A mixture of fantasy and science fiction here, and all what I’d consider great stories, even if with some caveats. Some of the stories are uplifting, even triumphant, but there is also some melancholy mixed in to balance things. The world of the Ayinde story, and even its theme, seem ideally suited to a longer work, but still make a fine short story to lead things off:
“The Techwork Horse” by M. H. Ayinde — The life of a lower caste girl who stubbornly refuses to give up on her hope and goal of riding an ancient steed that will only respond (match) to one person, but always one of nobility. Even beyond the message of resilience or dedication, the best aspects of this story are those not-fully-defined details that intrigue, blurring the lines between magic and mechanical technology, fantasy and science fiction settings.
“Baby Brother” by Kalynn Bayron — An earnest story on the fragility of life and how pain can haunt a family, written from the point of view of a child’s relationship with his younger brother. The speculative aspect and closing line seem unnecessary and almost to distract from story’s strengths, though. Nonetheless a bittersweet, touching tale.
“Delete Your First Memory for Free” by Kel Coleman — A man who experiences social discomfort while interacting among strangers, coworkers, and even friends likewise struggles with anxiety over memories of awkward encounters or choices. When a night drinking with friends turns to a decision for them all to go try a new memory erasure service, he nervously goes along. I kept expecting for something to go real bad, for some sinister change to the protagonist about which he’d be left unaware. Instead, to its credit, the story goes in a more positive direction. I’m left unsure how the protagonist can relate the history of deleting a memory to the reader, from his point of view, however.
“All in a Day’s Work” by Jade Stewart — A rollicking ride through the day of a free-lance demon hunter named Walker. Light-hearted and simply fun, there are some pieces of dialogue that seem a little stilted, but lots of writing to bring chuckles too. I could see Walker and their grandmother being part of a longer work too, particularly with depth to balance the action.
The issue also contains poetry…
- RAINBOWS & NECKLACES // Martins Deep
- A POEM IN WHICH SANGO HANGS LIGHTNING AND LULLABIES HIS CHILDREN // Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí
- ERSTWHILE RAMELON // K. Ceres Wright
… and interview with cover artist Nilah Magruder. A Spotify playlist is also available to accompany the issue’s contents.