Identity, Paranoia, and Experimentation: A Review of Babak Lakghomi’s “Floating Notes”

Saturn Return is a hell of a thing. The 6th planet in our solar system takes just short of thirty years to blink through our night sky into the same position it occupied before. We are born wherever Saturn lives in our constellations and thirty years later they say we are born again. Saturn the fathergod of the Olympians, who Zeus took out himself, is usually depicted with a scythe in hand. As soon as an identity settles, Saturn returns […]

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Bodies, War, and Sorrow: A Review of Katie Jean Shinkle’s “Ruination”

Katie Jean Shinkle’s stirring novella, Ruination, presents the reader with an iconographical ecosystem of American sorrow. I consider it to be among the most necessary books of our time, for its channeling of contemporary psychic horrors and its candid treatment of potential societal fallout, as it documents the perennial violence stamped on the bodies of women and girls. Their bodies are distended, with dystopian speed, by vegetation and aggressive flowers. Young women exposed to this epidemic are quarantined or otherwise […]

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The Star War Against Cliché: On Malcolm Mc Neill’s “Tetra”

Science fiction abounds with stories of chosen ones, space messiahs, and figures whose stories and histories are inexorably linked to destiny. It’s made for some of the genre’s most well-known works, but it’s also served as an excuse for lazy writing and tropes that, after several decades, can feel utterly exhausting. It’s gotten to the point where the subversion of this can feel revolutionary: numerous reviews of last year’s Blade Runner 2049 singled out its handling of this trope for […]

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Aphrodisiacs and Flaming Arrows: A Review of Andrew J. Stone’s “All Hail the House Gods”

Imagine a world where children grow up in a government tent facility, taught to practice breeding with each other until the day comes they are actually able to reproduce, at which point they will marry and be forced to produce a child for the government to take away from them every year, and so on and so on. Now, imagine sentient houses who rule as gods and require children chosen lottery-style to be offered up as sacrifices. Andrew J. Stone […]

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Uncanny Americana: A Review of David S. Atkinson’s “Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from my Pockets While I Sleep”

Though awfully brief, the hundred-plus fictions in this collection all have be considered tall, as in “tall tales.” All of them stretch plausibility till it snaps, sketching quandaries of a surreal bumptiousness far beyond what we read in most flash fiction. The short-short form tends towards quieter epiphanies, the hurts and discoveries of the ordinary, but David Atkinson is having none of that. In one story a bizarre super-creature, more or less immortal, “replaced the bricks of the Pyramids with […]

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Hollywood Babylon: A Review of Ross McMeekin’s “The Hummingbirds”

The opening image of Billy Wilder’s film noir masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard, captivated audiences when it premiered in 1950: a man’s corpse floating in a swimming pool owned by a faded Hollywood starlet. How did he end up there? Who killed him? The tone was ominous, the danger real, yet due to decades of screen and print copycats, the same scene today has become a crime story cliché—think, for instance, of the needlepoint parody of the facedown murder victim in the […]

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Of Patterns and Memories: On Tao Lin’s “Trip”

Tao Lin’s readership quantified him into fame at the end of this squalid century’s first decade when he stripped every literary conceit (abstracted lingual pretenses and absurdist Joy Williams / Lorrie Moore whimsies) from his work and governed the hip with a Gmail transcript they could all instantaneously relate to before turning thirteen. One method of throttling cliché is to be as incessantly literal as an online talkbalker. That is how Lin embarrasses his detractors: he repeats the terrible fact […]

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