Stories as historical oddities, some set in parallel pasts, and others are excursions into the daunting near future, these are the tales written by E. Saxey. A wunderkind is stuck in a dysfunctional start-up which may be hastening the apocalypse; in a near-future university, the efforts to create a plagiarism algorithm undetectable by current software is only the beginning of trouble; widow learns that a body found bobbing in the water under the bridge on Rush Street has her face; a boy’s unobtainable love becomes obtainable through a weird dream-drug until he finds himself struggling to ditch the fantasy; a troubled Freud encounters three strange sisters at a cafe and discovers the one he desires only has eyes for a madman.
This collection of speculative short stories is all over the place, but in a good way. It stretches from fantasy to science fiction to historical and beyond. It touches on a variety of themes and topics explored by a host of unique and intriguing characters. But the throughline is that each of the stories feels vaguely disconcerting and ominous. Something dark looms at the edges and between the lines. Something the characters must confront or avoid, something that will leave them changed whether they want to be or not.
My personal favorite was “A Marvellous Neutrality,” about an Egyptian woman who joins her husband at a house party. The host is a man known only as the Poet, and while Amina’s husband is enthralled by him, she is decidedly not. Things get weirder and weirder as the Poet attempts to summon angels using historical relics the husband steals from the museum where he works.
If you like speculative short fiction, give Saxey’s work a try. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for their work in short fiction magazines going forward.