An idea is like a virus.
This was the opening of Inception, and it’s fairly recognized throughout our social spheres today, with a video or work “going viral” being the best potential hope for any creator. Within this anthology series we get idea seeds from several different and wildly varied creators. We also get some ideas based very much in the abstract, and some who turn those abstracts into something logical and grounded. The act of creation is often a violent one, with infinite possibilities being whittled down until the story exists as a whole. Once your lead turns into a hero, the choices become “stay a hero” or “become a villain,” and either choice kills the potential of the other side. This is something the Big Two try to avoid at all costs with many technological, magical, and simply oddball MacGuffins that allow Cap to be Hydra or a whole half of the galaxy to die and it gets wiped clean like an etch-a-sketch. This isn’t the violent storytelling that often brings out the best kinds of anguish when something ends, but what we have here are four-page arcs that have a small space to squeeze the entire possibility of creation into. There are some bold and ambitious voices doing it.
It’s hard to really analyze story when there’s so little space for it, but that’s always been the challenge with any short form work. Is there a way to have a meaningful beginning, middle, and end that can captivate and spark the imagination in such a small space? The likelihood is that you’ll be leaving the reader with some sort of question, a mental morsel to chew on. It’s the same with any work. You want the audience to be thinking about it long after they’ve moved beyond it, but if they’re successful, then the bit that remains in short form is likely to last longer than the reading. Every one of these stories left me with some interesting afterthoughts, but I’d have to put David Loses His Head by Mikael Lopez and illustrated by Julian Atkins at the head of the line. This story deals with the duality of a creator’s nature (in this case, an author), where the goal is to impact the audience in a meaningful way without being held accountable when some are impacted in terrible ways. It’s a fun thought exploration that would foster great conversation about the nature of art and its influence on the human psyche and questioning free will. Much like the Oracle’s cookies and vase in The Matrix, it hits on an elemental and existential truth that will lead you down quite the mind-bendy path. I recommend doing so with a friend.
There’s too much for me to call out here, but 00110001 is a wonderfully whimsical alternate take on creation, and Strange Visitor handles another creation with subtle aplomb. There’s the gentle and delightful Left Handed, while Tense brings reality to sharp relief against the several intermezzos of Gareth A. Hopkins’ free-flowing ethereal artwork. This is a great collection of unusual stories that are something much different from the 32-page turnout of the big publishers. They’re the daffodils on the path near the highway, there for the people who seek out the lesser-known paths. I applaud Ken Reynolds for gathering them for us in a lovely bouquet that brings us to such a myriad artistic group.
There’s a lot of good stuff to unwrap in this issue, and I’m interested in seeing what else Mr. Reynolds can find for us. Sliced Quarterly is definitely a worthwhile read.
Share the stories that move you.