Summation of Online Fiction: September 2017

With Compelling off, Apex doing a lot of reprints, and Tor.com worryingly publishing a single story, September would have been an extremely light month, but a double issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the return of a lost zine helped compensate, resulting in thirty-seven stories of 149K words (plus one I skipped). Regardless, it was a very light month in terms of the proportion of the good stuff (though there was plenty of readable stuff). I’m not sure what happened beyond it being one of those freaky streaky webzine things. Speaking of, the returning lost zine is Terraform. Ralan.com declared it defunct a few months ago and, after waiting awhile to “make sure,” I declared it dead on April 27th and stopped looking at it. Recently, I happened to take another look and, naturally, they’d published another story on April 29th. But, other than excerpts, interviews, graphic stuff, etc., they did quit producing anything after that until August 24th. Since then, they have managed to publish a story coupled with an article every seven or eight days (two in August and three in September though, to keep the irony ironing, they don’t seem to be doing anything but another excerpt this week). So perhaps they’re back. Only one story was at all noteworthy but, since I gave Terraform‘s death an explicit notice, I feel like I ought to do the same for its rebirth. Now, on with the very short (or “little”) list…

Recommended:

Science Fiction

Fantasy

Honorable Mentions:

Science Fiction

Fantasy (both billed as SF)

The Fischer involves a precog who knows a nuclear war is coming, which can be seen as SF but the precog motif and style seem like fantasy to me. Not that we won’t have a nuclear war any minute but something about the specifics of this felt like an 80s story (aside from the 50s/60s psi thing). That said, it was well-executed and effective. The De Feo is this close to being a truly amazing story but its second half, despite dovetailing almost perfectly with its first half, is a completely different and much less interesting story. The first half is about a magical time traveler, with that and its style making it fantasy, while the second half is a species of mainstream or an obfuscation of the fantasy. Basically, it’s squeamish about embracing its true, tawdry genre. The thematic motifs of Ugo’s story should have been developed further and the final theme of the second half (and thus the whole) could have been embedded in that first half as a lesser motif or discarded. That would have the side effect of making the too-long c.7,200 word story a just-right c.5,000. Or perhaps I’m blathering nonsense. Point is that, for me, it was an initially captivating and ultimately unsatisfactory story.

The belated Terraform story is about a future in which dolphins are mayors of underwater big cities while a starship, crewed by humans and other animals, is catching up with Voyager to change its golden record. This can be interpreted a few ways but one which entertains me is the idea that the most enlightened, beneficial, and correct members of today’s society (who are vilifying people of the past) will one day find themselves vilified for their immoral anthropocentrism or whatever other failing the future may find in them. Either way, it’s a weird story.

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Links

Just recently posted some links but there’s some more stuff I wanted to share and there’s not much else going on in Featured Futures-world at the moment.

No points for guessing 2/3 of the following musical portion of the post… Continue reading

Review of Infinity Wars for Tangent

Review of Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Recommended:

  • “In Everlasting Wisdom” by Aliette de Bodard (SF short story *)
  • “Command and Control” by David D. Levine (SF short story *)
  • “Heavies” by Rich Larson (SF short story)
  • “Weather Girl” by E. J. Swift (SF novelette *)
  • “ZeroS” by Peter Watts (SF novelette)

Links

Yet another title for this type of post. Not sure if anyone got the pun of the previous title, anyway. Going for simplicity now.

From The History Blog

As a bit of WWII history buff as a kid, to the point of going beyond history and reading a couple of novels about the 633 Squadron and so on, I was particularly interested in the Mosquito article. And, even for Greece, the Mycenaean tomb article was neat.

More History

I may have picked this up from the Chronicles posting board. As much as it drives me nuts to think of ancient writings being scribbled over, at least they weren’t always utterly destroyed and we’re making greats strides in finding and deciphering them. This is a particularly impressive example.

On Gerrymandering

I forgot to include the math link when I posted a bunch of anti-gerrymandering links recently. This was ironically one of the most important links because something like this is How It Should Be Done, with no bias but a simple, abstract, fair implementation. Whereas the second link is How Things Are Actually Done. Ridiculous.

From Centauri Dreams

RIP, Cassini. Weird to be sort of jealous of a machine (I mean, not now, but previously) but think of what it got to see with its own “eyes.” And think of all the folks who have spent some or all of the past 13, 20, or more years of their lives on this project. Indeed, thank you.

On SF

This link is another belated posting, as I came across it long after it was posted in 2015 but still quite awhile ago. I dunno about the title and I think some of its case may be overstated but I do appreciate the time and effort taken by the book which quantifies women’s involvement with SF and this article which discusses it. I find my own experience (both direct and indirect) to be somewhere in the middle but closer to this. One of the many threads of science fiction, to me, was always about proposing societies counter to our own and addressing gender and race and other issues in an often egalitarian (and often far more subtle and artistic) way. I do not recognize the picture of the field drawn by current revisionist history. Whatever their beliefs, I just think people should expose themselves to both points of view. And I, personally, still believe that science fiction should be celebrated as a pioneering, positive force rather than denigrated.

And now some conceivably thematic tunes…

Continue reading

Rec: “Though She Be But Little” by C. S. E. Cooney

Though She Be But Little” by C. S. E. Cooney, Uncanny #18 September/October 2017, fantasy short story

One day the sky turns silver and the Earth is magically transformed. For instance, sixty-five-year-old Mrs. Santiago becomes fierce eight-year-old Emma Anne. In this story, we follow Emma Anne and her sentient stuffed animals, her pirate frenemy, and her efforts to deal with the scary, deadly, mantis-like Loping Man.

Oh, he was enormous, colossal, an armored giant, but so very terribly compactable. Yes, and maybe that was where he went all day. Not away, but down, folded into leaf and twig and compound eyes, origamied into torpor.

Yes, verbing weirds language—sometimes to great effect.

This is very much like “Gallows Girl,” which I recently recommended, in that it may reduce to a “stick it to the man/grrrl power” theme (with an ambivalent connection between two female figures) but is also wrapped in a wonderfully inventive confection of imagination climaxing in a violent confrontation. However, it is nothing like it insofar as the imaginative details are different and this story has a great deal more whimsy, exhilaration, and lightness of touch. I enjoyed both in their ways.

Rec: “Little /^^^\&-” by Eric Schwitzgebel

Little /^^^\&-” by Eric Schwitzgebel, Clarkesworld #132 September 2017, SF short story

The title refers to the perhaps central protagonist of this tale. That protagonist has been exiled from her community of galactic sentiences because, being young and headstrong, she disagrees with the plan to turn the galaxy into a black hole. (Arthur Dent had similar, if smaller, problems.) So she’s herded out to the ass end of the galaxy and chained to an insignificant star where she notices some monkeys on the third rocky thing orbiting it and, after amusing herself by pocketing the rock’s moon, there follows a very strange tale, from dizzying heights, of her monkey contact and its galactic and greater-than-galactic consequences.

This is a story where the heresy of paraphrase really applies. Everything about the synopsis is true enough in its way but really does nothing to convey the casual scale and calm frenzy of this tale or the way it dives into part of the core of SF and makes it new. (This includes the idea that the vast universe contains a tiny lump of gray matter which contains that universe, as well as the one expressed by this great line (don’t click it until you’ve read the story).) Granted, the names of the characters may seem off-putting and/or gimmicky but they do at least serve to emphasize the remoteness of the beings. Basically, this story makes your head bigger and your mood lighter and the author entertains like a magician with something of substance up his sleeve.