30 Issues of Strange Fiction, 3-Lobed Burning Eye rarely disappoints

There’s this publication that’s been pushing along, mostly without major critical appreciation and mostly without awards for 30 issues, now, and it is always an interesting and unexpected thing, with stories that range from fantasy to horror to science fiction and carry something about them that’s just a little unsettling, occasionally grotesque, and always imaginative with rich language and imagery. I recommend more folks read 3-Lobed Burning Eye, edited by Andrew Fuller. It reminds me, a lot, of what Apex Magazine used to be, or Weird Tales when it was under Ann VanderMeer’s excellent guidance. I am most belated reviewing Issue 30, which came out in August of last year. But, it was waiting in the back of my mind, and when I was ready to dive in, I did. Of the fine stories present, I would like to point out two stand-outs.

“The Touring Car” by Cody Goodfellow imagines a past where a brilliant inventor managed to create the ideal car – one that never needs to be recharged, never needs to be repaired, never needs new tires – and went on a tour of the country to promote it for potential investors, all the while corporate goons from other car companies were trying to run him off the road and stop the car. His wife and son with him in the vehicle must endure both their patriarch’s driven and driving obsession with his vehicle and the violent efforts to stop their voyage. The ending, alas, does not live up to the power of the text previous, and devolves into some kind of drug-addled conspiracy theory, but the build up to that, leaving the child alone in the backseat of a perfect, zooming car, with two dead parents in the front seat, is a thrill ride that seems to come from some other world, entirely, even as it feels so familiar.

Do you believe in the bleaching? The color-horror dystopia of “Beast Do” by Alexandra Munk begins with a slow burn as carnations dissipate into their raw red color, and the shopkeeper of the store that stocks them traverses to the backroom and out of the city in what becomes clear as some kind of future dystopia, revealed in the movement through space as she races away from the bleaching. The story disintegrates into something else entirely, a mysterious loop that knots into itself, painting a world of possibility that merits a close and careful re-reading. It begins with a story that might be a tale of a dystopian disease, and changes into something else, entirely, a life past all dystopias, a refugee alone in the world with no clear direction of where to go, what to do, now that the important things have been resolved as best they can.

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