Monday, July 19, 2021

Fusion Fragment #6 (May 2021)

Fusion Fragment, ed. Cavan Terrill. Issue #6 (May 2021). Online at

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Fusion Fragment was re-launched in March 2020 as a semi-pro SF market. The cost of the current issue is pay-what-you-can for digital, and back issues are free to read on the website; backing the FF Patreon also serves as a (print or digital) subscription. My copy came as white lettering on a black background with single-spaced lines, which at times was difficult to read even with the zoom function. Each story is followed by an interesting Q&A with the author. At the very end of the issue, each author lists two books they recommend to readers, as well as links with where to find more of their work.

The issue begins with “Gravel” by Steven Genise. This is a literary post-apocalyptic tale of ghosts and dreams. The best moment for me came in the last paragraph where we’re given a deeper look at how we cling to possessions and pasts, but the actual moments of interaction are what remain indelible. And inaccurate. This theme of speaking to ghosts, and our biased memories of them, permeates the issue.

Octavia Cade’s “The Women Who Didn’t Win Nobels, and How Trees are No Substitute” focuses on a woman bent on change who visits the spirits of three scientists at Yggdrasil. They are Norns rendered into women from history who found a type of peace with the moments in their lives that should have been unforgivable. Or at least that’s how the narrator feels. She’s found a way to bring agency to her own moment of despair, but she’s also there to get their blessing. This story took some patience but pays off with a dark ending.

“The Cameraman Loves Her” by Fatima Taqvi is a weird and wonderful tale of a woman transformed by expectations, marriage, and ultimately climate. This is a theme I’ve been seeing in my reading lately, and I’m not tired of it yet. I love the small acts of rebellion; the details of a life given to expectations, and then twisted by those very choices into something new. The reader encounters not an unreliable narrator so much as someone who may see what’s important differently than those around her.

With Katy Madgwick’s “Home, and Hollywood” we once again find ourselves following along with a survivor who has a haunting, but the catch here is that our protagonist is also haunted by her future. The one she is carrying unborn along with her as she navigates a world so changed that she can’t do much else than bring her past along for sustenance. This is a bittersweet, tragic tale.

My favorite of this issue was “The Orbital Bloom” by Eileen Gunnell Lee and Christi Nogle. The emotional punches landed in the relationship between our protagonist and her ghost hit hard and true. That the ghost is still living only makes it more poignant. I was also fascinated by the science that makes the conversation possible. This felt like an entire book in one short story, and when I finished, I wanted to go back and read it again.

The shortest of the stories included is the only reprint. Louis Evans’s “Babies Come from Earth” holds an enormous idea of survival; here we are given a narrative between two voices who are experiencing separate effects of a technology that has terrible ethical implications. It is a neat encapsulation of what the stories in the magazine have been asking—what is your bias in surviving? How do you find a balance between holding on and letting go?

“How the Carrion Crew Stopped Courting Death and Other Methods of Lost Hope” by Jordan Kurella finishes off the whole with a passionate relationship threatening to undo survival for an entire ship. The ‘ghosts’ are crew who didn’t survive, but who are preserved as icons or totems to carry the weight of hopes and memories of those left behind. And those left behind have no choice but to move forward, even when they aren’t sure where they are going.

This is an issue full of people confronting the voices that we choose to either leave behind or carry with us as we progress and grow into a future that might not be the one we wanted. These survivors, as all winners throughout history, get to write that history for good or ill. There’s energy in these stories of living beyond the last sentence. I found the whole issue to be thought-provoking and interesting, if at times a little slow in pace.

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