Annual Summation: 2018

It’s time once again to look back on the year’s coverage of magazines and their noted stories with tables, lists, and pictures!

(For actual reviews of the below, please see the “Monthly Summations,” which serve as tables of contents for all Featured Futures‘ reviews and other posts. For more on this blog, itself, please see the “About” page.)

Coverage

In 2018, Featured Futures covered these 21 magazines:

  1. Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  2. Apex Magazine
  3. Ares Magazine [defunct]
  4. Asimov’s Science Fiction
  5. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  6. Clarkesworld Magazine
  7. Compelling Science Fiction
  8. Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores
  9. Diabolical Plots
  10. Flash Fiction Online
  11. Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
  12. Grievous Angel [defunct]
  13. Lightspeed
  14. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  15. Nature (Futures)
  16. Nightmare
  17. Slate (Future Tense Fiction)
  18. Strange Horizons
  19. Terraform
  20. Tor.com
  21. Uncanny

I read 870 stories of 4.4 million words from those sources (and fifteen other irregular sources which were mostly read for Tangent reviews). Of those stories, 127 were noted, with 77 receiving honorable mentions, 50 being recommended, and 29 of those appearing in Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories). The breakdown of total stories, recommendations, and honorable mentions by zines (along with a column of “Year’s Best” selections) was:

          Zine    TS     R    HM  R+HM      R%     HM%   R+HM% |YB

        Analog    91     4     9    13   4.40%   9.89%  14.29% |2
          Apex    42     1     3     4   2.38%   7.14%   9.52% |1
          Ares     1     0     0     0   0.00%   0.00%   0.00% |0
      Asimov's    64     2     8    10   3.13%  12.50%  15.63% |1
           BCS    62     4     6    10   6.45%   9.68%  16.13% |3
  Clarkesworld    46     5     2     7  10.87%   4.35%  15.22% |3
    Compelling    11     3     1     4  27.27%   9.09%  36.36% |1
          CRES    13     1     1     2   7.69%   7.69%  15.38% |0
            DP    24     0     6     6   0.00%  25.00%  25.00% |0
           FFO    24     1     1     2   4.17%   4.17%   8.33% |1
           FSF    64     5     9    14   7.81%  14.06%  21.88% |5
            GA    17     0     2     2   0.00%  11.76%  11.76% |0
            GE    51     0     8     8   0.00%  15.69%  15.69% |0
    Lightspeed    53     5     5    10   9.43%   9.43%  18.87% |2
        Nature    51     3     2     5   5.88%   3.92%   9.80% |2
     Nightmare    23     2     1     3   8.70%   4.35%  13.04% |1
            SH    40     2     2     4   5.00%   5.00%  10.00% |1
         Slate    12     0     3     3   0.00%  25.00%  25.00% |0
     Terraform    45     1     1     2   2.22%   2.22%   4.44% |0
       Tor.com    26     4     2     6  15.38%   7.69%  23.08% |3
       Uncanny    33     2     1     3   6.06%   3.03%   9.09% |1

         TOTAL   793    45    73   118   5.67%   9.21%  14.88% |27

         Other    77     5     4     9   6.49%   5.19%  11.69% |2

Noted Stories

This is the complete list of those noted stories. The alphabet soup at the end indicates the category in the first chunk (SS=short story, NE=novelette, NA=novella), the genre in the second chunk (SF=science fiction, S-F=science fantasy, F=fantasy, H=horror, M=mainstream) and the third chunk is its status (HM=honorable mention, R=recommendation, YB=”Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy” selection, which is a “recommendation plus”). Stories are supposed to be alphabetized by author and then by title.

