Review: Augur Magazine Premiere Issue

Augur Magazine is a new literary speculative fiction magazine with a goal of featuring intersectional and marginalized creators with an eye toward international authors including Canadian and Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples. As for the fiction, they say, “We’re interested in realist pieces that verge on the dreamlike or surreal; speculative stories that are almost realist; and, on top of that, any form of literary fantasy/science fiction/speculative fiction.”

I contributed to the Kickstarter, enchanted by their slogan, “Our stories contribute to the futures we need.” The contribution included a PDF of the preview issue, featuring reprints from eleven authors. My goal in reviewing is not to critique, but to share my thoughts and feelings, knowing full well that others will find their own meanings and their own favorites.

While I read the poems, I’m nowhere near qualified to review poetry. I hope it’s enough to say I enjoyed them. “Shortly Before the End” by Kim Goldberg, “I received a lost minute invitation” by Christa Couture, and “Oct. 27th 70 to Union Station 07:35” by Emily Izsak are all thought-provoking, and Ms. Couture’s poem was my favorite of the three.

I didn’t go looking for a theme throughout the magazine, but most of the stories featured characters struggling against a culture that oppresses, erases, or simply refuses to admit they exist. I was happy to find a story that spoke directly my experience, and that made all the difference. I hope that is the target that the Augur team is aiming for, and I look forward to more issues.

The stories:

“The Man Who Killed Coen” by Lawrence Stewen opens the curtain on Augur.  The first lines transported me into the realm of myth, but the storyteller makes it clear this is the here and now, and this is important. The story is rooted in love, set in a place choked by colonialism and greed. The story I found in the cracks spoke of rage fed by machines, heartless, where much is consumed but love is absent.

“Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire” by Michael Matheson is another overlap of myth and modernity. In this version of Toronto, immortals and incarnations from Chinese mythology live and love and fight each other. Though billed as superhero fiction, the conflicts here are age-old, and the relationships between the super-women tie them together, whether they be villains or heroes.

“Old and New” by Saquina Karla C. Guiam is a beautifully written love story of young women shedding “old fashion” to make their own future. Emotionally powerful and hopeful, yet tinged with the knowing sadness that always doesn’t last.

“The Wedding of Snow, Earth, and Salt” by Kate Heartfield. To me, this was an ode to winter in the city, the polyamorous marriage of elements that bring the duality of beauty and ugliness to the season.

“Pretty White Snake” by Cathy Smith reverses the myths of a human seeking supernatural aid. Pretty White Snake travels the dreampaths looking for a human witch who will make him their luck charm, allowing him to feed. He finds two: one who knows what he is, and another who doesn’t. The outcome is implied but the end felt too sudden to me.

“Leapt” by Terese Mason Pierre follows a mother and daughter who have just moved to Toronto from Estonia. Immigrants, they are fleeing a dangerous man, and their arrival has been noticed. There’s a powerful emotional core to this story, but I wanted more time with these enigmatic characters.

Closing out the fiction selection is “Palingenesis” by Megan Arkenberg. The only word I can find to describe it is haunting. A woman, a vanished child, ethereal paintings, and something she calls them in the forest. They could be either Blair, her child, or the presence the woman senses in the woods, or both. The city and the landscape also play an important role. I loved the story, but I think I’ll have to read it a few more times to understand it.

Graphic Fiction

Chang’e takes a starring role in “In-between Home” by Janice Liu. In this story, a chimera girl who is part rabbit, part bird, and part human, disturbs a rabbit’s warren. The disgruntled rabbit drags her to visit the goddess of the moon to sort things out. I read this as a fable about people who don’t fit into a traditional identity trying to find a place to call home. The illustrations are delightful and left me smiling.

About S. Kay Nash

S. Kay Nash is a writer, editor, and bibliophile. She lives in Texas with a mad scientist and a peaceful contingent of dogs and cats.
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