After thirteen years of publication, Shimmer is closing. They’ve consistently delivered high-quality speculative fiction, and they pulled out all the stops for their final year. Gabriela Damián Mirvete won the Tiptree Award for “They Will Dream in the Garden”, and the magazine as a whole has been nominated for a Hugo Award.
Shimmer’s final issue, #46, was included in the Hugo voters’ packet. As one would expect, there are some great stories in here, and I would be hard pressed to choose a single favorite. If I did have to choose, I would probably go with Cory Skerry’s “Antumbra,” since I’m a sucker for a good changeling story. Honestly, this one is worthy of a Hugo nomination in its own right. One extra bit of icing on the cake is that the piece taught me a new word: “antumbra” refers to one of the three parts of a shadow (and it makes perfect sense as a title, once you learn a bit about the main characters and their relationship to each other).
Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Rust and Bone” could also be read as a changeling story, though not as directly. While there was some wonderfully vivid imagery, the story was less engaging than it could have been because we never really find out why the main character’s mother gave her up to Grandmother or what she got in return. (We’re also never told clearly what Grandmother is, though the line about her rocking chair being made of iron suggests that if this is a take on the changeling myth, the traditional role of the species is reversed.)
“40 Facts About the Strip Mall at the Corner of Never and Was” by Alex Acks is another strong story. The list format can be hit-or-miss, but Acks does a great job of relating a coherent tale with very brief vignettes.
I also enjoyed Steve Toase’s “Streuobstweise.” The title is a German word for “orchard,” which is a central location in the story. The piece is filled with evocative imagery, particularly some drawing on senses other than sight. It’s an unsettling, claustrophobic story that straddles the line between fantasy and horror.
One thing that surprised me about the issue was how many stories had a science fictional premise, since Shimmer has tended to lean heavily toward contemporary fantasy. A.C. Wise’s “The Time Traveler’s Husband” and Leonie Skye’s “Tryannocora Regina” both deal with time travel or alternate timelines. “The Time Traveler’s Husband,” in particular, is an engaging and complex story. Readers familiar with Audrey Niffinegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” may get something extra out of it, since Wise has stated that her piece is a direct response to that novel. Wren Wallis’s “Ghosts of Bari” is another sci-fi story, this one more in a space opera vein. It’s notable for being the last story published by Shimmer.
While I’m sad to see Shimmer end, I appreciate that they’re going out on a high note. There’s a variety of stories here, most of them strong. It’s a worthy Hugo nominee, and a tribute to all the work Shimmer has done over the years.