posted Wednesday 6 March 2013 @ 9:29 am PDT
March comes in and dumps a lion’s share of fiction on my head, along with the snow. I’m looking at the debut issues of two new ezines, though neither raises high my heart with hope. Also some of the usual monthly publications, which had strong selections overall.
Galaxy’s Edge #1, March 2013
A new ezine edited by Mike Resnick, a name that ought to catch the attention of many readers. It promises a bi-monthly schedule with a mix of reprint and original fiction – mostly reprints. As the introductory editorial points out, the older fiction comes from very recognizable names, the original pieces less so. I think a certain group of readers is going to take umbrage that all the authors of new stories are male, particularly given that these were solicited, as the editor doesn’t accept submissions.
There is also a novel serialization, reviews and columns, including some editorial reminiscing about the Good Old Days. The great preponderance of the fiction is the reprinted. The original pieces, of which there are five, tend to be short and humorous – mostly minor stuff. I get the overall impression that GE is meant to be a retrozine with a leavening of newer stuff.
“Creator of the Cosmos Job Interview Today” by Nick DiChario
This Short-short generates more cosmological questions than it answers. That’s unusual in an interview, but it’s apparently all the cosmos is going to get.
“Just a Second” by Lou J Berger
One day, on his way to a meeting, Frederick Thomas steps into a small store with a sign in the window that says Buy a Second. Time for sale, $100 a vial. The results are more than satisfactory.
His drive to work was shorter because he kept getting lucky at traffic lights and at stop signs. His trades executed faster and he spent less time filling orders and more time talking to happy customers. As a result, his sales had increased, creating a nice spike in his commissions. A very nice spike.
He goes back for a second dose, and another, even when the proprietor expresses misgivings.
A variation on the Deal with the Devil story, done Lite. The essence of these is that the victim gets what he deserves. So the narrator informs us that Frederick is a bastard, and he hands us an anecdote about his secretary to prove it. But the proof isn’t really very convincing.
“Requiem for a Druid” by Alex Shvartsman
Conrad the wizard is sort of a fraud, but he’s so far been clever enough to muddle through without being found out. Now a real estate magnate has requisitioned his services to deal with the problems afflicting his current construction project.
Signs of arcane interference were everywhere. Tree trunks had runes carved into their bark, enchantments spun like shimmering spider webs hung from the tree branches, and stones covered with glyphs were spread along the sandy beach. An ancient magic was at work, intent on disrupting the construction. It was effective and considerably unpleasant, but never lethal.
It seems that the construction is set to bulldoze a grove sacred to a group of druids, which places Conrad in the uncomfortable middle of a magical war.
Fantasy humor with a sympathetic protagonist. This reminds me a bit of some of editor Resnick’s own series. There’s a rather shaggy reference to a contemporary figure.
“The Bright Seas of Venus” by Stephen Leigh
Another short short. The author/narrator is addressing the reader – not the generic reader, not us – but one reader in particular, who has previously expressed contempt for the author’s chosen genre.
At least that’s what happened assuming the program worked as planned. I can’t imagine any of the readers who are stuck with the original story are enjoying themselves as much as I am.
A gimmick story. “The Bright Seas of Venus” is a red herring, and the narrator is laughing manically – muwahaha! Whether the rest of the readers are sharing this glee is questionable.
“The Spinach Can’s Son” by Robert T Jeschonek
Deconstructing the comix.
Here in the Underfunnies, I’m an anomaly, a deformity in the panel geography—the panelography— . . . The reverse of it, the flip side where things don’t work the way they should. The negative space that accrues in the collective unconscious of the readership around these tiny, panel-bound stories. The land of things unsaid and hopes unrealized.
The narrator, as a Panelnaut, begins as Potpie the sailor’s can of spinach, in disguise because he’s hiding from his wife. Actually, luring his wife to follow him through the panelverse.
This is one of the most promising humorous fantasy premises I’ve seen in some time. Too bad the story devolves into sentimentality, about a couple coping with the death of their young son. In keeping with the retro theme of this zine, many of the comic strips referenced here are the really really old ones, strips that pre-date even my own time, that readers today are more likely to recognize only from histories of the form.
Crowded Magazine #1, March 2013
In contrast, this new ezine from Australia signals technological cutting-edginess. According to the editors, the format is optimized for tablets, but fortunately I was able to get hold of a luddite-friendly PDF file instead. The title reflects the crowd-sourced nature of the publication, planned to allow several forms of participant input.
