other. Why is all the wackiness happening? The conclusion works and makes this an excellent read.

Marina T. Stern brings us a more conventional Shimmer tale with "Drevka’s Rain." Stern’s contribution reads almost like a cautionary piece of being careful of what you wish for. A mysterious man named Ji visits Drevka on the second day of rain, like clockwork. Drevka thinks she falls in love and plots to keep the man from leaving after a night of love as he always does.

She succeeds, the rains never stop. Ji becomes lazy. It’s all a big mess. While the last third of "Drevka’s Rain" was predictable, I found this story to be enjoyable and would recommend it.

"The Dealer’s Hands" by Paul Abbamondi is a short and effective piece of horror. Two friends buy plastic molds of people’s hands from a mysterious dealer out of a barn. Any experienced reader of horror can tell you this isn’t a good idea. Tragedy ensues, and Abbamondi has written a nice climax that leaves the reader slightly horrified by what they have just experienced.

John Mantooth is a writer that I grow to like more and more each time I read his work. "Litany" is about a school bus driver who makes one quick decision that haunts him for a lifetime. Mantooth’s story gives us a glimpse of the horrors that any of us could experience making one innocent, and incorrect, choice. An excellent piece by a writer finding his confidence and voice. I expect to see John Mantooth appearing more frequently in the genre as his talent grows.

"Rubber Boots, Mr. President" by Bruce K. Derksen might be the weakest story of the issue. Set in the 1940s, post World War II, a quiet veteran appears at the narrator’s farm. The army man is stoic, strong as a bull, and helpful without bounds.

There’s not enough story here to uphold the wonderment and possibilities that Derksen sets out to create.

Darby Harn writes my favorite selection from this issue: "Paper Man." A wonderfully crafted piece, it tells the story of a lonely blind lady who is a master at creating papier-mâchés. She makes friend with the new paper delivery man. They hit it off, but he soon discovers that his companion is hiding a dark secret. Eccentric, clever, and all at once sad, "Paper Man" will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it.

The cover title story "A Warrior’s Death," by the talented Aliette de Bodard, is a richly set piece about the suspicious death of a "War-God" vessel (a human who has accepted the God of War into his/her body to aid in battle). We’re treated to an abbreviated investigation, some veiled philosophy about the culture of war, and how it’s the sacrifices of the unseen that truly matter. This is a multi-layered work of fantasy, and quite enjoyable.

The final story of issue three is also its darkest. "The Little Match Girl" by Angela Slatter describes the four significant moments of a young woman’s life imprisoned for…well, to tell would be to give away too much. Slatter’s contribution is an appropriate bookend to editor Beth Wodzinski‘s choices for Shimmer #3.

Overall, another great issue by Wodzinski. It is with no doubt that if Shimmer continues to produce such high quality work, we’ll be hearing its name being tossed about with the other critical darling of the fantasy/science fiction genre, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.