Posts Tagged Clarkesworld

Clarkesworld #17, February 2008


“Captain’s Lament” by Stephen Graham Jones tells the life story of Quincy Mueller, known mostly to his marine buddies as Muley. When he was a younger man, a devastating accident placed him in the hospital for weeks upon weeks. It is, for a man of the sea, a living hell to be so landlocked, and as the nurses and doctors prod him endlessly with questions and queries he takes to his imagination and sails the roaring ocean day in and day out. If only, he wishes. That is until the day a nurse named Margaret enters his immobile life, with plans already in motion…

It is the story of a broken man returning home, of desire and longing, of never asking for something and still getting it in the end. Jones has crafted a tearjerker, a real piece of work here that reminds me of my father and the smell of ocean water in the evening and ghost stories told in dark living rooms. It’s also a mildly disturbing tale, with a calm look at revenge and justice, if those are exactly the things that Margaret sought from her less-than-better boyfriend Billy. In essence, it can be viewed as a how-to in an urban legend’s backhistory. That’s not how I saw it though, or choose to see it. The story is of a man defying it all to go home, and what he has to do to get there is what makes “Captain’s Lament” so rewarding, so enriching, and so heartbreaking.

Rating: 9 anonymous stars out of 10

“The Human Moments” by Alexander Lumans is a collection of recordings detailing information and the happenings of dead bodies since the flu pandemic wiped most of the population clean away. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from the piece. Bits and pieces of story unfold slowly, with the focus being placed more strongly on events like drinking hot cocoa rather than examining the skin of yet-another dead woman. These would be the human moments that the title points out. And this is what Ansgar revels in, breathing deep in the underground lab, but life quickly changes when he receives a telegram stating his position is to be overtaken by a robot, cutting out the human error.

It’s a very futuristic account, asking many a great question. For example: Who else waits for technology to take their place? Do birds? I liked the attention to details, the way Ansgar studies everything he sees, sees it just a bit bigger than others might, and really makes things happen despite his limitations. There’s an overwhelming air of paranoia here, and I like that. It made for uncomfortable reading, unsafe, but the ending came swiftly about and it was more than satisfying.

Rating: 8 anonymous stars out of 10

This was definitely a better issue than the January 2008 one. I suspect, for me, it had to do with offering longer tales that were more speculative fiction than just dreamy fables or incomplete thoughts. Plus, it’s a great cover. Looking forward to the next one, especially now that I see it is headlining a Jay Lake tale…


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Clarkesworld #16, January 2008

The first issue of 2008 for Clarkesworld is probably the weakest one they’ve published so far. I find most December/January issues in short fiction magazines to be like this. Why? Well, the holidays. Christmas, mainly. Writers get this urge to pound out sentimental crap simply because it is snowing or someone’s on the radio singing about a jolly, fat man.

“The River Boy” by Tim Pratt doesn’t do anything. It opens with a bunch of heavy exposition along the lines of “there once was an old lady who lived in a shoe” and then it goes into a baby lustfest. See, this old woman can bear no more children…yet, she’d like just one more. So she goes to talk to the river–boringly called the River–and after a short nap wakes to find a tiny baby boy at her side. She quickly breastfeeds the baby and claims him as her own.

Pop quiz time! Pencils at the ready!
What did she name him?
A. Hugoablawmo
B. River
C. Mr. Fantastic
D. Boy Wonder
E. None of the above

If you answered “A,” you’re a nitwit.

Should a story be for the writer or for the readers? Who matters most? With a little help of the Internet I learned that the story’s author’s wife recently gave birth. And there’s even a dedication at the end “for my son.” That’s nice and all, but really…the issue could’ve done without the story (I see it now as an archaic fairy tale or moral-heavy fable) in lieu of an actual piece of speculative fiction that wasn’t just there because a daddy writer felt his heartstrings being tugged. But, like I said, this sort of thing is to be expected around this time I guess.

Rating: 3 anonymous stars out of 10

“Debris Ensuing from a Supervortex” by Brian Ames deals with the loss of identity and memory. A fellow by the name of Blake returns home from work. Then, thanks to a shit-disturbing tornadic vortex, all of his possessions are sucked high into the sky and distributed across three counties. Something called SD, a birdlike entity that feeds back memories to Blake as if they are worms and brunch is ready to be served, swoops in to take hold of Blake’s now disrupted life. What SD is…is pretty unclear. Most of the story is. Still, it is a lot more enjoyable than Pratt’s “The River Boy,” and really offers up some neat imagery. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of Blake’s house’s walls being ripped into the sky versus us learning what mundane meal he had for dinner.

Both stories are very short though, and I’d have rather liked a longer second one to pair up with “The River Boy.” Not the greatest issue, but the Brian Ames piece is worth reading. It has a nice sense of flow, even though there is no firm conclusion. That’s okay. A little mystery never hurt nobody.

Rating: 6.5 anonymous stars out of 10

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