There are nine pieces of new original fiction, eight short stories and a novelette, as well as a reprint that the editors call a Masterwork, in this case by Lucius Shepard. It appears this will be a regular feature. There is also an emphasis on artwork, for those interested in such. The stories run in content across the genre, SF and fantasy. The quality is mostly average, with few pieces displaying much originality. The zine at least has one story by a female author, which is probably not enough to spare it from the critics who count such things.
“From Sorrow’s Gate” by Ian McHugh
A land at war. Hordes of carnivorous centauroids have invaded an empire ruled by ursine humanoids who sometimes manifest as were-bears. Imperial forces were routed when the supposedly-impregnable fortress holding a vital pass was overrun. The narrator, retreating from the scene of this defeat, refuses to give his name because he has dishonored it. He comes now to an escarpment where a small band of defeated or deserting soldiers is holed up, along with a couple of women, one in labor, and a child.
It’s a grim scenario, and we can expect more people will die by the end. Central to the story is the matter of honor. By the end, we learn the nature of the narrator’s treachery and how he will redeem himself. Left unanswered, however, is most interesting question: why did he do it? Without this, our understanding of the character is necessarily incomplete and unsatisfactory. Also unclear is whether the characters are mutated humans or creatures of fantasy; there is a back-history here that is hinted at but no more. Some readers may think the story would be just about the same if the characters were ordinary humans, horse-archer hordes attacking some farming empire. But there is one central scene here that requires the characters be carrion-eaters. The facedown between the narrator and the band’s leader is also enhanced when the hormones are ursine.
The larger was a brown-toothed brute half a head taller than me or any of his fellows. Coarse hair grew on the backs of his hands and on his cheeks almost up to his eyes. His fingernails were thick and black and his jaw protruded beneath his nose. This one was as much bear as man, even in human form, stretching himself up and raising his chin to look down on me from maximum vantage. I fought down a powerful urge to meet the challenge.
“Mirrorball” by Jason Helmandollar
This one runs backwards, beginning when Sara, who for years has been withdrawing from her husband George, suddenly cuts off her own hand. Inside the severed hand, George finds a strange implant, which is discovered to be a memory recorder. It was implanted into Sara in childhood, after doctors learned that she carried the genetic defect that would cause early-onset Alzheimer’s – a defect already eradicated in most of the population. Now, without it, the disease has fully manifested.
A flush rises to George’s cheeks. “Sara cut off her own goddamn …” he begins, but then stops and glances around the crowded diner. Moving closer, he says, “Sara cut off her hand to get rid of that thing. And you want me to put it back inside her?”
This is a love story, and its heart is George’s love for Sara, his grief at the gradual loss of their marriage, their childlessness. This emotion is strongly felt. However, the rest is essentially an idiot plot. It’s entirely incredible that what was done to Sara would have been allowed without her knowledge, let alone her consent. Even assuming that it were, it makes no sense that the presence of the device would have been kept from her, or that the 50-year-advanced medical science wouldn’t have detected it after so many years. Overall, then, the story fails.
“Athlete’s Foot” by Bill Ferris
Basketball failures. La Williams Morris is and always has been an asshole, from his glory days in the NBA to his has-been days playing for Minsk. [“You faggots stay the hell out of my shower!”] Turns out, he did the rest of the team a big favor by hogging the shower to himself.
This is humor, that sort that depends on making the fall guy into such an egregious asshole so we can laugh at a misfortune that would be tragic in a sympathetic character. It also helps if the misfortune is a bit absurd. The narrator, give him credit, does come up with some sympathy in the end.
“The Wild Hunt Below the Horizon” by David John Baker
A confusing beginning, in which an Ethical Intelligence is trying to reform a person named Wyldernha, who is either human or a goddess. It seems that we’re in a far future when humans [and other entities] are immortal; some had decided to create their own worlds and rule over the populations as gods. Wyldernha called herself a goddess of the hunt, and her law was revenge. When others learned of these activities, they defeated the Living Gods and liberated the population. Now an incorrigible Wyldernha has concocted a ruse to let her meet the man who was once her chosen.
I’m reminded of Iain M Banks’ Surface Detail, in which some worlds create their own hells. Wyldernha, in her own way, was an ethical goddess, and she still claims that the EIs have no right to judge her.
