Paula Guran Reviews Uncanny, Apex, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye
Three-Lobed Burning Eye #36
Uncanny #47 is not themed, but each speculative story ultimately deals with common human problems. Marie Brennan’s “Fate, Hope, Friendship, Foe” mixes Greek mythology into a great little story set in a decayed American Midwest of the near-future. Even godlings must make choices. It’s only negative is that it is far too short. “Family Cooking” by AnaMaria Curtis is a small-but-sweet story about magic and family. Juliet Kemp’s touching “At the Lighthouse Out by the Othersea” is set in a beautiful but deadly part of interstellar space, but it is really about grief and finding one’s self. K.S. Walker’s “Blessed Are the Healers” deals with a mother conflicted over her child’s blessed destiny as a healer and their consequent damnation. Although it involves magic, it is an apt metaphor for parenthood as a whole. “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” by John Chu uses compelling characters to confront racism in a story of closeted gay love, weightlifters, superpowers, and even a bit about musicals. Radha Kai Zan’s vivid “To Hunger, As with Perfect Faith” deals with a dark intersection of faith and truth. Jordan Taylor’s “Bramblewilde” is a charming fairytale about an outcast faerie who helps three talented young woman evade their mothers’ all-too-traditional hopes for them.
Apex #132 is a stand-out issue. It begins with the science fictional “Have Mercy, My Love While We Wait for the Thaw” by Iori Kusano in which a space colony has overthrown imperial rule. Through the eyes of the narrator, whose mother was a great hero of the rebellion and is now a political leader, we see a society that paid and still pays a steep price to be “free.” Estranged from her family, the narrator loves and lives with a pardoned but hated “war criminal.” Kusano manages to accomplish a great deal in a short space, ably portraying both the societal and personal.
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s “Creatures of the Dark Oasis” is a monster story. The finwomen are murderous, clawed swamp monsters, but the humans they attack are just as monstrous. Jennifer R. Donohue’s first-person narrator in the brief “A Country of Eternal Light” is obsessed with her dead love. A chilling tale.
The science fictional “Schlafstunde” by Lavie Tidhar is terrific. The SF/mystery is set in the future Israel of his Continuity universe – still old-fashioned in many ways – in a war-scarred solar system. Mercenary robotnik (an enhanced human far more machine than flesh) Mili Cohen-Chong is hired to find some missing parts of a gestalt mind. Of course, there’s a twist. Tidhar accomplishes a lot in less than 5,000 action-packed words, setting up a main character, supporting cast, and richly portrayed universe that I hope to see much more of.
In “Your Space Between” by Marie Croke, technology – closet space doubled (or more if you have the money) using “spatial distortion and physical impermanence” – runs amok and tragedy results, but life, forever altered – not just by the calamity but by society’s response – goes on. A poignant story that stays with you.
Aimee Picchi’s interesting epistolary “Notes to a Version of Myself, Hidden in Symphonie fantastique Scores Throughout the Multiverse” takes place in several versions of New York City as protagonist Zoey travels between realities in hopes of assuring her alternative selves optimum lives as a musical conductor – or at least what she, at first, sees as such. Zoey eventually realizes that her mission is not what she thought it was and that the Zoey who sent her on it did not do so for the reasons she stated.
Three-Lobed Burning Eye has been around since 1999, first publishing a single issue per year, then attempting (not always successfully) two issues beginning in 2013. In 2022 they moved to three issues. The latest, #36, offers five short originals. In Steve Toase’s “Flowstone”, Dave Stavehand revisits the cave in which his father fell to his death when Dave was still a boy. Once seen as a place of dark magic, it’s now simply a geological tourist site – except for Dave. For him it becomes a place of horror. The singing hills of “Trials and Invocations in the Basin of the Three Sisters” by K S. Walker are also a hellish place, even for those who must visit there. There are two stories that may convince you to stay in the relative safety of urban environs. Or maybe not. An unhappy, elderly protagonist finds depressing answers at the back of “The Winter Closet” by Steve Rasnic Tem. The world of Michael Kelly’s “Something Borrowed” is one of depravation and isolation. What is real and who exists are not always apparent. Three-Lobed Burning Eye is definitely worth checking out.
“Fate, Hope, Friendship, Foe”, Marie Brennan (Uncanny 7-8/22)
“Your Space Between”, Marie Croke (Apex #132)
“Have Mercy, My Love While We Wait for the Thaw”, Iori Kusano (Apex #132)
“Bramblewilde”, Jordan Taylor (Uncanny 7-8/22)
“Schlafstunde”, Lavie Tidhar (Apex #132)
Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.
This review and more like it in the October 2022 issue of Locus.
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