This is a quickie. For whatever reason, two stories in this issue are billed as “literary” while one is the usual reprint, leaving only one to review. That is
“The First Stop Is Always the Last” by John Wiswell (fantasy short story)
This is a Groundhog’s Day with a woman who drives a bus and a woman coming from a very important funeral. The movie is, among other things, about a guy pursuing a girl and becoming a better person in the process while this is about a girl dealing with loss, worrying about her new job, and pursuing a girl almost incidentally. Adequately executed but the movie’s much better.
“Claire Weinraub’s Top Five Sea Monster Stories (For Allie)” by Evan Berkow, Flash Fiction Online, October 2017, short story
This story comes with the caveat that, despite its “fantasy” billing and the fact that it is steeped in speculative sensibility and wishful thinking, it is not fantasy. Further, it is one of many examples of the “beloved dies wrapped in metaphor” microgenre of which there are two examples in this single issue. But this is very much the better one (though the other wasn’t bad) and was emotionally effective. The narrator describes the beloved’s favorite stories of sea “monsters” and these are connected to a declining arc in the beloved’s condition, before coming together in a beautiful and fitting image in the final section. I almost wish the image had been the final element of the story without the verbal articulation that actually does close the story. Leaving that possible blemish and its genre aside, this is an excellent short-short.
“A Siren Song for Two” by Steven Fischer, Flash Fiction Online, October 2017, science fiction short story
This is the first of two recommendations from the odd (and oddly effective) Valloween issue of Flash Fiction Online in which darkness and relationships are combined.
Some workers are off on a planet of ice where the melting and refreezing of the ice causes a vibratory effect like a siren song which causes people to wander off and die in the unforgiving climate. When a woman succumbs to the lure, her beloved goes out after her.
This works on a metaphorical level more than a literal one but it evokes a vivid environment with effective emotional desires – the sonic singing iceworld is striking and the feelings that the woman has for the sounds, and that the protagonist has for the woman, are plausible enough and powerful. I honestly can’t decide whether to recommend this or just give it an honorable mention and I usually err on the side of strictness but I just feel like pointing this one out.
“The Black Clover Equation” by Zach Shephard, Flash Fiction Online April 2017, fantasy short story
This short-short takes a scientific (and hilarious) approach to lucky charms and their counterparts. (Given that approach and another element, it’s almost as much SF as fantasy.) The terse, dispassionate notes are appropriate for what they’re supposed to be but also create an almost Steven Wright delivery which makes it even funnier and the outrageous extension of the tale takes it to the finish line. (Although I think my favorite specific bit was the relatively modest black spray paint/combo effort.) Humor is in the funny bone of the beholder but I strongly recommend this.
Review of Flash Fiction Online, February 2017
- “Marking the Witch” by Lina Rather (fantasy short story)