Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-10-14)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

Pairs week. Nature and Tor.com went missing this week but Strange Horizons had a bonus story and, due to the unusual lateness of what should have been last week’s Terraform, there are also two of those to go with the two BCS tales.

Leda” is a joke rather than a story and, despite being set on a moon of Jupiter, is a fantasy rather than SF, dealing as it does with people not dying on a Jovian moon and the bureaucratic corporate opportunities that could present. “Cranes” is another mawkish Terraform story about climate change narrated in reverse.

Asphalt” takes issue with the Filipino war on drugs and describes some “innocents,” who have been murdered by cops, getting stuck in a benevolent underworld creature’s realm and deals with a particular conflicted cop who Learns Better. Since it takes issue with extra-judicial killings, the juxtaposition of it with “Fortunate Death” is interesting (read: ludicrously ironic). The latter, while crisply narrated with a well-done first-person narrative voice, exults in its heroes’ extra-judicial killings and tortures. The narrator is a hacker girl who torments those she disagrees with and witnesses the murder of her current victim and belatedly aids the murderer.

While not my sort of thing, by far the best stories of this round were the BCS tales. “Scout” depicts a sort of “winter fairy tale/bedtime story” milieu, the nested tale of which deals with an insomniac Governor and the efforts to get him some rest (culminating in a ride on a magical sleep-inducing creature) and the outer tale of which deals with a young person’s efforts to learn how the story ends. (All the children throughout all time, as comfortable and well-fed and happy as they are, always fall asleep before the conclusion.) While the extended nature of the Governor’s journey and the children’s inability to know the ending are contrived elements in literal terms, the tale’s elaborate and fanciful meditations on sleeping and waking, dreaming and story, maturation and wisdom, is sure to find admirers even if it was a little slow for my taste. “Magic Potion” is also appealing but somehow also fell a little short of a full recommendation from me, though it will likely be enjoyed greatly by many (with the caveat that some may be put off by the genre of the story—discussing that may be a mild spoiler, so see the comments below). In a sort of “old time Asian” milieu, a civil servant (and minor royal) gets shipped off to an out-of-the-way post and, because of ambiguity in the language, thinks he’s learning about one thing (how to become magically strong) when he’s really learning (a great deal) about something else. The depiction of the village he’s in and that of the “magic potion” village and its “Grandmother” is calmly delightful.

(A couple of stray notes: BCS is once again rife with grammatical and typographical errors, especially in “Scout,” which hurt the otherwise enjoyable fiction. On the flipside, its “Magic Potion” has unfamiliar words which are perfectly contextualized and present no problem while SH‘s “Asphalt,” after confusing readers over the course of the story, includes a glossary(!) at the end(!) to “help provide nuance and context” which is what the story is supposed to be for. And, ha, I just realized that Terraform‘s two stories combined are “Leda and the Cranes.” Not quite a swan, but close enough for a laugh.)

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3 thoughts on “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-10-14)

  1. To try to explain the genre of “Magic Potion” which I mentioned above (spoilers!): since “magic potion” is a mistranslation, or mishearing, of something else, it turns out that, while this is a “fantastic” secondary world, it’s not actually a “supernatural” world (unless I missed some other supernatural element), and so this is not so much a fantasy as a weird kind of Eastern Ruritanian semi-mainstream story.

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    • You know, now that I think about it, “Magic Potion” is actually silkpunk, which I think of as “secondary-world fantasy with Chinese characteristics.” From the geography, it’s clearly not our world, but the presence of an emperor, civil-service examinations, a language written in characters, etc. identify it as culturally Chinese just as much as the more usual medieval fantasies have things that point to Europe.
      The lack of any speculation other than the world itself makes this one more like “mannerpunk” than a Ruritanian romance. Now I’m thinking I should have reviewed it. I would have reviewed a straight-up alternate history story, after all.

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      • Yeah, silkpunk would probably work. It struck me as, loosely, whatever Orsinian Tales is except set in an Asian-flavored milieu – plain enough to skip but “associational” or “of (generic) interest” enough to review if you’d wanted. No wrong move there, IMO. 🙂

        Edited to say that I got to thinking and realized I was remembering Orsinia wrong for a second, as Orsinia actually has connections to Europe and it’s just Orsinia itself that’s imaginary. But the basic idea: story set in an imaginary but natural land.

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