22 thoughts on “Uncommon Miracles – Julie C. Day

  1. My previous review of this story from when it was first published in INTERZONE #268:



    “…I just don’t think God wants us to be part of it anymore.”

    Or God doesn’t want to be part of it anymore?
    Or we don’t want God to be part of it anymore?
    This plainly-spoken post-apocalyptic equitopia holds many complex questions within it, I found, whether that was intentional or not, intention by God, by author, by narrator or by a reader such as me reading things into it.
    “trying to ignore the new reality that is Ohio.”
    This distaff couple, Kendra the narrator, Steph the plot’s protagonist as bearer of a ‘nest’ of Immaculate Conceptions in the shape of….
    Do I dare tell you without spoiling this story?
    The story is a sort of sanctuary from today’s ‘new reality’ and I leave it to you to find it from scratch, always the best way for besties and beasties alike, I guess.


    “She could see a dense network of raised veins like maple leaves running across the woman’s cape.”

    A cape of good hope? This is a poignant tale, couched poetically, of Eliza and her brother Horace on the Orphan Train to the woods, like refugees from a war called city life, perhaps, with their father dead from cholera (according to Horace whom Eliza does not always believe but she depends on him), their mother with them in spirit, dead or mad or still hopeful of a return to them, seen within the image of this wanderer woman… an endless search, like a Zeno’s Paradox, for something. Fraternal and maternal rhyme at least.

  3. My previous review of the next story when it first appeared in Black Static #54, a review based on that context –



    “Digital images all have the same basic limitation. They’re incapable of connecting us to the dead.”

    A moving, often poetically expressed story about a photographer, a darkroom one, not digital, who uses it to seek his deceased wife, in touching unacknowledged visionary collaboration with his well-characterised small daughter (and her teddy bears) and with his cousin friend of the family called Pete… the latter pair are in cahoots painting a mural as part of this inferred project. A mural with a red borderline between what they have painted and what they haven’t yet painted, reminding me of the dreamfield in the previous story and its poppies and rotting apples (explicit “field” and “poppy” in the Day)… The words somehow, for me, become stitched to the brain rather than passing through it, like the photographs are developed more and more by the photographer on his skin, as I learn more and more of his widowering backstory.


    “: bullshit fantasies about dead sky-bound selves.”

    Those Proustian selves now deployed, based on another brother and sister gestalt from the woods, each wood being both or neither inflammable and/ nor flammable, no doubt a truism or tautology. The woman in the wood, here, being their mother again, this time with a revolving door of boy friends, each who have to earn the title Uncle. A maze of society’s eugenics, changing selves not by literary Proustian or Juiceday, Jewelday, Lieday means, but by Never Let Me Go clone or SF chemical means or environmental stimulation, all crystallised eventually by 2,508 wings, even more than the title provided, overkill or belt-and-braces. Messages on each paper crane to each self through the years to obviate their crimes and bolster good intentions by the iconic Japanese origami cranes hawling them not towards the flames, but with the flames and the cleansing or flensing that fire can only feed. An uncommon miracle. The diversionary subtitles, notwithstanding.

    “…chanting ‘Never letting go’ until the crane was completely transformed.”


    “A forked tongue could have symbolized so much if the slash of the blade had been freely offered.”

    Important they are CONSECUTIVE Tuesdays for each of the 13 novenas, a “sweet spot” for the eponymous saint. Cast as a grant application to a town’s authorities, this has exact numbers as in the previous story for the messages to the lost ones. Here the messages are prayers now seemingly ignored, but now a summoning to “new gods”, and the expenses involved for setting up the various murals and confessional booths (a slightly more complicated project than children with paper cranes!). And one sacrificial Christ-Missiah figure is the grant application’s organiser herself, a car accident and a lost child not by CR-REST but by C-Section. A highly detailed application. This might be the first time it is in actual print, thus more readily available to the new gods who relish paper prayers not on-line ones where this application was, I infer, first issued to such gods, bearing in mind the abdication by St Anthony. Makes you think. Spoken prayers might need paper, too? Each one an uncommon miracle.


    “Last week she’d lifted roses…”

    A moving poetic tale seen through small Sylvia’s eyes of woman’s lot, Momma and Grandma, a faded wallpaper – with parasols and ladies – as an ironic comparison with literature’s wallpaper, yellow or not, with a baby (or Momma?) buried for Spring rebirth like seeds amid “worm friends” and “feeling-germs.” An Earth section not a C- one.

