I thought I was off to a shaky start, but I liked this issue more and more as I read on.
"The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang — very short fiction originaI thought I was off to a shaky start, but I liked this issue more and more as I read on.
"The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang — very short fiction originally written to accompany ecologically themed art display by Allora & Calzadilla concerning Puerto Rican parrots and Arecibo. Told from PoV of parrot, this story gets better the more you think about it. ****
"The Secret Mirror Of Moriyama House" by Yukimi Ogawa — an old woman has an odd supernatural vocation, aided by a magic mirror. Entertaining and unusual. ****
"The Stone War" by Ted Kosmatka — Like a statue, a stone warrior waits on a hill. It comes to life only when attacked, and then it kills its attacker. Generations of tribes and civilizations learn this lesson the hard way... Maybe a little on the long side. "An interesting game; the only winning move is not to play." ***
"Last Of The Sharkspeakers" by Brian Trent — SciFi. The story gains a considerable part of its entertainment by telling the story from the point of view of something alien in a similarly inscrutable environment. By the time welearn the details of who these critters are, we've experienced half the fun. So don't click the spoiler button. (view spoiler)[Some evolved humans who live in zero gravity inside an hollowed out asteroid meeting some "standard" humans who inhabit the gravitational areas. (hide spoiler)] Enjoyable and imaginative reading. ***1/2*
"The Long Fall Up" by William Ledbetter — space opera in which a single pilot ship discovers his bosses won a renegade woman dead (for the "crime" of zero gravity pregnancy?), And he'd rather not. The ship AI has its orders, but it doesn't mind a little creative subversion interpretation from time to time. Bad corperatocracy, bad. Not breaking any new ground of space exploration, but entertaining enough. ***1/2*
"The Nostalgia Calculator" by Rich Larsonm — a cute short story would be amusing premise that the general between an event and nostalgia for that event continues to shrink, and a conspiracy to cover that fact up. ***
"Caribou: Documentary Fragments" by Joseph Tomaras — It's Caribou as in Maine, not the animal. The government may (or may not) have a top-secret program to erase memories, with unplanned side effects for the wipee. A documentary filmmaker tries to get to the truth... Storytelling via notes for the filmmaker's documentary on the subject. Diverges from the sci-fi premise by making the subject wipee a former "enhanced interrogation" MP. ***
"Ash" by Susan Palwick — contemporary fantasy in which a woman discovers she has a uniquely magical tree growing in her yard. And it seems he wants to be helpful, in way... Amusing story, a little creepy at the end. ***
"Steamboat Gothic" by Albert E. Cowdrey — urban fantasy in which a good old boy sheriff in a small Louisiana parish rather calmly copes with a case of demonic possession. ***
“Coyote Song" by Pat MacEwen — urban fantasy has woman of Native American & Irish ancestry teaming with a police detective to mix voodoo and spirit animals together while chasing down evil spirits. Mystery story ultimately suffers a bit from "magic can do anything convenient to the plot", but readable enough. **1/2*
"More Heat Than Light" by Charlotte Ashley — a transgender soldier is outed in alternate history 18th century North America, rather like a retelling of Disney's Mulan without all the singing & less entertaining. ** ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Readable enough gaslight fantasy, Victorian era plus magic. (Although aside from a few references to books by Charles Dickens, etc., it doesn't intersReadable enough gaslight fantasy, Victorian era plus magic. (Although aside from a few references to books by Charles Dickens, etc., it doesn't intersect the historical world very much.)
A young woman is disappointed to be apprenticed to a "paper magician"; she'd rather be studying metallurgy. Said magician has an old enemy practicing black magic (an ex-wife, no less), and it falls to the apprentice to save the day.
I'm tempted to compare to the slightly more recent Uprooted in terms of the young woman unhappily made apprentice to an older magician. It's not a flattering companion, as it highlights the shallow world building and thin character development of Paper Magician. We begin Ceony's story a bit too late to really get to know the woman or her world outside the magic school. The world described should be full of many forms of material magic beyond paper (and the dark art of blood magic), but we never get a chance to see any of those arcane arts or learn how they affect the structure of the outside world.)
(The "paper" school of magic strangely reminds me of the Japanese Read or Die series, in which paper magicians carry sheaths of paper around for emergency spellcasting. :)
A magical excursion in which Ceony is imprisoned, Fantastic Voyage-like, inside her teacher's heart (which seems to also contain an awful lot of memories) might seem a clever way of introducing backstory exposition, but it also disrupted the pace of the main story.
The story itself moves along fairly well, if predictably, and Ceony wants to be engaging, but it all felt paper thin....more
One of the first stories to deal with the sci-fi idea of a "generation ship" in which future colonists live their lives, from generation to generationOne of the first stories to deal with the sci-fi idea of a "generation ship" in which future colonists live their lives, from generation to generation, until finally reaching their plan destination, A planet they hope to colonize for humanity.
Not surprisingly given the age of the story (1940), there are more than a few things that seem quite dated. Allowances can be made.
