A Fairy Penny, Shimmering in My Hand

I’m not sure who first showed me the fairy pennies. It was a childhood game: Shine a flashlight beam on the ground and try to catch the bright circle. A fairy penny meant passage into Fairyland, so of course I wanted one. Alas, that shining penny, being a fairy thing, always eluded my grasping human hands.

When I read Shimmer the first time, I had that same feeling of something real but elusive, something I couldn’t put in a pocket. Shimmer’s stories settled into my mind and my sinews. I kept reading, and occasionally I pinged publisher Beth Wodzinski (a college friend; yes, I am a lucky person) and asked if she needed another set of grubby human hands on the magazine. One day in 2014, she wrote to me and asked how I felt about copyediting two stories a month.

You might think that copyediting Shimmer’s ever-changing voices would be difficult—and sometimes it was—but it was always a joy. Each story had its own sounds, its own weight, its own way of touching the senses and the soul. The hard work of selecting and developing the shimmeriest stories was already done by the time they reached me. I was the first person to read them in their nearly-final form.

Often my part as copy editor was little more than deleting stray punctuation marks or tweaking the spelling of homophones, but that didn’t stop me from diving into each story, researching the languages and the worlds they presented. Most of the authors were very kind when I suggested a different species of plant for that climate or a different spelling of that name. I think they could tell that all the questions and suggestions and clumsy human thumbprints came out of love for their stories and a desire to make the stories as much themselves as they could be.

Over time, I started copyediting all four or five stories in an issue. At one point, Senior Editor E. Catherine Tobler asked if I’d like to go back to doing two again. I don’t remember exactly how I answered, just that I wanted to keep copyediting all of Shimmer every issue. It was a source of delight and a point of pride.

I have loved this work, and I will always love it.

Beth has written about Shimmer’s closure and the plans for its last two issues. The Shimmerzine.com website will remain for the foreseeable future. Most Shimmer staff members (“badgers” for short) are involved in speculative fiction in other ways as well. I will miss working with them on Shimmer, and I hope to work with them again someday.

I still play the fairy penny game sometimes. When I close my hand, the fairy penny jumps away, leery of my grasp. But if I shine the beam at the palm of my hand and close my eyes just a little, sharing that sliver of sight with memory and my other senses, the fairy penny stays on my open hand. I can barely see it, but I know it’s there.