Monday, November 09, 2020

Cossmass Infinities 3 (Sept 2020)

Cossmass Infinities, ed. Paul Campbell. Issue 3 (Sept 2020). For sale in e-book, or online at cossmass.com. $2.99.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Cossmass Infinities, a newcomer on the semipro scene, is the brainchild of Paul Campbell, and he’s clearly brought a great deal of polish and professionalism to his one-man operation. The third issue is out now, and it’s full of intriguing, well-written stories. Whether you personally enjoy them, though, may depend on how you’re holding up in quarantine. The stories are a somber lot as a whole. Several explore death and loss in crumbling post-apocalyptic settings.

“The Draw of Empty Spaces” by Frances Rowat follows a scavenger through a land ravaged by ghosts. In “Static” by Leah Ning, a girl must venture out of her bunker and into a nuclear wasteland. I enjoyed these stories but felt there may have been too much post-apoc for one issue. The most innovative and intriguing of the bunch is the Monte Lin’s disturbing “Heartsob Playplayplay Promisegift,” where a childlike fae harnesses the power of human imagination to destroy the world.

Loss, or the fear of it, is also a common thread through the less speculative stories. “Memento Amicum” by Marc A. Criley is the poignant and touching story of a graveyard populated with AI versions of the deceased. In Maria Z. Medina’s “The Line in the Sky,” a teenager’s boyfriend goes on an exchange program to an alien world; it’s sweet but feels rather simplistic compared to the rest of the collection.

There are also several interesting pieces of speculative alt-history. In Megan Chaudhuri’s well-crafted “Daughters of October,” which perfectly captures the fears and anxieties of life in Soviet Russia, a mother fears that her daughter may be pregnant with a superhero in a setting where such pregnancies are tightly regulated. “The Dead Throat Coven” by Amanda Dee Mueller follows women of color hunting a demon during the Civil War; I liked the setting but thought that the “love overcomes hate” message was undermined because what actually overcomes hate in the story is a bunch of guns.

Two stories stood out to me as the best of the bunch; both are creative, meticulously crafted, and written in spot-on voice, but in completely different ways. “The Silver of Our Glory, the Orange of Our Rage” by Jared Oliver Adams takes us into the extremely alien world of a race of intelligent subterranean arthropods—a world I would be eager to see more of. And Beth Goder’s “Murder or a Duck” lives up to its delightful title in the tale of a dimension-hopping Edwardian woman in search of her missing husband.

Overall, this is a meaty, thought-provoking volume with a lot of solid writing, and it’s certainly worth checking out. However, if you, like many people today, feel like your daily life already fills your quota of sad endings, this may not be the issue for you.

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