The crew starts with 17 couples, with a plan to have a stable population of 100 or so. Things soon get out of hand as apparently birth-control is unspeakable. The story is narrated by a singular member of the crew, the Tradition manager, who pops out of cryosleep every century to make sure everything is going well. Naturally, there are more than a few problems to deal with, almost all dealing with people, not technology.
Since the story is more about people than technology, this hasn't aged as badly as it could have. A novelette, it's worth a quick, short read....more
I see some similarities to Asimovs "Robbie", since both involve robots acting as care providers for a human. Main difference is Robbie is designed asI see some similarities to Asimovs "Robbie", since both involve robots acting as care providers for a human. Main difference is Robbie is designed as a nanny while "Medical Care Android BRKCX-01932-217JH-98662" (who interestingly never gets any more familiar designation of its own) provides palliative care for the aging. It's also more sophisticated, including chameleon circuitry to allow for impersonations, not to mention an "empathy net."
I think the idea of elderly care is more likely to provide a basis for automation than childcare. People are just more squeamish leaving their kids to machines (like Mrs. Watson in "Robbie".) And, there are going to be a lot of us drooling old people lying around in the future.
On the other hand, the personality emulation seems a little more specialized. Not all old people are that easily confused, and it seems like a rather expensive add-on.
I rather liked "Today I Am Paul". Nice robot, bring on our mechanical overlords! ...more
I always enjoy Kritzer's stories, and "Cat Pictures Please" is another entertaining one about an AI's view of the world. (BTW, the Silverberg story atI always enjoy Kritzer's stories, and "Cat Pictures Please" is another entertaining one about an AI's view of the world. (BTW, the Silverberg story at references is also available online @Lightspeed.)...more
Too many of those obscure, head scratching stories in this issue for my taste.
"Touring with the Alien" by Carolyn Ives Gilman is an unusual first contToo many of those obscure, head scratching stories in this issue for my taste.
"Touring with the Alien" by Carolyn Ives Gilman is an unusual first contact story. Aliens show up on Earth in a series of large domes that pop up from nowhere. One of the aliens and his human "translator" wants to go on a tour of the planet — or at least the part they can reach with a tour bus. Some interesting observations on consciousness, this time with the aliens jealous of human consciousness. Interesting story that I found quite readable. ****
"Winter’s Wife" by Elizabeth Hand Contemporary fantasy, one of those folksy narrations in a small Maine village, narrated by a young boy who was befriended by the eccentric village woodsmith, who then goes out of town to fetch a wife who's also a little more than she first appears. ***
"The Cedar Grid" by Sara Saab Beyond my understanding. The young man on some distant, formerly alien-run planet learns his brother has been killed by a alien suicide bomber back on earth. Random ruminations follow, without conclusion. But at least it had a actual storyline I could follow. **
"Old Friends" by Garth Nix I don't think I can categorize Old Friends, other than as a fantasy of sorts. Some sort of semi-immortal lives near the shore where an old enemy is coming for him. No idea why, who, reason... Dammit, doesn't anyone write stories anymore? **
And, oh, dear, I bailed on these stories without finishing. Just too weird for my limited intellect...
"Balin" by Chen Qiufan Sea creature (fish who walks like man) becomes a kid's pet.
"The Bridge of Dreams" by Gregory Feeley Heimdall gets a message at his Rainbow Bridge, has a lot of sex with it, transforms, decides to use hrm as a pronoun for hrmself, perceives universe in a grain of sand, pull lint from navel,... ...more
It takes an improbable premise, and then follows it to its logical consequences in a variety of settings. Consider a new, sexually-transmitted genetic mutation that allows parthenogenesis, in which women become pregnant with what are essentially clones of themselves without need for male fertilization. Is this a different species? Is it a disease that should be cured? Will men become obsolete? Should Congress order a quarantine? Or mandatory sterilization? Young reporter, herself pregnant by artificial insemination, explores the consequences with politicians, religious leaders, biologists, and her own partner. The story is a little unfocused because it concentrates both on the reporter's life and the lengthy article she's writing, but it really is an intriguing exploration of many levels of the social issues it provokes.
Very simple, straightforward prequel short story of Olson's Scarlett Bernard, told from the point of view of Molly, Scarlett's roommate. Not a whole lVery simple, straightforward prequel short story of Olson's Scarlett Bernard, told from the point of view of Molly, Scarlett's roommate. Not a whole lot here, and strictly for fans who've read Dead Spots & sequels and wanted just a little bit more of Molly....more
Okay, two of Olson's protagonists from different parts of her Urban Fantasy Old World finally meet, and it makes for an interesting contrast. I'd forgOkay, two of Olson's protagonists from different parts of her Urban Fantasy Old World finally meet, and it makes for an interesting contrast. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy reading Olson's writing, too, But she tells an engaging story and creates interesting, full-blooded characters, that lets her pump some emotion into her storytelling. This is a nice, satisfying short read.
(On the other hand, people who haven't read Hunter's Trail & Boundary Crossed won't get much out of this story, Since it depends on knowing the story from the former and a character from the latter.)...more
Pretty enjoyable issue with enough to keep me happy...
Of the original stories:
Carrie Vaughn's "Origin Story" is a superhero story, or more precisely aPretty enjoyable issue with enough to keep me happy...
