This issue starts with a note from the editor-in-chief, E. Catherine Tobler, to the effect that she had felt that Shimmer’s tone was becoming too dark and has begun seeking more hopeful pieces. She cautioned that this doesn’t mean all the stories featured in the magazine are now going to have happy endings, but rather that the main characters will find ways to overcome—or at least cope with—the darkness and adversity they face.
We start to see this theme in the very first story in the issue, Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Scavenger’s Nursery.” While this story is about an apocalypse, it’s an apocalypse in the original sense of the term—not the end of the world, but a fundamental change, a paradigm shift.
The trend continues in K.L. Perreira’s “The Cult of Death,” which centers around a girl whose voice, like the cry of the mandrake, can kill. Having accidentally killed her father and a boy in her class at school, she finds herself an outcast. The one person who accepted her, her grandmother, is also deceased. She’s all alone…until she discovers that another shunned resident of her town is immune to her deadly power. This piece doesn’t have a “happily ever after,” but it does conclude with both characters finding acceptance from one other person. It’s not an ending, but a beginning.
Michael Ian Bell’s “You Can Do It Again” is a story that can be read as either a piece about hope or one about futility. The protagonist is addicted to Redo, a drug that allows you to relive memories. Some people claim that the drug does more than that, that it allows you to actually travel into the past…in which case, you could change things. This is the hope of the main character, and the story ends in such a way that it’s not clear whether or not that hope will be realized. This is the longest story in this issue, but with an engaging plot and a protagonist that you want to win, it was also my favorite.
Completing the set is Sunny Moraine’s “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale.” Like the first story in this issue, “Come My Love” is a post-apocalyptic piece. As with all three of the other stories, it gives us a flash of hope in a dark setting. In this case, that hope is provided by the power of stories to remind us of what once was and might be again.
That theme of a light in the darkness ties the four stories together. In each case, it speaks to the possibility of new beginnings and the rediscovery of something precious that was thought lost forever. In my opinion, Ms. Tobler has succeeded in the goal she laid out in her introductory note. The stories presented here are definitely “shimmery”—giving us not a blazing flame but a faint one that might be fanned into something larger.