  • The Gift of Angels: an introduction” by Nina Allan, Clarkesworld #146, November 2018, NE/SF/R
  • Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, Slate, March 26, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • The Fisher in the Yellow Afternoon” by Michael Anthony Ashley, Diabolical Plots #43B, September 17, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Why We Don’t Go Back” by Simon Avery, Black Static #64, July/August 2018, NE/H/HM
  • The Ghoul Goes West” by Dale Bailey, Tor.com, January 17, 2018, NE/F/R
  • The Horror of Party Beach” by Dale Bailey, Lightspeed #101, October 2018, NE/S-F/HM
  • “True Jing” by Zack Be, Asimov’s, July/August 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds” by James Beamon, Lightspeed #98, July 2018, SS/F/YB
  • The Forest Eats” by Santiago Belluco, Compelling #12, Winter 2018, SS/SF/R
  • “Physics Tomorrow” by Gregory Benford, Analog, March/April 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • A Waltz in Eternity” by Gregory Benford, Galaxy’s Edge #35, November/December 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • I’ll Get Back to You” by Ryan Bloom, Terraform, April 6, 2018, SS/SF/R
  • “Hainted” by Ashley Blooms, F&SF, July/August 2018, SS/F/YB
  • The Tale of the Scout and the Pachydormu” by Gregory Norman Bossert, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262, October 11, 2018, NE/F/HM
  • Godzilla vs. Buster Keaton or: I Didn’t Even Need a Map” by Gary A. Braunbeck, Apex #114, November 2018, NE/F/HM
  • Cat and Mouse” by L.C. Brown, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, May 30, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Life from the Sky” by Sue Burke, Asimov’s, May/June 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • The Independence Patch” by Bryan Camp, Lightspeed #94, March 2018, SS/SF/YB
  • “Margin of Error” by Paul Carlson, Analog, January/February 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes” by Siobhan Carroll, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #247, March 15, 2018, SS/F/YB
  • “Assassin in the Clouds” by Robert R. Chase, Asimov’s, January/February 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • “Inquisitive” by Pip Coen, F&SF, May/June 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly, Tor.com, July 11, 2018, NE/F/HM
  • “Foster Earth” by Julie Czerneda, Amazing, Fall 2018, SS/SF/R
  • “In the Lost City of Leng” by Paul Di Filippo & Rudy Rucker, Asimov’s, January/February 2018, NA/S-F/HM
  • “The Baron and His Floating Daughter” by Nick DiChario, F&SF, November/December 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Being a Giant in Men’s World” by Walter Dinjos, Galaxy’s Edge, May 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “While You Sleep, Computer Mice™ Earn Their Keep” by Buzz Dixon, Analog, May/June 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “Unstoppable” by Gardner Dozois, F&SF, May/June 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Withholding Judgment Day” by Ryan Dull, Diabolical Plots, June 15, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “3-adica” by Greg Egan, Asimov’s, September/October 2018, NA/SF/HM
  • The Nearest” by Greg Egan, Tor.com, July 19, 2018, NE/SF/YB
  • “A List of Forty-Nine Lies” by Steven Fischer, F&SF, January/February 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “Thanksgiving” by Jeffrey Ford, F&SF, November/December 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Ten and Ten” by Alan Dean Foster, Analog, January/February 2018, SS/SF/R
  • After the Story Ends” by M. E. Garber, Galaxy’s Edge #30, January 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Clarkesworld #137, February 2018, NA/SF/YB
  • Magic Potion Behind-the-Mountains” by Jaymee Goh, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262, October 11, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Kylie Land” by Caspian Gray, Nightmare #70, July 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com, September 19, 2018, NE/S-F/YB
  • Fleeing Oslyge” by Sally Gwylan, Clarkesworld #108, May 2018, NE/SF/R
  • “A Crystal Dipped in Dreams” by Auston Habershaw, Analog, July/August 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • This Big” by John Cooper Hamilton, Nature, March 21, 2018, SS/S-F/YB
  • The Coal Remembers What It Was” by Paul R. Hardy, Diabolical Plots #45B, November 16, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, Apex #105, February 2018, SS/F/YB
  • The Ghost In Angelica’s Room” by Maria Haskins, Flash Fiction Online, March 2018, SS/F/YB
  • The Godhead Grimoire” by Sean Patrick Hazlett, Galaxy’s Edge #30, January 2018, SS/H/HM
  • You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You” by Maria Dahvana Headley, Lightspeed #100, September 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Variations on a Theme from Turandot” by Ada Hoffmann, Strange Horizons, May 14, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births” by Jose Pablo Iriarte, Lightspeed #92, January 2018, NE(SS?)/F/R
  • “Bury Me in the Rainbow” by Bill Johnson, Asimov’s, March/April 2018, NA/SF/HM
  • “The Camel’s Tail” by Tom Jolly, Analog, March/April 2018, NE/SF/YB
  • Driving Force” by Tom Jolly, Compelling #11, Summer 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Grace’s Family” by James Patrick Kelly, Tor.com, May 16, 2018, NE/SF/YB
  • Resigned” by Floris M. Kleijne, Galaxy’s Edge #33, July/August 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny #25, November/December 2018, NE/F/YB
  • Carouseling” by Rich Larson, Clarkesworld #139, April 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “In Event of Moon Disaster” by Rich Larson, Asimov’s, March/April 2018, SS/SF/R
  • Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson, Clarkesworld #146, November 2018, SS/SF/YB
  • Penitents” by Rich Larson, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #245, February 15, 2018, SS/S-F/HM
  • For the Last Time, It’s Not a Ray Gun” by Anaea Lay, Diabolical Plots #46B, December 17, 2018, SS/S-F/HM
  • “Broken Wings” by William Ledbetter, F&SF, July/August 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • The Starship and the Temple Cat” by Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244, February 1, 2018, SS/S-F/HM
