Beneath Ceaseless Skies #268, January 3, 2019
- “The Blighted Godling of Company Town H” by Beth Cato (fantasy short story)
- “The Beast Weeps with One Eye” by Morgan Al-Moor (fantasy short story)
While I prefer my SF to be SF and my fantasy to be fantasy, the middle section of my “Year’s Best” post clearly demonstrates that I don’t have any problem with stories which play with genre or incorporate elements from other genres in an effective way but January 2019’s wombat is “the unfortunate mishmash of heterogeneous elements” with at least a fourth such story in three separate magazines. In “Godling,” a sort of steampunk science fantasy, a company is going out of business since an armistice has ruined the interstellar arms manufacturing trade. In turn, the “godling” who runs a company town is witnessing the ruin of it and her people, culminating with someone from HQ arriving to Unmake the town. Fortunately, though her iron icons which magically guard the town have been broken, she has plenty of paper and a few remaining people to help her make a lot of paper icons to do battle with the threat. The whole is utterly discordant and unconvincing. The much more conventional (almost too conventional) “Beast” also features a matriarch striving to save her people. The surviving members of her tribe have been chased into an unfamiliar land by attacking birds and it turns out they’ve basically been herded there by an old dethroned and imprisoned godling who is seeking escape by extorting three sacrifices of sorrow from the matriarch and her tribe. She, too, is ultimately driven to try to make a stand. The opportunity for a more complex and even sympathetic godling is there for the taking but largely ignored in order to get to the familiar and facile ending. Still, this tale was coherent and vigorous.