According to the editor’s note, The March issue of ideomancer is comprised of three stories full of “slanted spring sunlight; stories light enough to float; stories about beginnings”. On the surface, I would agree, but what I really think the link they all share is that they are chock full of bittersweet flights of fancy. The three stories all transform ideas that initially seem imaginative but frothy and completely impractical (even verging on ridiculous) into something weighty that’s both beautiful and haunting.
A key image in “Apology for Fish-Dude” by Emily C. Skaftun is that of a flying tiger swooping down to snatch an unsuspecting family dog. Another key image is if a boy who has made so many body modifications, he’s got the nickname T-Rex. On the surface, both things seem plain silly, but look a little deeper and you discover elements of a reality that has the potential to be terrifying, mainly because it’s not too far removed from the one we inhabit now. I really got a kick out of “Apology for Fish-Dude”. It does something I really love, which is to blend elements of our everyday life (Homeland Security and getting your GED) with the author’s own unique world vision (flying tigers and meat trees!) to create something fresh and new.
The narrator of “Apology for Fish-Dude”, a young teenage boy, is quite refreshing. Author Skaftun manages to perfectly capture the angst and the matter of fact approach to life youth seem to have without making her protagonist sound whiney or too jaded. The reader can see what he sees and feel what he feels and connect to it. That bit of realism plays out well against the more fantastical elements of the story. It turns out our protagonist is the modern equivalent of the fisherman in Grimm’s “The Fisherman and His Wife”, a classic story of greed and its consequences. In this version, the author has tapped into traditional myth to fashion a tale that speaks to modern needs and desires, and illustrates that things in Fish-Dude’s reality aren’t much different than our own. Some people still long for what they don’t have and seem to always want more. The biggest difference is that in Skaftun’s modern version, the consequences, though quite dire, eventually begin to yield fruit.
The flight of fancy in “Just Be” by Sandra Odell isn’t quite as obvious, but even from the start it’s clear that something is up. When a Southerner, especially one from a very small town, willfully minds their own business when a stranger stops to ask directions at the general store, you know attention should be paid. In “Just Be”, looking the other way is probably the smartest thing to do when the devil comes walking into town, quite literally. Where that devil is going and what he’s ultimately up to will probably surprise and possibly even delight you.
The element that makes “Just Be” a wonderful story isn’t the characters, or even the little details. In this case, it’s a whimsical idea—even the devil needs a vacation from time to time—that firmly takes root in your mind and blossoms. I have to admit, I really enjoyed the underlying concept of the story. After all, doesn’t everybody deserve a place where they can just relax and do their own thing for a while? And what’s better than returning to the simple pleasures of childhood, even if it’s only temporary? When you really consider it, it is a really beautiful idea to boot. “Just Be” explores the ultimate flight of fancy in a way that makes it seem like something that could happen to you on a “muggy, porch-sitting Saturday afternoon”. It’s excellent, simply excellent.
“Ascension” by Su-Yee Lin, is glorious in a lot of ways. Let’s start with the pictures Lin paints of this world. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of leaves falling up?, or, fantasized about of mysterious sky pirates stealing away with treasure? Those are elements of every imaginative kid’s daydreams at some point or another. But, what if those daydreams were something else? Something that’s real, immediate and all too disturbing like the sudden loss of a loved one? That’s the question author Lin both asks and answers with “Ascension”. Although I really enjoyed the vivid imagery in Lin’s tale, it was the way Lin morphed something beautiful and mysterious like into something sinister using a simple twist in the story and employing the same language in a very different way. Ultimately, “Ascension” is a story of loss and how beauty and mystery can transform into melancholy and tragedy in a heartbeat.