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Shimmer, Autumn 2005

Shimmer, Autumn 2005
Shimmer is looking for "unusual and beautifully-written speculative fiction stories with full plots and strong characters. The best way to understand what we are looking for is to read an issue of the magazine. We also recommend reading our 'What We Want' page, which describes our preferences and expectations in detail. Improve your chances of acceptance by understanding what we're looking for."

Shimmer Website
Shimmer: "What We Want"

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Amal El-Mohtar

If I had seen Shimmer in a store, I would have snatched it up right away, because I am a book snob, and, to my shame, am too easily seduced by gorgeous cover art. However, had I indeed picked up a copy in a fit of unmitigated passion for its prettiness, I would not have been disappointed; this is an excellent magazine with high editorial standards, a tight, sure vision of what it seeks to accomplish, and a degree of success with that goal that's decidedly gratifying.

Shimmer is a glossy, perfect-bound quarterly magazine devoted to speculative short fiction. The first issue, released in the autumn of 2005, features stories by J. Albert Bell, Mel Cameron, Dario Ciriello, Edward Cox, Richard S. Crawford, Stephen M. Dare, Kuzhali Manickavel, Michael Mathews, and Jeremiah Swanson; it also showcases artwork by Sam Tsohonis (the man responsible for the stunning cover), Mary Robinette Kowal, Chrissy Ellsworth and Stephanie Rodriguez. There's a very enjoyable review of Twelve Hawks' The Traveler, by John Joseph Adams, as well as a letter from Beth Wodzinski that welcomes the reader to the magazine's debut, and lays out her reasons for the undertaking.

"There is a single, important reason we wanted to do this: for the stories. We like a particular kind of short story -- the combination of a strange and original idea, a well-developed plot and characters, delivered with exquisite writing" (2). Fairly standard desires for the consumer of speculative fiction in general -- but from the gist of the magazine (and the submission guidelines on their web site), Shimmer is particularly interested in publishing healthy specimens of dark urban fantasy. That being said, I never felt like I was reading more of the same; there's a really admirable variety to the stories, both in terms of structure and plot. I don't hesitate to say that I thought many of the stories in Shimmer to be worthy of publication in something like The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror -- and indeed, the winter issue features an interview with Ellen Datlow.

The first story, "Sour Hands," by Kuzhali Manickavel, is a deft, blackly funny piece, opening with what I think is one of the best lines in the magazine: "Ezhil was betrayed by a mango when she was seven years old." Other highlights include "Nobody's Fool" by Edward Cox, which I dub my favourite story of the issue, since I have a weakness for stories about doomed and desperate writers; "White Burn" by Stephen M. Dare, which is stylistically excellent and builds great atmosphere; and "A Convocation of Clowns" by Mel Cameron, a very creepy flash piece that is adequately summed up by its title. The artwork consists mainly of illustrations for the stories, with the exception of Chrissy Ellworth's stand-alone "Lucy," the coolness of which I won't even attempt to describe, except to say that it smacks of some twisted dalliance between Tim Burton and a younger Nick Park.

The only criticism I would offer is that some of the pieces, while still good in themselves, felt like they'd been truncated into short stories, leaving me with the feeling that I'd much rather see them expanded into something of novella length. "Valley of the Shadow" by Dario Ciriello, and "And Death Will Seize the Doctor, Too" by Jeremiah Swanson were both well-written and compelling, but I found the central idea in each could have stood further development -- not because they were confusing or unclear, but because the stories came off feeling slightly uneven. I did also find one story to be significantly inferior to the rest; "An Interrupted Nap," by Richard Crawford, was amusingly written, but didn't come together for me at all as a story, and while it seemed to be going for light silliness, it felt more awkward by the end of it than anything else.

Just in case I didn't make it clear enough, by the way, the magazine is beautiful. Besides the cover, the layout is well-done, and the inside art is great. On the whole, Shimmer was a delight to read, and I look forward to seeing more from Beth Wodzinksi's editorial team. If you enjoy short fiction in the style of Charles de Lint and Will Shetterly, chances are you'll enjoy this.

Copyright © 2006 Amal El-Mohtar

Amal has a history of reading anything with pages. Now, she reads stuff online, too. She sometimes does other things, but that's mainly it.

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