March 12, 2024

More Stories I Have Read (And You Should Too!)


Apparition Lit is a literary speculative fiction magazine that I did not know existed until a little while ago. Out of curiosity, I became one of their patrons to check them out. This is the first issue I received, guest edited by Brendan O'Brien, and I have to say I was rather impressed. The magazine features speculative fiction, poetry and non-fiction articles. 

In particular, the story "The Plague Collector" by Tom Okafor caught my attention. This story has an edge of horror, but it is beautifully written:

In that moment, the sky wears dusk. The garden freezes, unhearing the buzzes of wild insects with which it is swathed. You look into the garden, chills carve crisscrosses into your skin, and your eyes glint with a salient light as they behold Oke Ala standing fifteen meters away from you in the center of the garden. Your fingers clutch the stalk. She is mighty, tall, and thick; her skin is the black of rich loam; her hair is full, darker than the silence of the night, braided at both sides of her head; innumerable golden rings occupy her earlobes, gleaming with hues alien to your eyes; and her lips shine red like a bleeding dream.

It's also done in second person present tense POV, which is not easy to pull off (although I've been seeing that point of view more and more lately). 

"Everything, Nothing At All, and All That's In Between," by Rebecca E. Treasure, is another story hovering at the junction of fantasy and horror. I don't want to spoil it too much, but the further you get into it the more horrific it gets. But for all that, at the end the protagonist manages to break free from her jailers, and help her friends as well:

She gasps, hesitant, not quite believing. The fingertip of her pinky splits, a little black hair poking out. Fear comes into her eyes and I’m sorry for that, but now they won’t want her--she’s free to want for herself. Up and down the rows, we who would run are freeing the rest.

“You cursed me,” she whispers, but her hand comes up to meet mine.

I nod, helping her from her holes. “Pass it on,” I say.

We are unrooted, cursed, the ruination of their plans. We need only ourselves.

"Bringing Down the Neighborhood," by Bernard McGhee, is more of an SF horror story, about a son returning to his childhood home to see a father who has fallen under the sway of a alien plant, woven with the background of a gentrified neighborhood where the people who have been there for years can't afford it any longer: 

“You haven’t been around much these last 15 years, so you don’t know what it’s been like,” James said. “They all say they want to make the neighborhood better. But they never seem to notice all the people they’re pushing out while they do it. Calling us a ‘blighted neighborhood’ as if that’s something that just happens and now we’re all a disease. Like the people who lived here chose to have the funding cut to the school and the police station; chose to have BunleeCorp close down the warehouse and move all those jobs to Wyoming. But it’s ok. It’s ok.” He pointed to the gray pyramid. “Our friend here came all the way from the Helix Nebula to help us turn it all around. Watch now. You’ll like this part.”

"This part" being at the end of the story, the neighborhood is "de-gentrified," all the other houses old and broken-down (a bit of delicious reversal of fortune, that) and the protagonist's house suddenly new and restored along with the protagonist now having enough money to help all the old neighbors rebuild. 

The final story in the issue, "The City and the Styrofoam Sea," by Mar Vincent, is a post-apocalyptic tale of a rather creepy future Earth:

The city had started it all.

She was hardly old enough to recall the world a different way. Blue sky had been commonplace then,
rather than the rarity it was now. If there weren’t others in the Bunker old enough to confirm this memory, she’d almost believe it a fancy of her own imagination. 

A time before black plumes spewed relentlessly into the sky, and with them the metastatic material—no longer organic or synthetic but a messy mix of the two—which infected the landscape in all directions, devouring what existed, natural and man-made, and repurposing everything into new and illogical growths. Fungal lampposts. Fields of waving copper-wire weeds. Once-suburban neighborhoods gnawed down to slumping cave mouths in a shingle-shale wasteland.

This story definitely has a Last of Us vibe to it, if a slightly happier ending. 

There's also four poems in this issue. I usually find SF poetry to be very hit-and-miss, but these poems weren't too bad. Finally, there is a non-fiction article, "Let There Be Blight," by A.J. Van Belle. In keeping with the issue's theme, this article talks about fungi--in particular "terrestrial decomposer fungi"--and makes what seems like a yucky topic pretty interesting. 

This is a pretty interesting little magazine, as well. You can subscribe here , join their Patreon, or buy the issue at Smashwords. (Just to be clear, nobody from the magazine contacted me and asked or paid me to sing their praises. I just enjoyed their magazine and think they deserve to be more widely known.)

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