  • “Harry and the Lewises” by Edward M. Lerner, Analog, September/October 2018, NA/SF/HM
  • “Left to Take the Lead” by Marissa Lingen, Analog, July/August 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • My Favourite Sentience” by Marissa Lingen, Nature, April 25, 2018, SS/SF/YB
  • Cosmic Spring” by Ken Liu, Lightspeed #94, March [15], 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Discard the Sun, for It Has Failed Us” by Marina J. Lostetter, Uncanny #22, May/June 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Requiem” by Christine Lucas, Nature, April 4, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Chasing the Start” by Evan Marcroft, Strange Horizons, July 9, 2018, NE/SF/R
  • A Night Out at a Nice Place” by Nick Mamatas, Apex #104, January 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “Captain Midrise” by Jim Marino, Apex #115, December 2018, SS/F/HM [link 12/18]
  • The Hydraulic Emperor” by Arkady Martine, Uncanny #20, January/February 2018, SS/SF/R
  • “The Last Biker Gang” by Wil McCarthy, Analog, May/June 2018, NA/SF/YB
  • Moonshot” by Andrew W. McCollough, Grievous Angel, April 18, 2018, SS/S-F/HM
  • What Is Eve?” by Will McIntosh, Lightspeed #95, April 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills, Strange Horizons, April 2, 2018, SS/F/YB
  • Mother’s Rules for a Burned Girl” by Rebecca Mix, Flash Fiction Online, January 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Bride Before You” by Stephanie Malia Morris, Nightmare #68, May 2018, SS/H/R
  • Targeted Behavior” by J.D. Moyer, Compelling #11, Summer 2018, SS/SF/R
  • “In the Sharing Place” by David Erik Nelson, Asimov’s, September/October 2018, SS/S-F/YB
  • Cerise Sky Memories” by Wendy Nikel, Nature, October 3, 2018, SS/SF/R
  • The Horn of Amalthea” by George Nikolopoulos, Galaxy’s Edge #34, September/October 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Empress of Starlight” by G. David Nordley, Analog, November/December 2018, NE/SF/R
  • Like Smoke, Like Light” by Yukimi Ogawa, Strange Horizons, June 4, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Sicko” by Jerry Oltion, Analog, March/April 2018, SS/M/HM
  • “Hideous Flowerpots” by Susan Palwick, F&SF, March/April 2018, NE/F/YB
  • Recoveries” by Susan Palwick, Tor.com, June 20, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “The Lady of Butterflies” by Y. M. Pang, F&SF, November/December 2018, NE/F/YB
  • The Thought That Counts” by K.J. Parker, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, April 26, 2018, NE/F/YB
  • Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi, Slate, September 27, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “Never the Twain” by Michael Reid, Interzone #274, March/April 2018, SS/S-F/YB
  • “baleen, baleen” by Alexandra Renwick, Interzone #274, March/April 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts, Clarkesworld #136, January 2018, SS/SF/YB
  • Maximum Outflow” by Adam Rogers, Wired, December 17, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Jesus and Dave” by Jennifer Lee Rossman, Diabolical Plots #41B, July 16, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “Joyride” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Asimov’s, November/December 2018, NA/SF/HM
  • “Hard Mary” by Sofia Samatar, Lightspeed #100, September 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep” by Nibedita Sen, Nightmare #69, June 2018, SS/F/YB
  • The Tragedy of Zayred the Splendid” by Grace Seybold, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262, October 18, 2018, NE/F/HM
  • Redaction” by Adam R. Shannon, Compelling #11, Summer 2018, SS/SF/YB
  • “It Came from the Coffee Maker” by Martin L. Shoemaker, Analog, September/October 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Small Fortune and the Perpetual Luck Machine” by Alex Shvartsman, Galaxy’s Edge #34, September/October 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Overvalued” by Mark Stasenko, Slate, November 27, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “Starship Mountain” by Allen M. Steele, Asimov’s, July/August 2018, NA/SF/HM
  • “Likho” by Andy Stewart, F&SF, March/April 2018, NA/S-F/YB
  • An Aria for the Bloodlords” by Hannah Strom-Martin, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242, January 4, 2018, NE/F/R
  • The Veilonaut’s Dream” by Henry Szabranski, Clarkesworld #143, August 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Cat Lady” by Susan Taitel, Galaxy’s Edge #35, November/December 2018, SS/F/HM
  • “The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi” by Wole Talabi, F&SF, March/April 2018, SS/S-F/HM
  • Your Face” by Grace Tang, Nature, July 11, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • I Don’t Bite” by Nicole Tanquary, Grievous Angel, February 6, 2018, SS/H/HM
  • “Death and Natalie, Natalie and Death” by Jordan Taylor, On Spec #107, [April] 2018, SS/F/R
  • The Mirror Crack’d” by Jordan Taylor, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, September 30, 2018, SS/F/R
  • “The Monstrosity in Love” by Sam Thompson, Black Static #64, July/August 2018, SS/F/YB
  • “We Mete Justice with Beak and Talon” by Jeremiah Tolbert, F&SF, September/October 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • From the Root” by Emma Törzs, Lightspeed #97, June 2018, SS/S-F/R
  • “Crash-Site” by Brian Trent, F&SF, May/June 2018, NE/SF/HM
  • Jump” by Cadwell Turnbull, Lightspeed #100, September 2018, SS/F/R
  • Graduation in the Time of Yog-Sothoth” by James Van Pelt, Diabolical Plots #39B, May 16, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • Suite for Accompanied Cello” by Tamara Vardomskaya, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242, January 4, 2018, SS/F/HM
  • A Most Elegant Solution” by M. Darusha Wehm, Terraform, April 27, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • Compulsory” by Martha Wells, Wired, December 17, 2018, SS/SF/HM
  • “The Blockage” by Jack Westlake, Black Static #64, July/August 2018, SS/H/R
  • Shadowdrop” by Chris Willrich, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #261, September 27, 2018, NA/F/YB
  • “Galatea in Utopia” by Nick Wolven, F&SF, January/February 2018, NE/SF/YB
  • “Until We Are Utterly Destroyed” by Frank Wu, Analog, July/August 2018, NE/SF/HM

