Charles Payseur Reviews Short Fiction: Fusion Fragment, Fiyah, Flash Fiction Online, and GigaNotoSaurus

Fusion Fragment 10/22
Fiyah 10/22
Flash Fiction Online 10/22
GigaNotoSaurus 10/22

Fusion Fragment’s September issue is full of speculative stories that spring up in the wake of grief and loss, with characters searching for healing and belonging. It’s a theme that plays through many of the works, and perhaps most powerfully in Amy Nagopaleen’s “We’ll Al­ways Have Enceladus”, where Trisn is mourn­ing the loss of their partner, Etan, and is sent away from the accepting collective loveliness of their own space station to “fix” a problem on a mining station that still clings to capitalism and conservative gender and sexual norms. It’s a bit of a culture shock for everyone, but any scandal about Trisn is overshadowed by the problem they’re supposed to fix – a newly sentient AI who the miners view as either an enemy or potential slave. Nagopaleen weaves together a story of coming to terms with death and a story of new life, finding in them a solution to the actual problem at the heart of the work – that change is hard but necessary, and should be met with compassion and, wherever possible, love. It’s a truly wonderful story!

Fiyah’s October issue is themed with horrors and hauntings, and it opens with the brilliant “Girl Eats Girl” by Gnesis Villar, which finds a nar­rator who is an honor roll student befriending almost by default Soledad, the only other Black kid in her school. The two are pushed together by the assumptions of others, but they also find something in each other that no one could have predicted – least of all themselves. Villar builds a world for the characters heavy with isolation and danger, with the narrator and Soledad exploring a kind of fairy tale and finding that fairy tales really aren’t for everyone, and if you don’t look the part, and especially if you’re Black and pos­sibly queer, there is no guarantee of a happily-ever-after. It’s an intense and stunning story, full of a resilient warmth pushing back against an onslaught of chilling cold. And closing out the issue is Lisa D’s first publication with the poem “It’s a Wonderful Life (In the Kitchen)”. Fiery and full of imagery involving chases and cooking, the lines evoke anger and indignation and a resolution to do something in the face of societal pressures to conform and accept what doesn’t fit. D builds the poem around plays on language that become like a recipe, spell, and prayer all in one, overlaid into a whole that is dangerous, freeing, and free. It’s a wonderful debut work, and a bracing way to cap off another amazing issue of Fiyah.

October’s Flash Fiction Online is also themed around horror, though more of the emotional kind. And of the stories, Devin Miller’s “Direc­tions to the House of Unnumbered Stars” is probably the least visceral but also the one that hit me the hardest, focusing on a second person You narrator who wants a map of your own. Not to a place, but a map of the stars with your con­stellation marked out, a sign that the things you feel, want, and know are valid. Not to show the rest of the world, really, but to hold during those times when the rest of the world insists that your personal truths are meaningless and baseless, small and insignificant. Miller does stirring work capturing this deeply personal and affirming mo­ment of vulnerability and acceptance, and it’s a great way to resolve an issue that wasn’t afraid to get into some grim and unsettling territory.

Eli Brown’s “Begging the Moon” is the Octo­ber story at GigaNotoSaurus, and follows Boots, who thought she was out of the power came in the city of Diyu. Once a powerful thief, she’s now just trying to earn an honest living as a chef in a city where honesty is not considered a virtue. Pulled back in when her former boss demands a special meal for his birthday, Boots is put in the impossible position of having to find ingredients that probably don’t exist in the city or see her sick brother’s suffering increase. Brown crafts a tightly paced adventure through the streets, skies, and underground of Diyu, revealing a city torn apart and mended by crime and, perhaps most importantly, by families made through shared hope and struggle. The action is kinetic with plenty of emotional weight, a twisting plot, and a very satisfying ending. It’s another winner from GigaNotoSaurus.

Recommended Stories:

“We’ll Always Have Enceladus”, Amy Nagopaleen (Fusion Fragment 10/22)
“Girl Eats Girl”, Gnesis Villar (Fiyah 10/22)

Charles Payseur is an avid reader, writer, and reviewer of speculative fiction. His works have appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and many are included in his debut collection, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories (Lethe Press 2021). He is the series editor of We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction (Neon Hemlock Press) and a multiple-time Hugo and Ignyte Award finalist for his work at Quick Sip Reviews. When not drunkenly discussing Goosebumps, X-Men comic books, and his cats on his Patreon (/quicksipreviews) and Twitter (@ClowderofTwo), he can probably found raising a beer with his husband, Matt, in their home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

This review and more like it in the December 2022 issue of Locus.

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