I don’t always choose the theme for a given issue. Sometimes it just presents itself. Much fiction is about transformations of one sort or another, but rarely is it hammered home so explicitly and wonderfully as in this month’s stories.
First up this month is a story by science fiction writer John C. Wright. He is best known for his novels, but decided he was up for the challenge of a 1000-word story. The result is an odd and poignant ditty: A woman reaches out for contact with aliens, searching for meaning, only to discover that they seek the same thing.
When I first read the story, I thought it was a philosophical statement about evolution, which almost led me to run it on the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s death. Two things have changed my mind. First, Mr. Wright sighed (well, virtually, anyway) when he heard my opinion, noting that people often see messages in his stories even when he writes purely for entertainment value. Second, the pull of the story — the aspect of it that makes it a story rather than a parable — is the emotional pull of order, familiarity, shared experience, and higher causes rather than evolutionary arguments. (For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.) As he put it, “I thought it would be a nifty speculation that Earth had been rendered beautiful by ancient alien intervention, and that the human race was a species designed by these aliens to carry out that same purpose on other worlds, to beautify them, and that the gray aliens of popular mythology were visiting our world because it was so lovely to them, and because there are UFO nuts among the gray aliens too, who are looking for their own version of higher powers.”
Anyway, the transformations here are multiple: the species, the planets, the aliens, the human woman, the creature she holds in her hand. I’ll stop talking now so you can go read the story. It’s called “A Random World Of Delta Capricorni Aa, Also Called Scheddi.”
When you hit the link, you’ll notice that this issue marks the return of R.W. Ware, our artist-in-residence. Good thing, too — no way would I be able to find art that matches that story. I’d like to thank him for his superb contribution.
Our next story was written by Amy Treadwell, who has graced these pages before. Her contribution this issue, “Candy Floss Time,” is about a young, despairing woman who gets a fateful invitation to a carnival. Candy floss is an English term for cotton candy; though Amy is American, the notion of floss or thread is important here. I enjoyed the whole thing, but there’s one transformational moment that forced me to buy the story.
Our third story, “Fool’s Fire,” is by new author Hayley E. Lavik. Here the major transformation has already happened — sort of. The story isn’t about a dream, but it reminds me of those times when, while dreaming, impossible things have seemed commonplace, and then, upon waking, my mind has a hard time detaching from the impossibilities and adjusting to the real world.
Even Bruce Holland Rogers’s Short-short Sighted writing column is about transformation, too, and specifically links transformation stories to compassion. This is a good idea and well explored, and writers who submit to us would do well to understand it. His example story is called “Sea Anenomes,” which is funny and weird and, go figure, compassionate.
We round out the issue with Lord Dunsany’s “The Beggars.” I consider him one of the fathers of modern fantasy, and his story here is of a vision; as such, there are no real changes, but the vision is a transformative one for the narrator. It’s a beautiful little piece, written with Dunsany’s characteristic flair for detail and poetic word choices.
We published two days late this month — we normally go live on the first Tuesday or Thursday of the month — but we hope to get back on schedule for our next issue on June first. See you then!