Our final issue of the year presents a handful of ephemeral endings to round out 2013.
A. Merc Rustad’s “Thread” upends light, dark, alien intelligence, and the symbology of far-future science fiction in a story of quiet revolution. In “The Mammoth”, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam guides us through a near-future landscape of ongoing extinctions and the nuances of a waning father-daughter relationship. And finally, Michael Matheson’s “The Last Summer” twines two hauntings together to grasp at a golden childhood moment about to fade away.
Our poetry this month, from Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, Natalia Theodoridou, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, and Ada Hoffmann, circles around those tenuous spaces where some things die and others change. And as always, our book reviewers bring us their thoughts on two of this winter’s new releases.
We hope you enjoy this quarter’s issue, and if so, please consider dropping something into our tip jar. Ideomancer relies on reader donations to pay its contributors for their excellent fiction and poetry, and even five dollars makes a big difference.
Enjoy the issue and your wintertime, and we’ll see you in 2014.
Vol. 12 Issue 4
“Thread” – A. Merc Rustad
“The Mammoth” – Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
“The Last Summer” – Michael Matheson
“River” – Kelly Rose Pfug-Back
“Blackmare” – Natalia Theodoridou
“Skin” – Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman
“The Changeling’s Escape” – Ada Hoffmann
Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine – Claire Humphrey
Mary Anne Mohanraj’s The Stars Change – Claire Humphrey
They rip out your heart when you’re fighting a war.
It’s a necessary process, surgical,
No one talks about it afterward.
More than ever, you are all body-
So when you meet a man with a cleft foot, with an offer,
Your hair grows, weed-quick, concealing your face
You wander from town to quiet town
There’s a certain freedom granted
You forget what water feels like
When you try to pray,
Forsaken, your pockets remain full
It’s an old merchant who finally does look at you,
You’d forgotten what wealth can do to a soul
You let him take you home despite your better judgment.
Only one of the sisters can stand to look you in the eye,
You tell her stories about your travels,
And so you break the rusted ring on your finger in two
The skin hangs heavier than ever
You think about how you’ve spent four years –
There is nothing left for you but to endure
You can outlast him. Three years is not so long.
The coins pour from your pockets,
You ask a blind boy to share your meal,
Their tears fall on your hands,
Three years pass, and you are washed clean,
As a man you lumber up her garden path,
You want to tell her who you are
The piece of gold hits her teeth and she glances down.
“Where is your skin?” she whispers.
She leans forward, smiling,
Sara Cleto is PhD student in English at the Ohio State University, where she reads, writes, and sneakily teaches her students about fairy tales and folklore. Her creative work can be found or is forthcoming in Cabinet des Fees: Scheherazade’s Bequest, Niteblade, Metastasis, and others.
Brittany Warman is a PhD student in English with a concentration in Folklore at the Ohio State University, where she concentrates on the intersection of folklore and literature, particularly fairy tale retellings. Her creative work has been published or is forthcoming from Mythic Delirium, Cabinet des Fees: Scheherezade’s Bequest, Jabberwocky, inkscrawl, and others. Her website is www.brittanywarman.com and she journals at briarspell.livejournal.com.
We wrote this poem after attending the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts and participating in conversations there. We were thinking about how fairy tales rarely engage directly with the theme of war and we wanted to retell a narrative, “Bearskin,” that explores that concept. Our intention was to create a vivid piece that would explicitly show the ways in which the echoes of war could be felt throughout the story.
A child, night-creeping
far from the whitewashed porch.
A winding aisle through pillar-trees
to lie in hallowed darkness
as the summer creatures hum.
Something floats in these trees,
sharp-limbed and laughing,
The child grasps wind-thin hands,
borne away in forest’s arms
Ada Hoffmann is an autistic computer scientist from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons and Goblin Fruit. You can find her online at ada-hoffmann.livejournal.com or on Twitter at @xasymptote. She says:
As a disabled person, I’ve always been of two minds about the idea of changelings. To a modern reader there’s something very romantic about the idea that there is a good reason you are not like the people around you, that it’s because you are really from another, more magical place.
But historically, folklore about changelings is not romantic or value-neutral. It has served as a way of dehumanizing disabled infants and children and justifying horrific abuses against them, including burning them in fires or household ovens, in order to get one’s “real” child back.
(Some facets of modern medicine do pretty much the same thing now, but without any faeries being involved.)
I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with the poem, except that I wanted to show a changeling child “wandering” and discovering the place where she really belongs.
“Melanippe is a horse of a woman,” the men say, joking among themselves,
because there is no word for
what Melanippe is.
“When you fuck Melanippe she neighs like a mare,” they say.
“She’s bloody dangerous too,” they add and laugh. “Kicks like a horse.”
“Her hoofs have broken men in half,
cracked their skulls into a million pieces.”
And yet they come,
and Melanippe keeps kicking and cracking.
Melanippe trots by herself in her empty apartment.
Melanippe tries out this new language of hers:
She studies them, uncertain.
Natalia Theodoridou is a UK-based media & theatre scholar. Originally from Greece, she has lived and studied in the USA, UK, and Indonesia for several years. She recently completed a short story writing course at City University London. Natalia was the Grand Prize winner for Prose of Spark Contest Three. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Spark Anthology IV, 713 Flash (Kazka Press), and Black Apples (Belladonna Publishing). She is currently a first reader for Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi. Her personal website is www.natalia-theodoridou.com. She says:
Much of my writing starts from a “what if”: what if blood-letting plucked one out of the fabric of time (“The Bleeding Game”)? What if a Centaur was still alive in our times? What if that Centaur was a woman? What would her language be like? What does it feel like to be the stuff of myth? In Greek mythology, Melanippe was often defined by her male ties: Chiron’s daughter, Aeolus’ wife, Heracles’ hostage. In one version of her myth, she was placed among the stars as punishment for revealing the secrets of the Gods. I wanted to bring her down from there and hear her speak for herself.
When you left
I knelt and held them in my hands as they gasped and drowned
We slept below the surface like sunken islands, in my dreams
urchin spines fanning from the soft places behind my ears
your hair a moonless forest
My ancestors were sea serpents, I told you once
coiled turrets of chain link fence,
rising all around us
Past the scrapyard behind my house
shallows thick with frog spawn
On its rust-stained banks I pull my knees to my chest
red sun sinking below the skyline’s jagged teeth
and all that stands to be revealed
Kelly Rose Pflug-Back is an author, social activist, and student based out of Toronto, ON. Her poetry, fiction, and journalism have appeared in publications such as Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, This Magazine, Counterpunch, Canadian Woman Studies, and many others. Her first book of poems, These Burning Streets, was published in 2012 with Combustion Books. She is a contributing editor with Iconoclast Media and Fifth Estate Magazine, America’s longest-running journal of anti-authoritarian politics. Updates on her various readings and speaking events can be found at www.kellypflugback.wordpress.com. She says:
I wrote this poem while thinking of the ways in which we can learn to embrace loss and loneliness, and view these things as potentially cleansing and rejuvinating rather than wholly negative. A lot of the imagery I used relates to water and submersion; in some ways I associate these images with illusion, submission, and loss of control (being “swept away”): all of which we experience if we allow ourselves to become lost in or overwhelmed by things which are external to ourselves.