    “It had all gotten muddled somehow:”


    “My forty-year-old apartment building with its Class C construction…”

    …subject to stench and endemic entropy. Yet, our hero, Jack, a dwarf star for me, exploits his piles of papers and waste as a portal to the stars to join his Mama and the Papa he emulates star-wise, in competition with his taller brother who has his own ‘mudroom’ techniques for the same ends. An end is either an end or a goal. Like the previous story: “And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” (Joni Mitchell) to transcend the Earth section, here known as the “earthbound”, the mundane like girl friends. Jack is pursued by the cleansing authorities for his piles of hoarding, authorities in the shape of Mrs Tuttle. A poignant, substantive work, with either delusions or realities about portals to the stars, to join our loved ones beyond their ashes and urns. The wisdom of those who went before us. A pretty prickly pear of a story laced with life’s premature decay to be optimised. A dwarf that out-earths our Earth. Inspiring stuff like those art books Mama liked. And her cat Bonita.

  8. My previous review of the next story when it first appeared in Interzone #261, a review based on that context –
    Another starman Dad, it seems.


    “I can see Dad’s face reflected in the monitors. No matter which version I look at, his expression doesn’t change: starman lost, starman lonely. That’s my dad, all right.”

    Another father-daughter relationship coupled with the earlier Space Odyssey feel I got with the Larson, plus that sense of being a sim or being possessed, very little difference felt by the host, I guess, if you are this magazine’s previous sim with a human mind, or, as here, a human with an alien mind. Also, this seeming alien parasite or Masker, Mrs Henry, is at first like Kurzawa’s detachable heart, i.e. a tangible bodily organ blended with bits of its host’s mind, then a monstrous creature, then more like a soaring soul reaching toward space travel, an odyssey of dragons.
    On this first reading, I got a great feeling from this story’s complex and mature vision masked initially as a tale about young people self-harming with knives – possibly to unmask the miracle from the monster-masked soul.

    [As an aside, I had a ‘short short’ published in ‘Cerebretron’ in 1989 entitled ‘I’ll Take Them On A Dream Ride’ which I very vaguely recall resonating with above. Not read it for years. Looking for a copy of it now. If I find it, I’ll post it here as a comment to the comment.]
    Now found ITTOADR and have put it here https://etepsed.wordpress.com/627-2/



    “Death is delicious,…”

    The recipes of the three Ratajkowski sisters, involving mourning for various attachments of certain related people, and including grief for the stillborn and the miscarried. And for the self. Seems part of this book’s sectioned lexophony, now for those about to be buried or reborn, or even cremated, cremated here intentionally rather than by overcooking, no doubt, I wonder … with explicitly itemised ingredients and accompanying emotions of preparation. Comfort food, I think, is mentioned at one point.

    “Three separate loses.”

  10. My previous review of the next story when it first appeared in Interzone #254, a review based on that context –


    The Faces Between Us

    “‘Brilliant parenting, Mom,’ Amber said […] ‘The same old parent shit – […] They like to snort it. Or she does, I guess. Dad did, too, before he cut out.'”

    Well, this is it, then. A highly strung story that highballs through this review’s main pitch, full of pithy meanings. If the previous longish story suddenly exploded into meaning, this shortish one jabs out a staccato sense that I “snort” straight through Neil Williamson’s golden nose into my brain, like ghosts or ashes of everything or everyone, ready-mades and people and all that I have read so far in this hugely satisfying ToTAl reading stint, making them real, standing up on the page. Pixie straws and Destros, notwithstanding.


    “No one deserved how lonely this fucked-up world could make you feel.”

    A major novelette, I sense, where three generations of the Vieira girls are covered, a world which I can extrapolate happening in other worlds such as Christopher Priest’s Dream Archipelago, Michael Wyndham Thomas’s Razalia, Nina Allan’s Rift and PF Jeffery’s gynogenesis in the Warriors of Love duodecology. And more. But intrinsically it sees the unique light of Day. A world where gynogenesis is balanced by temptations to be fought, those needs for an archetypal gray-haired man with cruelties of drug addiction, ‘travelling’, inter-sexual desire amid an inter-memBRANE multiverse…. And damselflies. And vines as veins or tracks… I am glad that the gray-haired man makes some of us men NOT that gray-haired man. Though many of us are him.


    “…no more than an eyelash away.”

    Delia, widowed, as it were, by Mark, a long illness where she sat by him in a repetitive plastic hospital chair with special screws, is now in a Paris genius-loci with friends, introduced to Peter; whether the cultural attaché or devil, perhaps we shall never know. But his inveigling touch, that single eyelash away from the coast of her skin, is his way of either to get his own way with Delia or to help find her Mark … in his image? Not finding her way to the coast, as such, but to its rhyme with ghost? Astonishing work, in hindsight, but when I read it, it was above my head. Just.

  13. LEVEL UP

    “Pocket universes run by their own rules.”

    A story of four. But more exact exacting numbers for this book like book catalogue numbers and percentages of elements in someone’s breath-filled balloon. A misanthagony of four ‘mad scientists’ who happen to be women appearing in their own vignettes of manplaning.
    The science they use is sometimes cosmic, clever and cruel. SF as righteous revenge. One man is hamsterdamned, for example, another black-holed, the other two I’ll leave for you to describe to yourself. Uncommon miracles, all.


