Artist & Magazine Spotlight: Galen Dara + Lightspeed

My family is an artistic family; my mom is a painter who owns an art gallery in Texas, and throughout my childhood, the events I always looked forward to most were gallery nights and art shows. Now I run my own annual art show, the Art &Words Show, which features the work of twelve visual artists and twelve writers working in silent collaboration. It is needless to say – but I will say it anyway – that I have always been highly appreciative of art, especially the pairing of art and written work. For this reason, I would like use this week’s Short Story Review to call attention to the work of one of this year’s Hugo-nominated artists, Galen Dara, as well as one of this year’s Hugo-nominated magazines in which her work has often appeared, Lightspeed. I will be reviewing three short stories which Galen Dara has illustrated that have appeared in Lightspeed. Please, do click on the short story links and have a look at some of this talented artist’s ethereal work.

“The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley
Lightspeed – May 2013

Before last month, I was unfamiliar with Maria Dahvana Headley. This is the second story of hers that I have read, and it is just as exceptional as the first. I will certainly make it a point to search out more of her work.

In “The Traditional,” a woman and a man meet at the beginning of an apocalypse; giant worms have taken over, forcing people to run and hide. The story is told in second person, from the woman’s point-of-view; the voice is spirited and blunt. As the couple struggles with survival and opening up to one another, they celebrate anniversaries by giving each other Gothic variations on traditional anniversary gifts: paper becomes skin, a comb is made of the man’s bones. These variations are beautiful in a dark and twisted way. The story reads quickly, as it’s fast-paced, and the second person point-of-view does exactly what it was made to do: puts you so close to the character that you can’t help but root for her.

“Abyssus Abyssum Invocat” by Genevieve Valentine
Lightspeed – February 2013

Genevieve Valentine’s “Abyssus Abyssum Invocat” is the most satisfying, resonant Little Mermaid retelling I have ever read. In Valentine’s haunting reinvention of the original, Anderson story, a teacher and a boy in her class forge a strange friendship. She is drawn to the boy because his “hair gleams like the hair of a drowned man” and “because of the way he looks at dead things with an air of sorrow.” She begins to write stories for him, variations on the Little Mermaid story. These variations form a refrain throughout, pausing but enhancing the narrative. In the main narrative, we get both the boy’s point-of-view and the teacher’s point-of-view, seamlessly intertwined.  As a result, “Abyssus Abyssum Invocat” becomes a story about, among other themes, collaboration.

“Sun Dogs” by Brooke Bolander
Lightspeed – September 2012

Brooke Bolander’s “Sun Dogs” is told from the dog Laika’s point-of-view. As she is forced through training and then launch, we are given her thoughts, her vivid dreams, and a sense of the confusion the real Laika might have felt. The voice feels as authentic as a human writer could get and still remain coherent; I believed I was reading Laika’s story, how she would have told it.

You would think a story like this, where it is known that Laika died soon after launch, would be a devastating one, with an unhappy ending. But while the story itself presents a helpless horror, the ending is not hopeless. I won’t spoil it, but there is a warmth to “Sun Dogs” that I did not expect.

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