|Art by Wesley Allsbrook|
"The Dogs of Athens" by Kendare Blake (3843 words)
This is a rather haunting story about Artemis returning to Athens after a long time away. She's been living with a pack of dogs, wild dogs who hunt and kill and have the taste for blood. Back in Athens, Artemis is faced with the emptiness of it, the fullness of it. She's looking for some connection to her past, perhaps because she can feel something of herself slipping away, something that made her more...human perhaps. Because of all the gods the Greek pantheon was notoriously human, filled with faults and foibles. And Artemis is losing sight of that, losing sight of everything with the stretch of age around her, with the isolation. The story moves as she searches out something familiar in the mess of a city and fails to connect except in the face of a boy who reminds her of someone she knew a long time ago, a lesson she learned but then forgot. That though she's always been wild she's supposed to be a god of humans. And her pack, the dogs that she travels with, are growing more and more disobedient. More willful. And more powerful. Or else her own power is fading. The story is moody and dark but vividly beautiful, the sights and sounds of Athens ringing throughout. With all the troubles in Greece recently I can't imagine that there is no commentary there, but I'm not really in a position to judge these things and for me it's just a fine, dark story. Indeed!
"Please Undo This Hurt" by Seth Dickinson (7116 words)
I have a confession. I hate the hell out of the Cthulhu board games. I'm not huge on board games in general, in part because I dislike losing and in part because people take the rules so damn seriously that it's not fun. So I think I had brief flashbacks when the story got to that part. Kudos, story, for making me feel like I was back there, with that game, with people I realized I shouldn't play board games with. Kudos. Seriously, though, this is a deep story, stark and dark and very good. It's about frustration and about burnout and about some way of getting out of it all, opting out of the universe, refusing to take part in the pain and hurt by existing. It's an interesting story though the speculative elements here are fairly light, ambiguous, the looming outline of something that might be a thing but might not be. The story follows Dominga, an EMT, as she struggles with the crushing weight of caring, of wanting to do good and wanting to help and being able to do so little, to not even really avoid doing harm. Especially for someone in the medical profession, that must be hard. Because of the mandate to do no harm, which is largely impossible. But the story is about the drive to keep going. It is, in some ways, a philosophical argument for still trying, for pushing on despite the possibility for harm. That it can't be moral to opt out basically because it fails at the test of universality. If all good people opted out, what would be left. The prose gets across the crushing weight of the world, though, the pain, the wish to escape. Definitely a story to check out.
"The Adventures of Little Robot" by Ben Hatke
This is technically a reprint but it's so cute that I couldn't resist. This is a series of comic strips, which have the feeling of separate installments rather than really having an overarching structure. That isn't to say that there isn't a progression. There is a formula to the strips, namely that something pops off of Little Robot and then they find out what happens to what pops off. Having such a formula is fun both for the inventive ways it's used, like the creepy wingnut or the exploding rainbow or things like that, but also in the way that the strips can break with that expectation and deliver something completely new. It's an interesting project, and one that gets across well Little Robot's loneliness. They're often rejected, often seeking love or companionship and always trying. It's cute and there's typically the expectation that something is going to go wrong. It's that which makes Little Robot endearing, that make me want to give him a hope and keep reading to find out if he'll finally have some success. Like a robot Charlie Brown, I guess. And the art is so cute! A fun work and definitely one to get a smile at!