Posts Tagged science fiction

Clarkesworld #17, February 2008

Clarkesworld#17

“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…

Leave a Comment

Hub, #44

Whoops. I got a little behind on reading and reviewing here, but I’d like to think I’m back in action. Or something like that. Anyways, Hub continues to put out weekly issues and I continue to enjoy them. That’s a win-win situation, for those taking notes.

“Transcendence Express” by Jetse de Vries first appeared back in the dinosaur days of Hub‘s history. You know, when it was a print magazine for a few issues. Anyways, we’re in Zambia here, where education and the like is rather minimal. Or diminishing. A teacher by the name of Liona Jansen is trying to enhance the lives of the poorer children by bringing maths and science into their heads. Unfortunately, being where she is, instructional tools are hard to come by. Jansen instead allows her class of kids to grow their own computers, a task that will soon have very damaging outcomes.

It’s a very surreal piece, mixing gritty reality with the stark contrast of future endeavors and self-doubt. I enjoyed the way Vries jumped from scene to scene, especially towards the end of the story. Technology is both a blessing and a curse, and “Transcendence Express” really makes one think about where we are going as a culture, a society, a tech-wired force that seems unstoppable at times. There are no answers here, only ideas. But they are haunting ones, articulately accurate. Definitely worth a read, and I’m thankful that Hubhad the mind to reprint it online. It can also be listened to as a podcast, which I haven’t checked out yet, over at Escape Pod.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

Leave a Comment

Abyss & Apex: Issue 25, 1st Quarter 2008

The first issue of 2008 for Abyss & Apex is enjoyable. There’s a range of stories here, most of them fairly long. No flash fiction offered this time around. I enjoyed the weird pieces far more than the straightforward stories, but that’s just me.

Lindy finds bliss artificially in “Snatch Me Another” by Mercurio D. Rivera, as well as the ability to clone the shit heck out of anything or anyone thanks to her illegal Snatcher. There are consequences, of course, but they are mostly ignored. Who cares about punishment when everyone can own a copy of Starry Night? Alternate universes and multiple realities quickly play a factor, cutting a hard line between Lindy and her love Kristina as they try to live in a world that is constantly changing. It’s a world where stealing equates living… 

I can’t honestly say I understood a lot of what was happening here–or how these Snatchers came to be–but it’s a somewhat engaging story about just what it takes inside of a person to love another. Even to love another so much as to risk a complete breakdown just for a moment of happiness. Plus, cloning always adds a fun layer to things, especially when one realizes that for anything to be cloned in one world, something else must be stolen away in a second one. 

However, I did have a problem with the third scene, which is basically a “As you know, Bob” exposition dump with Lindy and Kristina chatting it up in bed like two robots built to tell all and to tell it profusely. Other than that, the story has some great moments laced with creepiness and uncertainty, and the ending seemed rather fitting for all that was going on.

Rating: 7 anonymous stars out of 10

“If Tears Were Wishes” by Ruth Nestvold has an excellent set-up. Brooke is in a public bathroom, gagged, and locked inside a stall that is being guarded defiantly by two men. They’re after her tears, tears she’d freely give to anyone that asked, tears that equaled wishes. But this was the first time they were going to be beaten out of her. The only thing keeping her sane is the hope that these cruel men haven’t captured her twin sister yet…

I loved how magical this piece was, not just in tone or premise. Nestvold’s lyrical and emotional prose is perfect for this tale of wishes, wants, and wonders. For such a short piece, it packs quite a punch. The story eventually switches off of Brooke and to her sister Crystal, who now must figure out exactly what happened in that bathroom. If only they could use their own tears for their own wishes, but it doesn’t work like that. The choices she makes and the actions she takes really move the plot along, and the ending is both fitting yet perfectly done. Stories that come full-circle are the best kind, and “If Tears Were Wishes” is a fine example of how to do one.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

I gotta be honest; despite it probably having a clear premise, “Healer” by Phil Margolies confused me. I think it has something to do with healing. Duh, chimes the audience. It also has to do with a man’s destiny, the powers he contains within, and…children. Perhaps? Really, I read it twice and still don’t know what to say about it. I guess this one can be marked up as something that doesn’t work for me and my reading preferences.

Rating: 4 anonymous stars out of 10

Despite being told not to take the left path in “At Blue Crane Falls” by Brian Dolton, Yi Qin does and ends up at the titular place. It is whispered to be haunted. The conjuror in service of the Emperor quickly discovers she is unwelcome at Blue Crane Falls, and who she meets will reveal a truth she never expected.

Huh, this just wasn’t very interesting. The prose came across as mediocre, not well edited. Kind of clunky in spots, as well as too formal in others (I’m thinking about the dialogue here). There were a lot of ands where a simple deletion of said word and an insertion of a comma would make things read smoother. The premise felt like something I’ve read before; that, or it just feels far too common in these cultural stories that are dipped so far into honeyed lore that they are dripping with mortal gods, false sacrifices, and dramatic actions. Meh. Not for me at all.

Rating: 4.5 anonymous stars out of 10

Well, if you’re not offended by the narrator’s remarks in the beginning of “Quartet, With Mermaids” by Alan Smale then you’ll be in for a real treat of a story. It is about, if you haven’t already guessed it, a mermaid…by the name of Molly. She’s discovered off the coast of Norway.

This is a multilayered piece that is surprisingly fun. I’m not one for mermaids or unicorns or stories about how awesome cats are, but this one had a certain tick to it that made it more appreciative. It also helped that the language and tone of “Quartet, With Mermaids” is so raw and unfriendly. This is no lovey-dovey tale of a man who meets a mermaid and is soon showered in a rain of happiness. No, no. It takes a cue from reality, because really, in this day and age, if someone discovered a mermaid, you know that fish-with-arms would totally be thrown in a zoo to dance and perform for the public. And this is that story, told from a handful of perspectives, all wonderfully written and unique, offering new insights into a crumbling myth. Very impressive, and definitely one of the best stories of the issue.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

Leave a Comment