Contamination: Review of “The Singing Wind and the Golden Hour” by Nicole Feldringer

mars-2051748_640

Feldringer’s protagonist, Kala, is a photographer–and evocative images are strewn throughout this fascinating story. “The Singing Wind and the Golden Hour” is July’s story on GigaNotoSaurus, a webzine that caters to stories with high wordcounts. The story tracks the attempts of Kala, and her friend Abe, to expose the truth behind an illness that suddenly assaults the Warrens, a first-gen district of their Martian town.

Throughout the story, vivid description reminds us of the wild beauty of Mars even as the societal structure is all too familiar to Earth’s class politics. Kala photographs a landscape encroached upon by the Martian settlements: “The antenna mast’s shadow corrugated across the yardangs, destroying the illusion of wilderness.” Talented but fearful, Kala finds a way to use her photography to highlight the abuses of the first-gen district in the face of the increasing demand for housing due to settler influx.

The story is successful in mingling the familiar and the unfamiliar, so that the well-established Martian civilization reflects very current and Earthly concerns. It also emphasizes the role of art, and its potential partnership with the sciences, to combat injustice. A good read!

Revolutions: Review of “Seven Turns Around the Sacred Fire” by Meera Jhala

fire

“Seven Turns Around the Sacred Fire,” by Meera Jhala, appears in the Summer 2018 issue of Kaleidotrope. It is a story about a married couple who endures many lifetimes together (seven in accordance with their marriage ritual to take seven turns around a sacred flame). And it is beautiful. It won me over.

The contextualization is sparse, but this contributes to the story’s delicate balance between detail (“The moon hung over the sand dunes”) and mystery (“I don’t know why we didn’t make the cut”). Similarly, the choice to use a first-person narrator who directly addresses the lover (rather than the reader) puts the reader in the position of an eavesdropper, listening in on an intimate conversation that spans centuries. Subtle descriptions of time and place allow the reader to find their bearing and follow the characters through their seven lives.

This is a good story to read over a quick lunch break, since it is short–but it will stick with you throughout the day.

Words as Tools: Review of “The Bridge” by Yukyan Lam

ribblehead-viaduct-2443085_1920

Sometimes you read a story that just makes you revel in the words themselves–words like obsidian, amaranth, and tenebrous. The words are sensuous, jewel-like and complementary to the plot. In this case, the words primarily speak to sight, but sight and emotion are very closely linked in Lam’s “The Bridge.” This story appears in Issue V of Bracken, a relatively new speculative fiction magazine that describes itself as “inspired by old world storytelling with roots in the wood’s shadows.” Lam’s story fits neatly within this mission statement. The world of her tale seems old, but it is threatened by shadows of resource-hoarding and prejudice.

The titular bridge is the central image of the story–a bridge that extends from the narrator’s country, which exports minerals (mined at great cost) via the narrator’s father, to the lands that have “harnessed the power of the sun, the winds, the waters.” The story follows the narrator’s apprenticeship in his father’s work as resources shrink and are met with less demand. In trying to understand the dynamics of trade, the narrator uncovers more and more questions, including those regarding secrets of his own family.

The story is mournful, but its allegorical notes strike true. Check it out for yourself.