- “Report Any Suspicious Activity” by Pat Tompkins, Grievous Angel, June 24, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Hima” by Sam Muller, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, June 25, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “Traumahead” by Jeremy Szal, Nature, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “A Brief and Fearful Star” by Carmen Maria Machado, Slate, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “The Need for Air” by Lettie Prell, Tor.com, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Preemptive Strike” by Jessica Maison, Terraform, June 29, 2018 (science fiction short story)
The fiction from the weekly/one-shot webzines wasn’t very appealing to me this week, unfortunately.
“Report” is one of three flash or near-flash pieces to cover. Its bulk is a nicely described but trivial scene of a woman using pen and paper on an airplane and then delivers the climax almost like a punchline but there’s no humor and the two parts, while the former hints at the latter, don’t mesh well. The other is related to Slate‘s quarterly theme of “memory” despite appearing in Nature. “Traumahead” describes an alien gathering up the memories of fallen comrades on a battlefield while looking for his daughter so he can merge her and not have to rely on his own fallible memories. The unmotivated and irrelevant misanthropy of having it be humans committing xenocide is distracting and the whole is so stylized and mannered that the surface action can’t be taken seriously. “Preemptive Strike” is almost two thousand words about what might happen if the mental healthcare system could be changed and gun laws couldn’t. It’s not a very sophisticated story.
“Hima” is a retelling of Snow White and delivers a sensory overload of birthday parties and the like as the titular character refuses to play by fairy tale rules. “Fearful Star” is supposedly attempting to be science fiction but feels little different from “Hima” except that it’s even more overwritten. Both stories feature essentially only a mother and daughter and are set in the past. In the latter, I couldn’t find any science at all but the companion article talks about “a nascent, uneven, and controversial scientific field known as epigenetic inheritance” of memories, which I have heard of (and am not impressed by) but, even if you make the generous concession that that’s science, the story doesn’t make clear that this is its subject or do anything interesting with it, at least as far as I was concerned. Others may find it more appealing. “The Need for Air” actually includes a son to go with the mother in another two character story involving maternal conflicts or related problems. Its milieu is even fuzzier than that of “Fearful Star,” but involves a mother who is interested in living in and translating to a VR while doing some tests for some AIs. She incidentally (very incidentally) raises a son who doesn’t want to be in a VR or uploaded. Things eventually get worked out (for broad values of “worked out”).