The stories presented in this issue of Zahir challenge the conventions of speculative fiction. Instead of tracking plots inspired by a unique idea or extrapolation of science, the reader is invited to consider the consequences of the hook at the same time as the characters.
James W. Morris’s “Rosamond” turns on an idea we have seen before. Instead of explaining the mechanism, Morris wisely opens his story with the straightforward, “William Shakespeare, alive.” What follows is an interesting act of ventriloquism. The author narrates through the perspective of an inexpert literary mind and must present the synopsis of a play that sounds feasibly close to a new masterpiece from the Bard. This play and quirky flashes of the narrator’s own life help the story lay out new ground.
“Shipping Tomorrow Backwards” takes for granted that a widow hears her husband’s voice. Andrew Hook packs a great deal of characterization into the brief story, and I enjoyed the unconventional climax. It’s always fun to see a sentimental condition dealt with in less-than-sentimental terms.
Time machines are certainly nothing new in speculative fiction. Karen Wendy Gilbert’s “The Time Machine” acknowledges this. The protagonist, Faye, inhabits a gloomy, realistic version of New York City. Faye discovers a group of kindred spirits in the Village who help her find the meaning her life was lacking.
Dolores de Leon’s “Fingers” plays with a myth borrowed from Gypsies in southern Spain. The story is a modern fable, asking the reader to reconsider their notions of their responsibilities to superstition.