I was sent a book by a friend this month (a great recommend on his part), and also read through the first issue of Black Cat Magazine.
Unity by Elly Bangs – An individual severed from their collective mind, an artist, and their bodyguard attempt to make it the collective’s meeting place as the threat of global annihilation looms. The initial escape from Bloom City and race across the wasteland was super gripping and fast paced. The mysteries of what Alexei and Danae are both running from are spooled out at such a wonderfully slow drip, and the pay-off for both of them is incredibly satisfying. All the one-off characters that the story encounters, while likely meeting a mournful end, are wonderfully fleshed out and treated with a surprising amount of empathy for characters who get one small scene. This really helped bolster the story’s central thesis at the end, as Danae argues with the Whole about the value of human life. Bangs grows the sci-fi ideas of a collective mind, nano-warfare, and climate collapse in really innovative and fresh ways – I was particularly surprised by Danae arguing about the value of guilt to humanity, and as a tool for growth and survival. Really engrossing and fresh science fiction.
To Steal a Prince of the Moon by Laurel Beckley in Black Cat Magazine Issue 1: Revolution – A story about the capture and display of an alien prince, told via primary source documents collected by a student. I loved the scaffolding of the story as a collection of documents and a back and forth between a student and professor, mixing together the prince’s work for liberation with an exploration of the way history is framed, and the way different sources can shift that framing. The professor pushing back on the use of the tabloid article and suggesting some alternatives was a nice touch. Great ending paragraph.
Story Eater by Saba Waheed in Black Cat Magazine Issue 1: Revolution – The protagonist finds that after telling a story to one of their coworkers, the story is taken from them and passed around, and the absence of it leaves them sick. The story-eating has been going on for a while, as warned by another coworker, and grows and grows, as more people come to eat the stories of others, leaving them sick and withered. The story works wonderfully on both the literal and metaphorical level. I really enjoyed the first half of the story that’s more intimately following the protagonist, and thought the switch at the halfway point to a more birds-eye view of the systematic violence and resistance, from the “I” to the “we,” was executed really well.