Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-02-04)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image
Original Fiction:

  • “they are in search of a lonelier planet…” by Theresa J. Barker, Grievous Angel, January 27, 2018 (fantasy short story)
  • “soul mate, soul meet” by Theresa J. Barker, Grievous Angel, January 27, 2018 (fantasy short story)
  • “Olaf and Lars” by Kevin Lauderdale, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, January 28, 2018 (reprint fantasy short story)
  • “Seven Point Two” by Marissa Lingen, Nature , January 31, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • “The Starship and the Temple Cat” by Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244, February 1, 2018 (science fantasy short story)
  • “El is a Spaceship Melody” by Maurice Broaddus, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244, February 1, 2018 (science fantasy novelette)
  • “Where the Anchor Lies” by Benjamin C. Kinney, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244, February 1, 2018 (science fantasy short story)
  • “The Quiet Like a Homecoming” by Cassandra Khaw, Lightspeed #93, February [1], 2018 (fantasy short story)
  • “The Last Current” by Cecca Ochoa, Terraform, February 1, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • “Things the Mainstream Media Got Wrong About the Ansaj Incident” by Willem Myra, Diabolical Plots #36A, February 2, 2018 (science fiction short story)

Busy weekend (busy month); running late. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I feel I should point out a freely available reprint of Tobias Buckell’s “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” because, even though my all-important opinion hasn’t been established yet, some guys named Clarke, Dozois, and Strahan (so far) have all selected it as one of the best stories of the year.

Speaking of reprints, I accidentally read “Olaf and Lars” because the fact that it was a reprint was only noted at the bottom. I’m not fit to discuss extremely YA stories but this tale explaining why you should be nice to guests (such as the protagonists: a guy and a bear) seemed pretty good for its purposes. It was one of the many (ten) stories this week and, at about 2.5K words, it was actually one of the longer ones. Another longer short one was “The Quiet Like a Homecoming” at nearly 2K. It’s a story deeply in love with the sound of itself and is yet another telling of a selkie-like story and telling off of an ex-lover, which doth protest too much the narrator’s superiority and disdain.

Aside from the BCS stories, all the remaining tales are between 175-900 words. The Grievous Angel pair are about monsters and graffiti but had no discernible story and meant nothing to me. “Seven Point Two” is about the mysterious meaning of an apparently random number at the end of an alien transmission which has an interesting thematic point but the flash piece isn’t an interesting vehicle for it. “The Last Current” is a “sitting in bed waiting for the apocalypse” story which has a very flat affect (and effect). The DP story is yet another list story, isn’t entirely in English and, while I can’t remember the show or find a reference to it, some bad TV show had the exact same plot about a “deadly prank” (except this has aliens to “make it SF”). It also echoes and exacerbates a current sociological problem in the world regarding the media.

Turning to those BCS stories, one of their occasional “science fantasy” issues brings us a long novelette with a really disjointed and confused structure: “El is a Spaceship Melody.” (BCS has really been stuck on fighting and/or music lately.) The story wanders around for awhile before maybe becoming a murder mystery, except that it’s not, and then wanders some more before becoming yet another “does an AI have a soul” story, which it kind of is. But it’s mostly about old-minded people and new-minded people fighting over control of a ship orbiting a moon of Saturn (because it makes for a pretty setting). The ship runs on a musical “hard bop stardrive” (because that’s supposed to make it science fantasy, although it’s no more fantastic than Spinrad’s platform orgasm starship and is just kind of thrown in—the whole story feels more like sub-par SF than science fantasy). The denouement is also as over-long as the opening.

Two short stories round out the “double” issue. “Where the Anchor Lies” is an evocative milieu (graveyard of AI ships) but has no real story or difficulty and is a bit transparent. The Chancellor claims to want to make the Polity great again and an old ship commander really does want to harden the nation in the fires of war  but then, well, there’s just an epiphany.

While I’m still not completely happy with it, “The Starship and the Temple Cat” is the best story of the ten this week. It’s a space opera with ghosts (and ghostly temple bells for yet more music). An AI ship which fought for a force changed its allegiance when its captain changed hers and is now on the run. A cat, which had served on a temple/space station and died when that ship attacked the temple prior to its change of allegiance, is the last remaining ghost on the wreck. When these two meet and the duty of one and the penance of the other mesh, interesting things occur. This tale will appeal to some and the ghostly cat on the wrecked station is certainly one of those novel and effective visions which stick in the mind but, personally, I found it a little too much of a fairy tale and, regarding plot, at one point a character is “astonished by this change in fortune” and I think most everyone would be. Like “Anchor,” this story has an “easy button.”