Edit (2019-01-17): Reclassified a magazine from “covered” to “irregular” and recalculated numbers and tables.

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Summation: December 2018

December closes the year with little to fully recommend but with several good stories to note, mostly from unusual sources. These half-dozen tales were drawn from the month’s reading of 44 stories of 177K words (plus four November stories of 10K in December’s first review of the weeklies). Aside from the recommended stories, the most interesting items posted this month were probably (hopefully) this site’s “Year’s Best” and the start of the “Collated Contents” of the real “Year’s Bests” (linked in the News section at the end of this post).

Noted Stories

Recommended

Science Fiction

  • The Forest Eats” by Santiago Belluco, Compelling #12, Winter 2018 (short story)

Honorable Mentions

Science Fiction

  • Compulsory” by Martha Wells, Wired, December 17, 2018 (short story)
  • Maximum Outflow” by Adam Rogers, Wired, December 17, 2018 (short story)
  • Overvalued” by Mark Stasenko, Slate, November 27, 2018 (short story)

Fantasy

Reviews

Magazines

News

Edit (2019-01-01): Bumped story/word counts to include two stories which came out after the “2018-12-28 Wrap-Up” (which has also been edited to mention them).

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-12-28)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

Edit (2019-01-01): Added late Slate and Terraform stories.

Original Fiction, Special Edition:

All stories in this section are science fiction short-shorts from the “Future of Work” feature at Wired, December 17, 2018. (Oddly, these are on the same topic that has been the theme of Slate‘s SF series for the final quarter of 2018.) I found out about this thanks to Lauren J. Holmes’ “My 2018 in Books.”

This is the last “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” as such. Next year, I’ll be doing “Weekly Reviews” on Mondays (I think) of the prior Tor.com and/or BCS stories or, if neither have any original fiction that week, a review of a classic story. Any noteworthy stories from the other weekly-ish magazines will be noted elsewhere on the blog.

Winter” is a pleasant, if predictable, YA piece about a couple and their little girl who are shivering in the cold of a long winter when a stranger knocks at the door. Despite their dwindling resources, they invite him in and learn about the people and books of the Seasons, why Spring is so late, and more. In “Good,” a harried dad gets a mechanical “Elf” from a famous online business to observe his tantrum-throwing son and encourage him to behave better before Christmas and it works! At a cost. While I’m in 100% agreement with the message of this story, it’s clearly just a basic dramatization of that message and flash in spirit but 4,000 words in fact.

Robot and Crow” is about talking crows aiding an implausible robot in its efforts to prevent or treat infectious disease outbreaks. “Games to Play” is yet anothernother “cli-fi in reverse” tale from Terraform and feels like that slipstreamy surrealistic whatever that isn’t entirely SF or fantasy.