Wyldernha spread her arms in surrender. “You’re right. They couldn’t give me what I deserve, even if they broke their rules and killed me. Immanuel is a sweet thing, but he doesn’t understand. He thinks he’s making me into a good person. But there’s no good or evil in their world. There can’t be.”
There’s some thought-provoking potential here, about the nature and origin of right and wrong, but the story slights it, flipping back and forth to other matters.
“The Anything Cloak” by Michael Wehunt
Rand’s friend Jace got the magic cloak from his grandfather, and he definitely wasn’t supposed to mess with it. The cloak can do anything.
Jace jabbed at her belly with the knife, its other implements sticking out between his fingers. Rand saw them plunge and then catch on the cotton of her shirt on the way out. Meribeth cried out and folded over. She checked her hands, still bent at the waist, then straightened and pulled her t-shirt out for them to see. Even the shirt had no holes.
Typical YA horror. A Cautionary Tale.
“A King of Shreds and Patches” by Thomas Brennan
A troupe of traveling players in a world ruled by an inquisitorial Church. The Bishop is concerned with the spread of blasphemy.
“Oh, the tales of the less educated,” the Bishop said. “Lunatic stories of men from other worlds watching us, of strange lights dropping from the skies.”
It seems that one of the plays in their repertoire tells the tale of men from other worlds, and the Bishop wants to make a revision to tell the approved history, in which God, not offworlders, settled humanity on the world. But Clay, whose parents were astronomers, knows the truth.
An unoriginal tale. The ambiguous touch with the ending adds some interest.
“The Garden” by Rich Larson
When Motherships go bad. A variation on the HAL scenario, crossed with an even more ancient SFnal premise. Darkly humorous.
“House Hunting” by Shannon Fay
The birdhouse that isn’t a birdhouse appears in the neighborhood and bites off Mr Easton’s finger. Of course he shouldn’t have tried to fill a birdhouse with birdseed. The homeless guy tells them it isn’t a birdhouse but “an ancient and primordial evil” that now has the taste for human flesh. Of course the residents don’t believe a homeless guy, except for five year old Mindy.
Also not original, but there are clever bits.
“Matron Saint of Murder” by Alexander Austin
Sword and Sorcery. The Beata Karste Stormbrow*, whom the Lord God Abraxas sends to chastise heretics and idolaters, is sick and tired of mayhem and slaughter. You help a dragon claim the throne of Heaven, and what do you get for it? More damned work. But when she learns that her former ally Morcaine has cloned her, attempting to recreate her for his own purposes, Karste gets a second vengeful wind.
Essentially and literally a What the Hell’s Going On story, as we are sure from the outset that the gods and angels we see are of fallen heritage. So we alternate views into Karste’s past, that made her what she is today, and Morcaine’s present plot to make her all over again, and learn a little more than that, besides. The question, however, is why we should care. Every character is evil to one degree or another, and the entire setting is one sort of hell or another.
*really hokey name
Tor.com, February 2013
Last month, the site posted new original stories every Wednesday, mostly independent fiction. I was quite intrigued by the Chu story.
“Last Train to Jubilee Bay” by Kali Wallace
An improbable post-apocalypse in a seaside city. First came the epidemic. Then the quarantine. The survivors may or may not be immune; we don’t know why they survived when so many others did not. It’s the usual sort of apocalypse, to a point.
The city survived, in its own way. Neighborhoods fought and buildings crumbled, floods swept in and roads collapsed, collectors lurked and children starved. But beneath it all, the serum was the only thing that mattered, and it had been since the traders had first crept out of the sea. They had arrived after the quarantine had shackled the city, dripping and bold as though they could taste the despair bleeding from the streets and sewers into the sea, as though they had been waiting in cool green darkness all along.
The traders may or may not be aliens. They come out of the sea bearing vials of a serum with vague addictive properties. They trade this for scraps of paper on which the survivors have written out the memories of their lives; these, they eat – too what purpose, no human knows. Each neighborhood takes turns sending a runner out to meet the traders and make the exchange. One day, the traders stop coming. Lucy, a runner, decides to find where they have gone.