    “: the wood, the pulped flowers and all those dying insects — the grasshoppers, the damsel flies, the hissing cockroaches — that will eventually make up the lining of each petal-and-limb box.”

    In the light of the circumstances with the earlier gray-haired man, the damselflies and what I have above called ‘manplaning’, this story takes on a force of mind-scrambling proportions that this seemingly feisty author seems to wield in this book with magical mischief. In a good way, inasmuch as I enjoy my mind being scrambled. I am one of those type of men, I guess, who do. Here we have the spell boxes (adumbrated in the quote I have provided above but also with far more detail if you read the whole story) involving contracts with the Gray Witches, and a marriage of the woman narrator and Barry (both involved with working for those Gray Witches), a declining marriage that leads to the woman’s own bespoke version of those boxes, one that consumes her, but with enough spells to allow her re-emerge to exercise, and subsequently exorcise, her resulting ‘misanthagony’ (a neutral neologism I used for a force of womanhood we learnt about in the previous story.) Barry’s trickery thus thwarted. I do not apologise if these are plot spoilers. Scrambled mind, you see, makes them more connivances.

  15. My previous review of the next story when it first appeared in Interzone #254, a review based on that context –



    “A clatter of teeth scattering across a table, a quick scuffing of enamel on wood.”

    Now having read the Day I am struck by that quote’s connection with the Napper, as if I were preternaturally destined to notice such a niche or esoteric resonance between the first two stories. The Day also has ornamental verse, now as counterpoint to the rich tactile and spiritual ambiance of the world of unicorn re’em, their horns, their blood, their trade, the feral cruelties involved and brilliantly described, even if deadened by intervening time or ‘fantasy distance’. And a counterpoint to the on/off relationship of the central ‘marital’ couple, a sort of skilful deadened Alzheimer’s to protect the memory of any disloyalty between them and to foster their instinctive love: a love that reminds me constructively, if vaguely, of the love threading through ‘The Buried Giant’ ambiance of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel (my review of it here) and vice versa from Day to Ishiguro.
    There is an imperviousness, a powerful ‘mistiaeval’ tantalisation to the Day. This makes it seem unnecessary for us to transcend, by a ‘shouting or praying through the centuries’, our own modern cyclic Alzheimer’s when reading the Day story – unnecessary for us to nail an understanding of its raison d’être, its otherwise resistant plot.


    “Each type of stone requires its own strike angle, “

    Each fiction, too. And I do not know where to angle my review chisel. Starts beautifully with Hazel, 14, arriving at an island with her Mum, at least partly to escape the signal texts and messages on her smartphone, an island worthy of Dream Archipelago. Here, to escape those grooming her sexually on-line, one in particular calling her HazelWhore. The island not only has ghosts embedded in its rock, like sculptures waiting to be released, but also in the air like an enabling WiFi. The beautiful tensions arrive at a certain contrivance of catharsis, a trans-gender ghost on the island called Edith – and Hazel’s trans-Wifighost? – in reclamation. Whether didactic or not, the moral could work both ways, except that I was sadly not convinced by such contrivance.


    “Some days the door’s metal handle shook like a cornered snake. Other days it was silent.”

    ….like a rattling projector with separate performances … rather than the continuous programmes as in my day, whereby you could see a film from the middle back to the middle?
    This relatively short piece seems to start as a telling tribute to the work of Caitlín R. Kiernan. Sapphic red riding hoods in the second person singular, then to first person plural-then-singular… but ending with a truly singular and startling ending that I will not give away here.


    “We store our past as a series of delicious little mini-cocktails.”

    How little is mini-? This time, not Sapphic, but real man-on-man stuff, one called Ian, whom I shall call me for the purposes of this story. Goes to the City Hall to get my paperwork sorted out on one of my many car-crashes; I even attract a bus to crash, by just being in that time quarter. Going in person to the City Hall is better than going there on-line, and calling Ian me is second best. I want to be here. In this book. In person. Actually, while there I am groomed as if I am on-line by a man called Francis (that’s my middle name, as it happens). And I have just been to Chester for Fantasycon. And here Chester is my boy friend from another time quarter. I don’t know what my wife will think! I seem to time-travel by car crash? Can that be right? I want to be there, with Chester, too. This free-wheeling story now points to the fact that each story in this book is a vehicle that crashes into the reading mind. And stories that crash into each other, too. Yet they have met my match in me, I claim. I have created a smooth or levelled-up gestalt from these crash merchants in my mind, and it’s my synapses that crash together instead of them – in a good way, creative and catalytic. The Light of Day as a writer to watch and travel with, her stories to get in and off with, to put things in the boot of the mind (boot is English for car hood in USA): and to reboot, to hawl into a new Ricochet City of metal and paper cranes, towards realms of feistiness and mischief … and manplaning beyond the cosmic crashes of smart devices left without a signal … along with a soupçon of choice sex-drives, to boot. This book is one level up. Or several. Time will tell.


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