Monday, January 11, 2021

Hexagon #3 (Winter 2020)

Hexagon, ed. J.W. Stebner. Issue 3 (winter 2020). Online at

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

In his opening letter for Hexagon issue #3, editor J.W. Stebner claims that his magazine is un-themed, but the five stories he’s collected for this installment each tell a tale of love and heartbreak. Stebner says his selections tend to coincide with the rhythm of the season. Maybe, as the difficult year 2020 winds down, we just all find some comfort in thinking that someone, somewhere, might have more emotional pain than us. The stories contained in the issue are sometimes clever, sometimes haunting, always pointing to the powerful perseverance of the human heart.

Archita Mittra’s “Charmed Honeycake” is an intriguing take on the sort of recipes you might find in a book where the journey of the cook is as important as the food itself. The narrative is built into the directions for a cake that you hope you’ll never need; this is a dessert blended from grief and loss. Mittra’s story holds powerful magic, and the strength of the voice outweighs the gimmick of its format. Drawn out too long, this piece would have proven too clever for its own good. There are just enough ingredients here to keep the tale from being overbaked.

“The Minute” from Joshua Green is this issue’s only science-fiction offering, though it reads just as fantastical as the other stories presented here. “The Minute” is a lovely take on the concept of memory implantation popularized by films like Strange Days and Total Recall. This is not an action/adventure story, though, and may remind readers more of the opening few minutes of Up. “The Minute” is quiet. You wish it could end differently, but it plays out the way all good memories do.

“Visarjan” by Disha Bisht suffers a bit from a voice that feels aloof, like an encyclopedia entry. It’s appropriate for the narrator to be apart from our human experience, but the result is that the story doesn’t pull you in as acutely as a different point-of-view might allow. Still, we glimpse heartbreak that we could never truly understand, which is a worthy accomplishment. The story’s rich language is a delight.

In “Winter’s Heart,” Vanessa Fogg explores the power of love in several forms, including the conflict multiple loves can create. Fogg depicts the world of wintry magic and its peoples vividly. No wonder it’s so easy to love such a love.

“The Drowned King,” from Ioanna Papadopoulou, is the magazine’s most brutal, and most-heartbreaking story, and its ending, full of hopeful defiance, is a fitting end to a collection of stories where love is transformative. Sometimes, those transformations lead to ruin, but not always, and never predictably.

Hexagon is a semi-pro magazine that looks like a professional journal. I appreciated the clean design and the magazine’s readability. I’m still an old-fashioned reader, most days: I like the feel of paper in my hands, and my eyes handle the reflected light of the page better than the projected light of a screen. But Hexagon is a comfortable screen read. Thais Leiros provides a cover illustration that uses a pallet appropriate for these stories of ice, heartbreak, and our determination to love, no matter the cost.

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