Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-08-25)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

  • What Man Knoweth” by Russell Nichols, Strange Horizons, August 20, 2018 (sf/f novelette)
  • Breakthrough” by John Gilbey, Nature, August 22, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Robot Story II” by Sheaquan M. Datts, Terraform, August 24, 2018 (science fiction short story)

The two science fiction short-shorts are remarkably similar in the key way of lacking plot, drama, and a climax, even in flash scale. “Breakthrough” is an initially pleasant tale of a retired academic returning to his old haunts to help some people who have discovered an anomaly in old data which may indicate evidence of a parallel universe but the “big reveal” seems insufficient for the conceptual background. “Robot Story II,” which has a man meet a robot family at a beach as an allegory of prejudice, is similarly fictionally underwhelming and, message aside, has a less appealing protagonist and fewer interesting science fictional grace notes.

What Man Knoweth” is difficult to categorize because its speculative element of telepathy is not presented in a convincing or rationalized way nor, despite the story’s strong religious elements, in a supernatural way and, aside from this single element, is thoroughly mainstream. A reporter has many personal issues including a failed romance and a preacher father who’s killed himself after being seen as insane. The reporter blames another preacher and operates more as a P.I. in an effort to ironically clear that preacher, a man he hates, of being an accessory to murder (due to supposedly being an “evangelepath” who should have known the murder in the perpetrator’s heart and prevented it) so that, somehow, his own father will be “vindicated” in some way. The story is very character-based, has a lot of dramatic material, and the irony of the first sentence never stops but the characters feel a little “templated” or composed of “armchair psychology,” the drama, especially towards the end, could be said to veer into melodrama, and the irony never quite irons the creases into smoothness, leaving the story feeling a bit incoherent.