- “Where the Gods Went” by J. Drake, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, July 29, 2018 (science fiction novelette)
- “Medium Matters” by R.K. Duncan, Diabolical Plots, August 1 , 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “The Tail of Danny Whiskers” by Fawaz Al-Matrouk, Nature, August 1 , 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Loss of Signal” by S.B. Divya, Tor.com, August 1 , 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “A Legacy of Shadows” by Christopher M. Cevasco, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257, August 2, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “Old No-Eyes” by Christopher Mahon, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257, August 2, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “2157” by Grant Maierhofer, Terraform, August 3 , 2018 (science fiction short story)
With seven stories, it seems like something ought to stick out but this is one of those unfortunate weeks where nothing does.
“Medium Matters” is 2300-words of a brief question about exorcising ghosts and a long answer written by a deranged paranormal advice columnist with relationship issues. The theme of BCS this issue is “6000 word stories written by people named Christopher.” “A Legacy of Shadows” is a really ham-handed Message in which a guy has spent his life killing members of the species who killed his parents. He’s hired by the villagers of a half-Weird Western/half-medieval town to kill the local half-breed but, when his attempt to kill him goes awry, he realizes he’s been “stuck in a rut” and Learns Better. Nice Message; unsuccessful story. “Old No-Eyes” is not such a nice message as the simple, pseudo-Asian tale set in a room tells us that even becoming a transcended immortal ego-less person still apparently leaves room to harbor grudges and be vicious and evil. Maybe this says something about the cosmos but the story isn’t striking for anything besides brutality.
Three of the SF tales range from 2600 words down to 900. “Loss of Signal” is another Message (and quite a contrived one) about a young man with mother-issues who had a degenerative disease. This caused him to have his consciousness loaded into a spaceship which will perhaps show that disabled people can circumnavigate the Moon just as well as others have. (Last year’s “An Unexpected Boon,” from the same author, carries a similar message in a much more appealing and straightforwardly fantastic piece.) “Danny Whiskers” is another Message involving a scientist who’s modified a cat to be intelligent (which apparently comes with the ability to speak through a cat’s throat and mouth for free) despite laws to the contrary and their attempt to escape from the US to Canada. The cop who holds their fates in his hands delivers the moral of the story. You might be interested in “2157” if you enjoyed “Flesh Moves” in the same magazine or want more violent dystopian logorrhea; otherwise, you won’t.
The story that kept me the most off-balance this week was the “quarantine world” science fiction novelette, “Where the Gods Went.” It opens in a virtually incoherent way and spends its first 4900 words coming to make a little sense before the main story is covered in the last 2900 words. So it went from seeming like a bad opening to seeming like a good, in media res, no-infodump, sink-or-swim opening, to clearly being a ridiculously long prologue that could have been exchanged for an opening paragraph or for a few judicious sentences of backstory interspersed through the main story. That main story is summarized by the narrator’s “close third-person” on the Captain of the sabotaged spaceship: “All he had to do was bring back fuel from a death-trap of a planet and induce seven cut-throats to help save the captors hauling them in to judicial death while keeping an eye on a possibly insane first mate who would pilot an ancient rust-bucket of a fueler, [and] guide them through nightmare land…” That nightmare land does indeed turn the story into an SF horror tale which carries its own Message about where the gods are and what the significance of that is, delivered through the foils of the skeptical, rationalist ship’s doctor (who is a sort of Cro-Magnon for some reason) and the “possibly insane first mate.” The conclusion is also unsatisfying, as it seems to have no concern that a saboteur selfishly endangered everyone and consigned spear carriers to far more hideous deaths than they would have received in their “judicial deaths.” Still, while this tale, which hovered between TV sci-fi awfulness and van Vogtian good craziness (which some people might see as a distinction without a difference), wasn’t successful, its type of lack of success was certainly more interesting than that of the others’ this week.