This piece is notable for making no sense whatsoever. It’s really quite remarkable how much sense it doesn’t make. Now it’s not a firm requirement of fantastic fiction that it make literal sense. On the contrary. Usually, though, there’s a way for readers to make some sense of the nonsense. A story may be obviously surreal, or absurd, or hallucinatory, or weird, or based on some alternate form of reality. Aside from the obvious metaphor for addictive drugs, that isn’t the case here. There’s no reason to suppose that the city’s despair has literally taken tangible form to drain into the sea; this, too, is a metaphor. Readers often make a strong distinction between science fiction and fantasy. This story is one that can only make any sense at all as some kind of fantasy, yet it presents as science fiction. Crucial elements are inexplicable as science fiction, yet there is no real fantastic about them.
To begin with, it’s not credible that Lucy, a young woman armed only with a knife and carrying the most valuable substance in the city, could regularly make the long walk alone through ruins infested with marauders and return unscathed, year after year. [How many years isn’t clear. At one point the author says it’s fifteen; yet the traders only arrived a dozen years ago.]
The nature of the traders isn’t clear – intentionally so. They might be aliens. [Did they bring the plague, even though they only appeared in the city years later?] What doesn’t make sense, even to the city’s human population, is that the traders, whatever they are, would be able to derive any benefit from ingesting paper pulp and dissolved ink, no matter what happens to be written on it. The notion that writing down one’s memories would lose them, transfer them onto the paper, is a distinctly fantastic one, and a strong metaphor for drug addiction, but there is no suggestion how this phenomenon could have come about. Was it always the case in this world? Was it an ability created by the epidemic, among the survivors? The text gives us no hint. But what really makes no sense is that the traders turn out to be irrelevant, a red herring. The human population supposes that the traders create the serum, perhaps secreting it, perhaps metabolizing the human memories to produce it. In fact, however, it doesn’t come from them at all.
What Lucy discovers is that it’s the collectors who produce the serum, the collectors being humans transformed in some way to make them “not warm”, mindless serum addicts who scour the city for trash [and corpses] to feed into a Rube Goldberg machine that transforms it into the serum. This, apparently, is a purely mechanical process, as Lucy claims that she could fix the rusting machine and run it herself. As a metaphor, it’s a powerful one: a city addicted to its own ruin and despair. Literally, however, it makes no sense that such a process could have come about. Did the traders initiate it? But the serum must have existed before the traders appeared. What really makes no sense, though, is that the collectors seem to have no reason or motive, beyond producing the serum for their own use. Their aim is clearly to addict the city’s human population, but to what end? What do they have to gain? The payment, in paper and ink, goes to the traders, but there is no indication that the collectors receive anything in return. Why use these middlemen at all? It makes no sense.
So what are we left with? A conventionally spunky heroine, an addiction metaphor, and some evocative prose about ruination and hopelessness. And a strong feeling of What the Hell?
“Angel Season” by J T Petty
Jeremy grew up in the mountains where his father taught him how to hunt angels, until the government made the hunt illegal. Since then, Jeremy has gone to live in the city, where he now has a girlfriend and a child on the way, while the old man has degenerated into the kind of drunk they won’t even let into the bar.
Much of the text is flashback to the first hunt when Jeremy shot an angel, a hunt full of necessary ritual.
They loaded Goldshot into their guns and then wrapped them back in their bloody canvases. They emptied the box and divided the eight shells between their jacket pockets. Red set fire to the Goldshot box, turning it in his hand until it burnt down to scraps, then dropped it to the rocks and blew on his fingers.
However, the story isn’t about the angels but the father and son, a father who’s seen his way of life, his only way to self-respect taken away, and a son who balances the embarrassment at what the old man has become against the love he rediscovers, expecting a child of his own. Moving and real, capturing a way of life that is sometimes called “poor white trash”. I wish the author hadn’t broken out of Jeremy’s point of view for an unnecessary historical infodump about the angel hunting.
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu
Here’s a neat premise: whenever someone speaks a lie, water falls. This is a recent phenomenon, and people are still getting used to the permutations. Speaking a truth has distinct but more subtle consequences. When Gus tells Matt, “I love you,”
Not only does no water fall on him, but all the sweat evaporates from his body. His shirt is warm and dry. A light, spring breeze from nowhere covers us. He smells of flowers and ozone. This makes me uneasier than if he’d been treated to a torrent. That, at least, I’d understand. I’d be sad, but I’d understand.
