- “Crimson Hour” by Jesse Sprague, Diabolical Plots #41A, July 2, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “The Athuran Interpreter’s Flight” by Eleanna Castroianni, Strange Horizons, July 2, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Ded-Mek” by Matt Thompson, Nature, July 4, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Speak Easy, Suicide Selkies” by E. Catherine Tobler, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #255, July 5, 2018 (fantasy novelette)
- “The Scrimshander” by Damien Krsteski, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #255, July 5, 2018 (fantasy short story)
Tor.com is missing in action; Terraform‘s “story” is a “continuation” of an excerpt that I didn’t review last year so I’ll be skipping it, too.
In “Crimson Hour,” a father has lost his son to a vicious unicorn while the townspeople fete the Hero who afterwards killed the unicorn. The father blames the Hero for the son’s death and decides to try to kill him before we learn that all the arbitrary assumptions baldly posited by the story were red herrings. In “Ded-Mek,” a woman has lost her son and spends the story going over repeated iterations of a distorted form of pseudo-scientific resurrection but it’s not about any of that because it’s all that there simbulizm. It’s actually about the evils of our godless technology or at least the blasphemous mentality behind same. In “The Scrimshander” it’s the father’s turn again to lose, not a son, but a daughter in service to a Dickensian indictment of the Powers That Be who distract the populace to stay in power while everyone else stays in misery.
In “The Athuran Interpreter’s Flight” (which is very hard not to read as “Arthurian” though it has nothing to do with it), we’re dealing with a pseudo-scientific cobbling together of “Earthian” and alien and machine with a somewhat dead child (or pair of them) being used as a bound doll translator by the evil “Earthian” businessman who’s trying to make a deal with the very aliens part of the translator comes from. Like “Crimson,” only more so, this story sets up parameters which it then proceeds to violate without explanation throughout the story and, like “Scrimshander,” it’s all simbulizm.
Finally, “Suicide Selkies” presents us with yet another selkie story which stretches a short tale out to the edge of novelette length by telling us of an interminable series of mostly disconnected suicides by oppressed women who are magically transformed by the sea while discussing the main tale of a magical fat circus lady and the selkie who comes back to reclaim her fur. At least this ultimately faces up to the world though it spends the vast bulk of the story seeming like it’s trying to sell suicide.
Despite unconvincing contrary notes at the last minutes of most of these stories, the overall tone of misery and death is loud and clear. Even if that’s what you’re looking for, there are technical problems with most of them as well.