The last of the dog days caused Clarkesworld‘s recent hot streak of good issues in June and July (rivaling the January issue) to come to an end (apparently because August doesn’t begin with a “J”). Tor.com compensated by going on a torrid streak of their own. Nature was also perhaps above average and, while Apex didn’t produce anything particularly noteworthy, the whole issue, guest edited by Amy H. Sturgis, was better than usual. All in all, this month’s forty-six stories (of which I read 44 of 218K words) produced plenty of decent reading. What follows are links to the stories I thought were the best and to the notes posted throughout the month which explain why I thought that.
(As usual, links are split into Recs and HMs, then into SF and F, and then alphabetized by title. Honorable mentions, not having full recs, are summarized briefly at the end of this post.)
- “Legale” by Vernor Vinge, Nature, short story (rec)
- “Party Discipline” by Cory Doctorow, Tor.com, novelette (rec)
- “Uncanny Valley” by Greg Egan, Tor.com, novelette (rec)
- “Gallows Girl” by Mel Kassel, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, short story (Tangent rec)
- “The Library of Lost Things” by Matthew Bright, Tor.com, short story (rec)
- “First Date with the Hive” by Gretchen Tessmer, Nature, short story
- “The Martian in the Wood” by Stephen Baxter, Tor.com, novelette
- “Paint by Numbers” by Pip Coen, Compelling, short story
- “The Setting of the Sun” by Benjamin C. Kinney, Compelling, short story
- “Ink” by Bruce McAllister, Lightspeed, short story
- “PLAIN JANE LEARNS TO KNIT WORMHOLES” by Wendy Nikel, Flash Fiction Online, short story
“First Date” is a tough sell to me, being a post-modern first-contact short-short. It has a conceptual problem (telepathic linguists?), and is otherwise almost completely dependent on its tone for success or failure but the tone worked for me. “Martian” is basically a well-written fantasy which I called “retro-pseudo-AltHist ‘SF'” (and Greg Hullender concisely and charitably called a “pastiche”) in a fuller description at the end of the Egan recommendation. The first of the Compelling stories is a sort of “Ender’s Game meets Total Recall” and the second is not exactly Asimov’s “The Last Question” but is a quick tour through deep time and immense space. “Ink” uses an American hemophiliac philatelist in Italy to perhaps tell us about history and self. And “Plain Jane” took me to an apocalyptic church knitting circle and made me laugh.
 Edit (2017-09-04): I discovered Strange Horizons had posted a story out of their usual weekly sequence, so read it and also read one of the previously unread stories for Tangent, so the monthly totals were forty-seven stories, of which I read forty-six of 227K words.