Since the phenomenon has made it clear to both of them that they really love each other, the next problem becomes Matt’s conservative Chinese parents, to whom he hasn’t yet come out. Actually, the real problem turns out to be his incredibly aggressive sister.
I really like this one. Gus may be too good to be true, but Matt is a well-done, damaged character who uses the falling water to tell Gus that he loves him when he can’t quite bring himself to use the three words. What makes the piece special is the way the text plays with the rhetorical rules of different languages, as when Mandarin allows Matt to talk to his parents about his mate without specifying gender. Because only declarative propositions can be true or false, people like Matt’s sister have learned to communicate hostile thoughts in questions and imperatives.
“Do you love Mom and Dad? Dump that slab of beef. Find a Chinese woman to marry. Put your penis in her vagina and make Mom and Dad a grandson. Make them happy.”
A future indicative sentence, on the other hand [“Stay with him and he’ll cheat on you or dump you.”], drops enough cold water into boiling oil to cause an explosion.
“The Memory Coder” by Jessica Brody
In a future security state, the authorities have the ability to erase the memories of things that people are not authorized to notice. Sevan Sidler is a memory coder, a technician whose job it is to isolate, delete and replace the illicit data. Most such cases are accidental, but this one is a delivery boy who has returned over and over, as if obsessed with what he has seen. When Sidler identifies the memory, he knows why.
Her intoxicating purple eyes flashed in and out of the delivery boy’s mind all day. Her flawless face mesmerized him. Consumed him. He thought about her everywhere he went. He fantasized about her constantly. Caressing her smooth bronzed skin. Running his fingers through her silky caramel-colored hair. Kissing her delectable pink lips.
Although this one is a promo piece set in the world of the author’s upcoming novel, it could easily be a self-contained short story, albeit not a particularly original one.
Clarkesworld, March 2013
Three very different stories of revolution. The first two are particularly strong.
“The Weight of a Blessing” by Aliette de Bodard
Part of the author’s series about galactic imperialism and revolution. Minh Ha and the other survivors of her Rong family are refugees from the uprising on her homeworld, now living on grudging tolerance among a Galactic population that imposes its own version of the history, extending even to editing the virtual memory of her ancestors. Minh Ha has always lived by submerging her Rong identity, determined “not to make waves; not to make themselves noticed; to live in harmony with the Galactics in their new home on Segundus.” Her daughter, however, has taken a more militant path. Now, on her last virtual visit before Sarah is sent away into exile, Minh Ha has one gift to leave with her.
A story of cultural imperialism and family ties. By our standards, Sarah can’t be considered a terrorist, yet her punishment would seem to fit a more violent crime than attempting to restore the Rong historical narrative. Sarah has struck back on behalf of her people’s own history, their own truth. In which context, Minh Ha’s reply is quite telling:
“I saw what you did in the Memorial,” Minh Ha said. “The city that you brought to life ‘from the point of view of the Rong’. That’s not truth—none of you lived in Xuan Huong, or on the Western continent. None of you remember the war. Moc Tinh Hau is just a story to you, no different than it was to the Galactic who build the Memorial.”
It’s because her own generation has failed to wage this war that it is left to her daughter’s. The characters argue these points among themselves, while the author doesn’t seem to take sides. Minh Ha’s husband, representing the assimilationist position, isn’t as fully drawn as he could be. Some readers may consider Minh Ha a weak character, may want her to rebel or rage against the thought control that even tries to deny her the memories of her family. But this would be to discount her suffering during the war, from which life on Galactic Segundus was always a welcome escape. And it is Minh Ha’s strength, in the end, that she chooses what is most important to pass on to her daughter.
“86, 87, 88, 89” by Genevieve Valentine
The War on Terra, on steroids. The narrator is a volunteer for the Archive Division of the Greater New York Municipal Safety Authority. The numbers indicate the specific scope of the volunteer’s assignment. The orders begin:
You are part of a vital effort to recover evidence of terrorist activity preceding the Raids, and on a larger scale, to preserve the heritage of a historic neighborhood of New York City.
The job is to dig through every square inch of the rubble from the miles of blasted neighborhoods destroyed in the Raid against the supposed terrorists. In addition to retrieving potentially suspicious documents [i.e., any documents], the volunteers are required to suspect each other. In any event, the authorities will suspect them regardless.
