Beneath Ceaseless Skies #270-271
Jan. 31, 2019/Feb. 14, 2019
- “To Stab with a Rose, to Love with a Knife” by Natalia Theodoridou (short story)
- “Do Not Look Back, My Lion” by Alix E. Harrow (short story)
- “Blood, Bone, Seed, Spark” by Aimee Ogden (novelette)
- “Adrianna in Pomegranate” by Samantha Mills (short story)
Since BCS would now be the only magazine left in the “weekly” reviews, I’ve discontinued that series and now plan to review two or three issues of BCS once a month. This is the first review in the new tempo.
BCS #270 is the fantasy-free inversion issue. “Lion” deals with a matriarchy of female warriors. Talaan is a woman’s woman but her husband, Eefa, is a small and crippled woman whom many might just as soon put to death. Eefa’s had enough of war and death but the Emperor (who happens to be Talaan’s mother) will never have enough. When Talaan loses her favorite child and gives birth to another, things change between the three women. Behind what strikes me as a repellent surface (YMMV) is a powerful background current of emotion and interpersonal conflict. Fantasy fans may note that there is nothing supernatural here at all. Just mundane primitives fighting. Similarly mundane, “Knife” is a brief but dreary sketch with a background of war and a foreground of backwards tokens and unrequited love, in which one woman sleeps with another because she can’t fully connect with the one she wants.
BCS #271 is the Sorcery Against Death issue, which at least brings back the supernatural. “Adrianna” is a dark fantasy of magic writing or “calligramancy” and an estranged couple and their lost daughter. The father wants to try to bring the girl back and the mother wants her back, as well, but feels this is not the way; that there is no way. The writing about the fetish of writing is elaborate and good and there is drama in the climactic sequence but it’s otherwise all very familiar and plain. “Blood” is a strange science fantasy romance/erotica/porn horror story in which an entire, elaborately detailed, society is motivated to try to find a way of avoiding the “After” (death). A sort of Victoria Frankenstein creates a homunculus in the course of her studies which goes badly until she figures out how the male and female animalcules come together to create life in her universe. Then things go worse. This tale may repel some, attract some, and do both to some.