- “Her Beautiful Body” by Adrienne Celt, Strange Horizons, February 5, 2018 (science fictional short story)
- “Forty Full Moons” by Blaize M. Kaye, Grievous Angel, February 6, 2018 (fantasy-like short story)
- “I Don’t Bite” by Nicole Tanquary, Grievous Angel, February 6, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “These 5 Books Go 6 Feet Deep” by Ted Hayden, Nature, February 7, 2018 (science fictional short story)
- “Where Would You Be Now?” by Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com, February 7, 2018 (science fiction novelette)
- “Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women” by Theodore McCombs, Nightmare #65, February , 2018 (dark fantasy short story)
- “Four-Point Affective Calibration” by Bogi Takacs, Lightspeed #93, February . 2018 (science fictional short story)
First, to quickly cover the usual very short and mostly very fuzzy pieces (the last of which is the best story of a weak week): “Calibration” is a stream-of-consciousness bit which uses the conceit of calibrating equipment for alien communications to convey its narcissism; “Books” uses the conceit of short synopses of books handy to the futuristic grave robber to convey its fantasy conclusion; “Forty” is a painfully literal “metaphor” about the son of a werewolf not wanting to grow up to be like his father; “Her Beautiful Body” is a longer (c.2700 words) sharply surreal piece presumably on the objectification of people (women) but may also relate to mortality and mind-body dualism, using the conceit of a tour guide telling visitors all the ways they should interact with the exhibit (which appears to be a mindless body) and which gets credit for commitment to its strangeness. However, the only one really worth noting is “I Don’t Bite” which is yet another feminist revenge fantasy and a dialect stream-of-speech story but Tanquary has figured out what so many others haven’t and done this right. It’s very, very short and the monologue conveys a real sense of motion and drama. It’s too thematically trite to get a full recommendation but it’s a nifty 200 words.
“Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women” is set in or shortly after 1899, after women have developed a “Protection” which keeps them from being killed (but not injured or changed). Amidst a litany of men being hanged for their crimes against women, the main story’s background tells of a woman who has killed her son and is sentenced to death. But, of course, she can’t be executed, until a woman in the foreground of the main story has the idea that maybe she could be the “hangman.”
At first, this seems like it’s an extended version of “5 Books” only with “Six Hangings” but the hangings merely preface sections of the one main story. Then it seems like it’s going to be a version of “Bite” or “Body” and be heavily gendered and it basically is but in a confusing and unfortunate way. The story ultimately would seem to pack much more punch and be much more interesting if it focused on the psychology and sociology of capital crime, itself, instead of making it particularly gendered but, as is, seems to fall between two stools and doesn’t really work for me.
The week’s only novelette was a disappointment. “Where Would You Be Now?” is set in the world of “Astrophilia” and “Amaryllis” (and apparently is a prequel to the novel Bannerless) which is a post-apocalyptic tale in which Kath carries a shotgun as a defender of a compound of doctors and allied folks. They mostly ask each other where they would be now (if the apocalypse hadn’t come) and, after a vague uptick in tension when a gang arrives outside the compound’s barrier, the story just ends with the protagonist giving her answer. There’s a severe lack of plot and actual conflict here, which really makes it feel like an excerpt from a prequel novel rather than a prequel story. It’s a fine read otherwise—nothing special, but fine—but it’s ultimately very unsatisfying.