An “If This Goes On” scenario. The author’s technique is effectively pointillistic: as her narrator focuses minutely on the trees, readers slowly put together the dots to grasp the extent of the forest. It appears that the entire neighborhood, including the American Museum of Natural History, was obliterated in the Raid. The authorities acknowledge that innocent citizens were killed as collateral damage; it’s the job of the Census to sort them out – rather like God during the Albigensian Crusade. Besides the narrator’s comments, we have examples of retrieved official memos and retrieved documents that illustrate the degree to which the official obsessiveness is being carried. These also suggest to readers that the “terrorist” organization was engaged in no more than the sort of protest that used to be considered any citizen’s legal right.
The narrative creates two predominant impressions, both suggestive of the most totalitarian regimes in human history. One is the overwhelming presence of official authority. We never see anyone who isn’t part of the system, down to the volunteers, who are clearly there because they have no other way to obtain food and shelter. The other is the overwhelming fear. Any word, any action, any failure to act can bring drastic retribution. In fact, I have to wonder about the narrator making this record, for fear of discovery. This is what a police state does. Be afraid.
“The Last Survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution” by A C Wise
It seems that sexbots were once quite common and popular, until Something Happened. No one, apparently, is quite sure what, although it’s clear that many persons still living were witnesses to the events. At any rate, the sexbots are now all gone, except for one worn-out bot in the possession of an old woman named Alma May Anderson. The narrator has tracked her down through the efforts of a fanatical anti-robot companion whom we never see. The narrator, however, is more concerned to warn her and to learn her story. And see the actual sexbot.
This one is largely concerned with the alternate stories of the sexbot disappearance – some claiming that the robots turned on the humans, others that the humans turned on the bots. I don’t find this disparity quite credible, given the recent time of the event. Nor do I find the matter of the never-seen Sam to be of interest, given that we are never told anything of his/her motives. It’s only that the narrator wants to please Sam. The second-person narrator presents as a positive character, albeit highly anonymous, given to sympathetic imagining of events. But the real strength here is the character of Alma May Anderson – seen through the narrator’s imaginative eyes.
You imagine Alma May bent over a wooden crate packed full of shipping straw. The lid is off, resting against the crate’s side. Inside, the sexbot lies with its limbs straight and still, all its skin in place so it might almost be real. She touches one cheek—the lightest brush of fingertips against synthetic skin—and some sensor kicks off deep in the sexbot’s core. It opens its eyes, lifting lashes like spun glass, and looks back at her.
In this, in the narrator’s mind, it’s a love story, one already completed. It’s the narrator’s story that is still to be told. Unfortunately, the narrator is too much of a tabula rasa, a screen in whom we can see other, conjectured, stories more clearly than his/her own.
Apex, March 2013
A good group of stories this month, all quite different.
“Death Comes Sideways to the Mall” by William Alexander
Zoe tells fortunes in a mall kiosk.
She sold necklaces guaranteed to improve standardized test scores, and others that would grant sure footing to a daughter’s soccer team, and more for preventing airline delays. She preferred to peddle positive and upbeat sorts of charms — but hers was a business of moving sideways, and this inevitably circled around to a certain amount of vengeance, backstabbing, and stealth.
The thing about the mall is, it’s banished death. No dead fish in the aquarium, no ghost stories in the bookstore, no charms for speaking with the dead in Zoe’s kiosk. Her friend Alexander thinks they should change this.
Clever and charming, in a subversive way. I approve of subversion.
“Mermaid’s Hook” by Liz Argall
A rather different take on the mermaid-saves-man story, this one based on mutual incomprehension.
The man, in his confusion, beat his hands raw on her chest, and came perilously close to harming her face and ripping her gills. She lashed out at him, claw sharp and instinctual. The man cried out and held his hand against his bleeding skull. She flattened her precious gills tightly against her neck, holding her breath and ready to fight.
No magic here, no transformations, no love story. The characters’ determination to treat each other ethically, according to their own understanding, stands in contrast with human inhumanity to each other.
“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
A cry of grief. The narrator’s fiancé has been mugged by a group of thugs, and she imagines how things might be otherwise.
A T–Rex, even a small one, would never have to stand against five blustering men soaked in gin and malice. A T–Rex would bare its fangs and they would cower. They’d hide beneath the tables instead of knocking them over.
But although she is tempted to thoughts of revenge, she turns instead to thoughts of the happiness that might have been. If only.
This one has a strong emotional impact. No real fantastic content, only imagination.