Shimmer has recently announced that it is paying professional rates for its stories, which is big news for this little magazine. It publishes contemporary fantasy, with an occasional foray into science fiction or horror, “and the stories tend to be tinged with sorrow,” as its home page says. On the basis of Issue 15, I’d call that a fair description — especially the sorrow part.
“The Undertaker’s Son” by Nicole M. Taylor, is about a boy who was introduced to the notion of death early on in his boyhood, which he spent living in a home above the basement laboratory where corpses were prepared for viewing by their loved ones. Albert’s father explained that they could not hurt him; but then, his father never seems to have been visited by their ghosts. Albert interacts with ghosts constantly, from the woman who buries her fingertips in his hair while he sleeps to the man with the tall black hat and mean eyes who wants to show him something. Albert takes this in stride, finding things that the ghosts seek. But some ghosts are more difficult to deal with than others, and Taylor introduces us to a few of those in this sad story.
Dustin Monk enters the realm of the Weird in “What Fireworks.” It is about an island that has no name, or has a name that is infinitely long, or the name of which is unknown; in any case, it seems to be disappearing into a white fog, or crumbling away, or falling to pieces. Various residents of and visitors to the island express their feelings about the place, including one character whose name is expressed only in Greek letters that do not appear to form anything pronounceable in any language. It’s an interesting idea, but doesn’t really develop into a story.
This sorrow-themed magazine has a funny bone, which is displayed in “Signal Jamming” by Oliver Buckram. In this story, a prisoner has escaped from confinement on a prison ship. Worse, though, he’s taken over the communications system, and the results are shown in the exchange of emails between the warden and his third vice-captain. It’s a nice, short joke.
“Harrowing Emily” by Megan Arkenberg is about a woman, Zoe, whose girlfriend comes back from the dead. Zoe can’t stop herself from listing all the things that are different about Zoe, even though her therapist tells her not to. She can’t figure out why Emily would have gone to Hell, though that’s where Zoe says she was. It’s a strange, sad story, not entirely satisfactory in its ultimate explanation for Emily’s return.
K.M. Ferebee’s story, “The Bird Country,” is about a serial murderer of young men who is visited by an angel. The angel looks much like his usual victims do, possibly leading one to question whether he’s really an angel or just a beautiful boy. But the fact that the murderer’s garden blooms wherever the angel sits suggests that something strange is going on here. It’s debatable whether the ending is about redemption for the murderer, the murderer’s death, or something else altogether.
In “A Cellar of Terrible Things,” Mari Ness tells the tale of a haunted basement, one that Neraka, her protagonist, is required to visit to retrieve potatoes and other root vegetables to feed those for whom she is responsible. Neraka is terrified of the ghosts, all 17 of them, and of their whispers. They are the ghosts of strangers carried into the house by soldiers, the townspeople carefully paying no mind. The ghosts grow stronger as the days go by, until Neraka manages to stop herself from thinking about the anniversary of their deaths — or about the lit stove, for that matter.
“Soullness in His Sight” by Milo James Fowler is a post-apocalyptic story about Boy and his Fatha. They murder anyone who comes through the town in which they’ve set up camp, looking for a soul for Boy. Boy is so ignorant he doesn’t recognize a woman when she appears in town, the harbinger of a gang that plans to take over.
Shimmer has a paper version (as well as an electronic version) in an era in which e-zines seem to be the rule. It’s nicely put together, with good artwork on the cover and the back. It will be interesting to watch this periodical grow.