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2013 stories 201 - 203

A mixed bag in this entry, from all over the place.

201. SNUFF by Jodi Angel, from the May 28, 2013 issue of one story magazine.   Disturbed by the 8mm snuff-porn film he has just watched in his friend's garage, a teenage boy calls home and cajoles his older sister into picking him up so he doesn't have to hitchhike, even though he knows taking the car will get her in trouble with their alcoholic father. Of course, on the way home they hit a deer and end up in a ditch ... but the deer isn't immediately dead and does seem to be pregnant. Complication piled on complication made this a bit of a tough read for me, colored as the story seems to be in a bit of nostalgia (the first person narration feels like it's at more of a remove from the action than just "the next morning;" there's something a bit wistful about it). I felt like perhaps there was one more complication than necessary -- either the snuff film angle or the alcoholic father could easily have been excised. But then again, the argument could be made that something was needed to motivate the narrator to leave the porn party early, and something was needed to motivate the sister sneaking out of the house, and cutting either would leave a hole in the story. I'm not sure I'd agree with that argument, but your mileage may vary.  There are some strong character moments scattered throughout the story, and Angel's description of the injured deer is heart-breaking.

203. MELANCHOLIA IN BLOOM by Damien Walters Grintalis, from Daily Science Fiction for June 28, 2013.  Grintalis takes an interesting risk with story, using two first-person narrators and coming at the story from two different directions: mother and daughter, past and present.  The risk pays off in a story that turns heart-breaking several times.  We have this habit, with fantasy fiction, to think that magic can cure anything. Plotted your characters into a corner? Toss a previously unknown spell at the complication!  Grintalis' story turns that misconception on its' ear.

204. COLLATERAL MEMORY by Sabrina Vourvoulias, from Strange Horizons for June 10, 2013.  (Full disclosure: I'd read an earlier draft of this story, pre-publication.)  One of the things I love about Sabrina Vourvoulias' writing is how often the magic is an undercurrent to the real point of the story. This is no less true of "Collateral Memory." While magic is used by the narrator of the story, that's not what the story is about. It's about the different ways children process the world around them; it's about how some habits, good and bad, become ingrained as we move to adulthood while other things, painful things, are willfully forgotten; it's about coming to terms with the past.

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