Of the original stories:
Carrie Vaughn's "Origin Story" is a superhero story, or more precisely a supervillain story. You're visiting the bank when the city's most notorious super villain drops in to rob it, and you realize he's your ex-boyfriend. Amusing in an odd way. ****
"Dragon Brides" by Nghi Vo is a quiet and strangely gentle fantasy tale (for all that it implies a good deal of violence). Explains why dragons crave gold, among other things. Surprisingly engrossing, though I can't say precisely why. ****
"The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel" by Matthew Bailey is about a human giving birth to a human/alien hybrid child, the first of its kind. It's more inter-species politics than marriage. With an unusual 2nd person narration that works reasonably well. I wonder if the author has read Saga? ***
Rudy Rucker's "The Knobby Giraffe" is just plain strange. A physics student working on his PhD (and sleeping with his thesis advisor — which, by the way, I'm pretty sure is against University rules) unlocks the secret of the universe. Strangely, this resembles an LSD trip I recall from the 70's, except for the dead body. Sadly, I've never been able to read while dropping acid, so this might work better as a movie. **
I read Peter Watts's "Collateral" Upgraded last year. It takes the theme of biologically and technologically augmented super soldiers and uses it to explore the concept of autonomous drones. What happens when you take human compassion out of the equation? Very well executed narration, great character. *****
Ken Scholes's "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise". In an alternate world, a marvelous mechanical man seems to have inadvertently wiped out an entire city with some ancient wizard's spell. Two warlords prepare for war. Early story from Scholes "Psalms of Isaak" series in engrossing in story and worldbuilding. ****
"Cause For A Haunting" by Patricia Strand - Ordinarily, I wouldn't read a story with "haunting" in the title, because I loathe the ghost stories, but this was in the science fiction section,... Sadly, it's supernatural horror, despite the SciFi category. Boo! Not my thing.
"Lily, with Clouds" by Theodora Goss is a quite short story, I think about the transcendence of Art. Since I don't do "Art", it all went right over my head. Not my thing. ...more
Well, this isn't my favorite volume of the series, though it's not because of the change in artist. Maybe the old art felt more familiar, but I thinkWell, this isn't my favorite volume of the series, though it's not because of the change in artist. Maybe the old art felt more familiar, but I think I can adapt. On the other hand, the story seems to have decided to go angsty. Previously, the gang might bicker, but they at least had a camaraderie and us versus them mentality. Suddenly, they're seriously breaking up, and that's just a lot less fun....more
I especially enjoyed several of the longer stories in this issue, interesting space opera novella and novelettes. Short stories, not so much.
Suzanne PI especially enjoyed several of the longer stories in this issue, interesting space opera novella and novelettes. Short stories, not so much.
Suzanne Palmer's "Lazy Dog Out" novella gets things off to a great start. A fast-moving space opera with several engaging characters. Khifi (handle "Fox") is a tug pilot at a space dock on an orbital trading station. She notices some strange discrepancies in the official stories on events, and eventually ends up in the middle of a ugly conspiracy. Okay, maybe Fox is a little too great at everything, but it's an exciting, action oriented story. ****
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Matilde" is a sentient spaceship, designed to be operated by a single pilot with a symbiotic mind the link. The ship loves its pilot, but the pilot doesn't care for sentient ships. They get sent on a dangerous military scouting mission. Solid characters (there are only two) and a story that doesn't end as you might expect. ****
In Dominica Phetteplace's "Project Synergy", experimental AI chips are inserted into selected people for the usual non-verbal informational assistance. Turns out the chips have a mind of their own, and the narration is provided by one such AI chip. Story draws on interesting parallels between the job of the human with the chip and the chip itself. ****
C. W. Johnson's "Of the Beast in the Belly": Swallowed whole by a Leviathan on an alien sea of a distant planet, a pair of mismatched adventurers find an entire raft dwelling civilization in its stomachs. The heroine isn't particularly likable, but the story really moves along well. ****
"Three Paintings" by James Van Pelt has an interesting idea at its heart, and deals with it thoughtfully. An artist decides to record his consciousness, create a painting, then kill himself and revert to his previous "self" to make another painting, to see how similar/different they would be. ****
"Flight from the Ages" by Derek Künsken is one of those almost surreal stories that takes us through the end of the universe. An AI created as a corporate investment banker ends up as the last artifact of the human race billions of years from now. And then it gets weird. Despite being bizarre and ludicrously improbable, strangely readable. ***
Robert R. Chase's "Starless Night" has a man with amnesia, an alien invasion, and the key to unlock the ultimate weapon. Seems somehow obviously set up for that "twist" ending. **1/2*
"The Return of Black Murray" by Alexander Jablokov is a contemporary supernatural horror story about some former high school friends and an incident in the carnival tunnel of love. I never enjoy horror, and I wish I'd identified the story for what it was earlier. *
"The Days of Hamelin" by Robert Reed is an absolutely despicable story about piles of dead children, killed by a new disease. Ultimately, the story has no resolution or point beyond being depressingly maudlin. 0 ...more