Review of Pocosin by Ursula Vernon

Here’s installment number two in my short story review series. Click here to see the rest and enjoy.

Title: Pocosin
Author: Ursula Vernon
Magazine: Apex Magazine
Publication date: 1/6/15
Genre: Fantasy
Wordcount: 5,000
Rating out of 5: 4.5

Pocosin by Ursula Vernon

reviewed by Bryan Perkins

“The preacher laughed. He had a gorgeous, church–organ laugh and Maggie’s heart clenched like a fist in her chest at the sound. She told her heart to behave. Witchblood ought to know better than to hold out hope of heaven.”

Maggie Grey was born old and she grew cynical. She’s a witch who’s been settling other people’s fights for too long now. All she wants is a little time to herself. She’s no quitter, she knows that what she does is necessary, she is a witch after all, but are a few weeks alone to drink whiskey, tie fishing flies, and stare at the pond too much to ask?

Pocosin presents itself as a modern fable complete with a possum god, the God, the Devil, and Death herself, all personified. What initially seems to be a simple fairy tale, driving toward a well-worn commentary on human interaction with nature, becomes instead a treatise on what it means to be a woman. Maggie, sitting on the porch with her grandmother Death, venting about her frustrations, says four words which make this theme all the more obvious and which drove me to give the story a second reading: “Ain’t I a witch?”

Maggie Grey is a witch like Sojourner Truth is a woman. And though witchkind has been dealing with these same issues for so long, though Maggie is sick and tired of stupid, sick and tired “of taking care of things, over and over, and having to do it again the next day,” she knows she has no choice but to carry on. All she asks for is a few weeks alone with her whiskey and fishing flies, the world can get on fine without her for such a short time.

END

Read the story here. See more reviews of short stories here.

Advertisements

Review of Vacui Magia by L. S. Johnson

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, getting a feel for the market, and a post on /r/printSF got me to thinking that I should start writing reviews of some of these as I go along. So, I’m going to do just that–starting with the ones I like so get ready for some rating inflation. They won’t be very good, because I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I’m sure they will lead you to some enjoyable short fiction at the least.

Without further ado, for my first installment I’ll be reviewing L. S. Johnson’s Vacui Magia which was published in Strange Horizons Magazine. Click the link to read it or scroll on to read my review first.

Title: Vacui Magia [Podcast Reading]
Author: L. S. Johnson
Magazine: Strange Horizons
Publication date: 1/5/15
Genre: Fantasy
Wordcount: 3,500
Rating out of 5: 4.5 (Because I’m new to this. I don’t know what constitutes a five yet. Give me a break.)

Vacui Magia by L. S. Johnson

reviewed by Bryan Perkins 

“The most crucial element in any conjuring is, of course, conviction. You know this. Every witch knows this. You must believe, utterly believe, that it will work, despite what your senses tell you, despite what your reasoning mind tells you.”

You cannot conceive. Your mother is dying and all she ever wanted was to see you with child, to meet her grandchild. How much are you willing to go through to give her what she desires? Anything? What does “anything” entail?

L. S. Johnson purports to teach us the principles of conjuration, but in reality teaches us something deeper about the human experience. The same principles which guide you through the creation of a clay golem, designed to fulfill your mother’s dying wish, apply to all human endeavors and creations. Nothing is made in a vacuum, we must know and understand our purpose, that which we sneer at is that which we become, closeness breeds empathy, and our actions reveal our true desires.

Vacui Magia is full of life, and although the unnamed main character (you) may have realized in the end that your purpose was something other than you originally thought, something your heart truly desired, I don’t think that magic was empty. Though I won’t argue with you about it, especially if believing the magic was empty helps you feel better after the unmaking.

In the end we are all conjuring clay golems, or we are all clay golems conjured. Perhaps we are both, and though the journey to the unmaking is long, there will always be the walk back, “wading and stumbling, blinded by tears,” giving us enough time to forget our losses and relearn our freedom.

END

Read the story here, or click this to listen to the podcast.