First Impressions: Sparkler (Chromatic Press)

I was fortunate enough to win a 1-month trial for Sparkler Monthly, the online multimedia OEL shoujo/josei magazine. However, I was not fortunate enough to make the best of it because I’m lazy and moody. My trial ends tomorrow. I got a notice a few days ago, so, in my regular fashion, I made an effort to cram as much as I could in. I only got this far. Even with that, it’s about time, I’ve only been following Sparkler on Tumblr since they got there.

I read the first chapter of Gauntlet, Skyglass, and Dead Endings. I think the only bad thing I have to say about them is that Skyglass is on going, so I can’t buy the ebook right now. Really, that’s my only complaint.

Rather than my usual no expectation approach, I actually had low expectations of them. This had absolutely nothing to do with the writers, illustrators, publisher, subject matter, or any valid thing. My low expectations were due to a vague prejudice that I’ve had for a while. I usually have an indescribable feeling of impending disappointment. But since I dislike that part of myself, I try to challenge it when I can. The day I got the notification email was one such opportunity.

The first title I read was Gauntlet by Ellery Prime and T2A. The thing I was most struck by was what was going on in Clio’s head before she encountered that road block. It was a jumble of insecurities, longings, encouragements, wishful thinking, observations, speculations, decisions, and make believe. And I immediately felt a connection with her. I guess there are people out there that can think on one thing continuously until the problem is worked out or they’ve talked themselves out if caring about it, but I’m not like that. Even though when whatever I was mulling over is put into action and looks so neat and tidy, getting it there was nothing of the sort. I could easily drift off into tangents, double back on paths to commitment, switch topics, or simply spread all over the floor the contents of the toy box that is my consciousness in a single leap over the synaptic cleft. This is what goes on in my head when I’m walking down the street, trying to appear normal, trying to blend in, trying to look confident to throw predators off my scent, but not too confident lest I still pique someone’s interest, lest I still become someone’s target. This mental and physical juggling act done in broad daylight just to make it to my destination, be it two blocks or 20, is exhausting, but makes me more anxious and in turn, more alert. I really felt Clio’s struggle and it had only just begun. All of that plus the story story which is intriguing and pulls you along and all the while not quite answering any of your questions, and you will have questions.

Next up was Skyglass by Jenn Grunigen and Mookie. The story is interesting enough; a guy whose feeling that nothing is worth it increases by the hour and a girl/woman who’s on a mission to kill her father. That’s worth a look, right? However, it’s the little details that get me. An anti-gravity scarf that functions as a fashion accessory as well as a mode of transportation. A body or vessel that vaporizes when it’s removed and the fact that the first person in the story who sees this transformation faints at it. It’s this idea that these characters live in a world with advanced technology (lets ignore whether it’s ethical or not) and yet there are still somethings that freak them out. The idea that even in the kind of world where you can replay someone’s death at your leisure or obsession that there are still things to discover.

Finally, I read Dead Endings by Jessica Chavez and Irene Flores. I’m enjoying the way the thing with each character is slowly being revealed. So Delaney sees dead people… OK, but what does that really mean, specifically to her. How does that impact her life? What kind of effect does it have on her mental and physical agency? What good is it? Usually you have an expository paragraph or two to sort of get the logistics out of the way, but Dead Endings takes its time and gives you a piece or two while maintaining the flow and lure between rations. Oh, and it’s funny.

All of these have already exceeded my expectations (which is not hard when they were quite low, but even if they were high, the sentiment would still stand) and I’m looking forward to diving further in. Unfortunately Skyglass will have to wait until there’s a collected volume. I don’t have a lot of patience for serials. It’s sad because I wanted to subscribe to Sparkler, but I’ll actually just end up wasting my money–three months would easily pass before I read a thing. I’ve never been good with subscriptions. Honestly, In the last two years, I’ve suspended my Netflix subscription more times than I’ve actually used it. Well, membership is not completely out of the question, but I don’t want it to be this time next year and only have two logins to show for it. However, if you are interested in any of these or stories like them and can make a habit of visiting the the site at least once a month, a sparklermonthly membership is something you should strongly consider.

Next up for me from their offerings will be Awake (audio drama) and Tokyo Demons (prose). Off*Beat (comic) has been on my list for a while, so I’ll be adding that to my cart along with Dead Endings and Gauntlet.

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