Huw Steer’s story, The Only Cure (apparently inspired back in grade school), is about a quack doctor selling fake cures during one of the latter bubonic plague outbreaks. Of course, the premise of a con artist during a pandemic immediately hooked us.
We also wanted to check out some other indie fantasy authors, as research for the current Sparrow novel, Stranger Back Home. Issue #25 features five short stories, a few author interviews and book/media reviews, and an editorial article. Not familiar with the featured authors or other media, we just read the short stories to review for you here.
Check out our impressions of the short stories, and you might be interested in subscribing to Grimdark Magazine!
Sacred Semantics by Nicholas Eames
Apparently one of the popular settings for Grimdark fantasy is during wartime. This makes a lot of sense, since wartime often results in bleak, survivalist scenarios.
‘Sacred Semantics’ resorts to reducing religion to a conflict-creating device, which is probably fine for a short story or flash fiction, but wouldn’t hold up very well in a full-length novel.
The main character, who believes in an eight-legged spider goddess, is on the run from an incoming force that believes in a six-legged spider goddess. It’s kinda like the reductio ad absurdum of this story was derived from a South Park episode, but we won’t criticize.
The story does a great job of establishing the hopelessness felt in times of war by collateral populations, and the loss of faith that accompanies loss of stability. The main character gets caught up in a rapid succession of deadly scenarios, which keeps the plot pace moving. The ending has an unexpected twist.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Ranked: 2nd best story in this issue.
The Only Cure by Hûw Steer
Steer’s story stands by itself just fine; the fact that (according to his blog, at least) he got the idea for the story in History class when he was only 13 makes the story remarkable.
Unsurprisingly, major pandemics often inspire unscrupulous characters to sell fake cures and false hope to sick people.
‘The Only Cure’ is a story about one such con artist, and the historic truth behind this scenario makes the story more realistic. Despite having only a few pages to fulfill the plot, Steer actually delivers significant character development.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Ranked: Top story in this issue.
The Dead Man by Jack van Beynen
This story was written in present tense, so of course we didn’t read it. We only adhere to one standard of reading at TheShortStoryTeller: The storyteller belongs to the present; the story belongs in the past.
Rating: Not possible to rate.
Ranked: Dead last.
Stiff’s Standoff by Jamie Edmundson
Personally, I love reading about criminal gangs, just like I love reading about heists. Almost as much as I love a good con.
‘Stiff’s Standoff’ is a fun little tragedy about a criminal gang and their competition. Rather than character development, the author gives us hints about inter-character background that are just as interesting.
The MacGuffin is a little weak, but I suppose the irony of the ending makes up for it. In contrast to the other stories in this issue, I never got the grimdark impression that I was hoping for. So, although the story was pretty decently written, I dropped it to third place.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Rank: 3rd place in this issue.
Winter Sweet, Winter Grieve by Kaaron Warren
This book was a study in irreconcilable contrasts. Too much of the introduction was full of conflicting description: trees that smelled sweet yet foul, flowers that were colorful and ugly.
The characters were inconsistent and arbitrary, having sex with each other, and then burning down their house.
A lot of the plot development read like a trippy dream, like machinery that sank into the ground, flaming ghosts waving goodbye, giants buried under the earth in massive crypts.
Truly, I had no idea what was really going on. Also, Winter Sweet sounds like chewing gum.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.
Rank: Well, it beats the present tense story.
Recommendation: Great With Kindle Unlimited
If you have Kindle Unlimited, Grimdark magazine is a great way to check out some new indie fantasy authors without spending extra cash.
I’ll probably check out a few future issues. Even if most of the stories end up amateurish, it’s a risk-free way to possibly discover some great authors.
Comment below if you have any other recommendation for literary periodicals, especially those available on Kindle Unlimited. And don’t forget to subscribe and share these reviews with your reader friends! Our website members now have access to our printable bookmark library and some other free digital content!