- “Waterbirds” by G. V. Anderson (science fiction short story)
- “Greetings, Humanity! Welcome To Your Choice Of Species!” by Adam-Troy Castro (science fiction short story)
- “A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds” by James Beamon (fantasy short story)
- “Wild Bill’s Last Stand” by Kyle Muntz (fantasy short story)
Reprint note: this issue includes Caroline M. Yoachim’s “The Right Place to Start a Family,” which I recommended when I reviewed Humanity 2.0 in 2016.
“Waterbirds” deals with two women who keep each other company for years as they decay until one of them meets a third woman and those two break free from their submission to evil men by finding love with each other. Oh, and one of them is a robot. If “Greetings” were to be done at all, it should have been 40% its length. It’s an ejection of misanthropic bile, intended to be humorous, in which some smug and self-righteous aliens decide to exterminate the human race for being too vicious to live, though the populace will not be killed but allowed to choose from eight lovely species to turn into. This is basically like karma causing us to come back as slugs except faster. “Wild Bill” is a Weird Western with gay cowboys, two of whom fight a duel and few if any readers will care what happens because there’s no one to like.
As I gather “Wild Bill” is an example of one microgenre, so I gather Lightspeed‘s well-chosen cover story, “Song of Home,” is of another. It’s an “alternate history with weird combat mechanisms”; in this case, a Crimean War with steam-powered air (and sea) ships. Our air ship is most significantly crewed by an artificer of metal prostheses, an organ grinder, his homeless street urchin protagonist assistant, and an army of vampire attack monkeys. If I’d read more of the stuff like this that’s out there to read, I might not have been so impressed but it certainly struck me as fresh and was vividly, brilliantly told. The milieu and combat was complex and exciting, the protagonist sympathetic, and the conflicts and emotions powerful, the latter without being mawkish or manipulative. The theme, assuming I’m reading it right, is perhaps not as original as the rest felt, but was brought home aesthetically and believably, somewhat akin to “Last Night at the Café Renaissance” by D. Thomas Minton in the July/August 2015 IGMS, which had its own powerful imagery. This one’s images of bloodsucking cyborg capuchins and the like will linger. Recommended.