Read an eARC from the publisher Content warnings: death of a sibling, brain hemorrhage, discussion of alcoholism, blood, gore, violence against animals (birds, the dog does not die), drowning. generational trauma
Mackenzie lost her older sister, Sabrina, several years prior in what seemed like a natural cause. But recently, horrible nightmares have been plaguing her sleep, including items being pulled from the dreamscape into the real world. Turning to her remaining sister, cousin, mother, and aunties for help, perhaps she can quiet the supernatural disturbance once and for all.
Johns masterfully uses dreams as both a narrative and a plot device to tell the story of trauma both personal and generational with a focus on finding support in one’s family and community for respite and healing.
Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz is a work of oceanic fantasy that shows great veneration to the ocean and all its inhabitants, from tiny krill to clever octopi to the massive cetaceans. Ceph, a scientist from the deep sea, discovers that the time current is slowing down and hears of these new types of fish, humans, who are wreaking havoc on the environment. Iliokai, a whale rider like a selkie, has answers of her own and works with Ceph to prevent a different marine ecological disaster going too far in the other direction. The work is compassionate, enthusiastic, full of so much love for all things beneath the sea, and full of righteous rage for ongoing climate disasters.
I’m so excited to have Rae on the blog today to talk about the lightning-in-a-bottle experience of putting this novella together, how she went about selecting the narrators, what changed in revisions, and the joy of working with venues like Stelliform and khōréō who are open to experimental works.
At the onset of winter, communications go down at a small northern Anishinaabe community. Turns out it isn’t run-of-the-mill power outage, but a sign of society collapsing in the urban south. What then ensues is survival prep for an uncertain winter, while reports suggest humanity declined. It’s tense, it’s sad, and in the end, community and tradition are what keep our protagonists alive and their families together despite the adversity.
Though short, this book has a lot going on in it which made it a slower read for me. There’s the intersection of community obligation and caring for the desperate. There’s the tension of what to do when technology starts failing and how to merge tradition with survival. Each brief chapter has so much going on, I had to reread a few of them more than once to really catch all the layers.
There’s also the looming fear of uncertainty. It’s not horror in much of the sense that there’s an evil to defeat or run from. It’s horror in that way where survival is the goal, and the costs associated. There is a human boogeyman in the form of Justin Scott, who arrives on the scene with a literal bang and the side-eying doesn’t end there. I can’t say too much more because that would be spoilers, but having something dangerous inside the metaphorical house of the reservation ups the ante so much. At the end of winter, there is a sigh of relief, but an acknowledgment of the work to come.