Bolstering this week’s light coverage, Wired recently had a special issue with eight short-shorts on the future of work. It was disappointing to see so much on the downsides of automation and so little about non-automated future work or anything at all about enjoying an absence of “work” or otherwise writing outside the box but most of the stories are at least adequate and two were notable.

Real Girls” features a guy signing up to pretend to be a sexchat bot (which isn’t SF, really), “The Trustless” is another blockchain story which gives a whole new meaning to “code of law,” “Placebo” has a token human “overseeing” a death panel bot, “The Farm” has a journalist learning that, if you can’t beat the bots vetting your story into blandness, you might as well join them, “The Third Petal” is about medical care in dystopia, and “The Branch” is a gnomic piece on what are basically cyborgs unwinding at a library of the future.

The issue saved the best for last. “Maximum Outflow” takes us to a future in which everyone’s stuck inside closed-ecology cities which recycle almost everything. Everything except Unrecoverable Liquid Waste, which is a “blackbrowngray muck.” When Iggy’s mentor dies, he thinks there’s something wrong with the city and goes into its bowels with a diving expert friend. He dives into that muck to see if he can unclog the drain. Again, it’s predictable and, while this had the sort of smooth tech-wonky infodumps I actually like, some  may not. Some may also not feel it goes for the right ending. Still, it’s a vivid and unpleasantly plausible conception. “Compulsory” is a prequel (and my first exposure) to the famed “Murderbot Diaries” series. In this, the bot has its entertainment show interrupted by a worker’s imminent demise and must deal with corporate evil. The “murderbot” seems kind of magic to me – part human, part not, able to hack itself and everything else – but this was wittily told and entertaining, with a serious subtext.

Review: F&SF, January/February 2019

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,
January/February 2019

FSF-2019-01_02

Original Fiction:

  • “To the Beautiful Shining Twilight” by Carrie Vaughn (fantasy short story)
  • “The Province of Saints” by Robert Reed (science fiction short story)
  • “The City of Lost Desire” by Phyllis Eisenstein (fantasy novella)
  • “The Right Number of Cats” by Jenn Reese (fantasy short story)
  • “Survey” by Adam-Troy Castro (short story)
  • “Blue as Blood” by Leah Cypess (science fictional novelette)
  • “The Washer from the Ford” by Sean McMullen (fantasy short story)
  • Plumage From Pegasus: “A Walk on the Mild Side” by Paul Di Filippo (science fiction short story)
  • “Tactical Infantry Bot 37 Dreams of Trochees” by Marie Vibbert (science fiction short story)
  • “Fifteen Minutes from Now” by Erin Cashier (science fictional short story)
  • “The Fall from Griffin’s Peak” by Pip Coen (fantasy short story)

This issue also includes a reprint of “Joe Diabo’s Farewell” from Andy Duncan’s November 2018 collection, An Agent of Utopia. In terms of original fiction, this 2019 issue wasn’t up to 2018’s standards but had enough in it to be okay, overall.

The titles are split pretty evenly between fantasy and things that might be considered science fiction but the science fiction is fairly weak, especially considered as science fiction. “Blue as Blood” was particularly hard to swallow, as a girl was born on an alien world where they sometimes apply their great medical skills to random humans and have a reputedly sometimes fatal aversion to the color blue which the girl somehow acquires. It’s a story which would seem to be about social tolerance but its theme, as presented, is probably less compelling than even its science fictional clothing. “Infantry Bot” is a fairly flat riff on Dickian “autofac” endless-war sorts of stories, with a “female”(?) bot spouting verse while her companions say “ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die” until the “god into the bot” ending. “Fifteen Minutes” is a nearly 3,000 word monologue in which a time-traveling torturer (and I’m not sure how the time travel is supposed to accomplish anything) threatens an alleged terrorist. Somewhat similarly, “Survey” is a 5,000 word dialog and thought-experiment on sadism rather than science fiction or even fiction. The flash of “Mild Side” takes the real Kate Hamill’s frenetic adaptations of classic novels and simply extends it (“if this goes on”) and then contemplates the backlash to that. Finally, the most interesting of the SF pieces is “The Province of Saints,” another sort of “love song for the very awful,” in which a family is destroyed and a cop is called in to figure out how by interviewing a surviving family member with strange powers. It’s a riff on better killing through brain chemistry which burns the motherhood statement regarding empathy.

The fantasy pieces are both more interesting and more fantastic except for “Cats” which is not so much a fantasy as a surrealist piece in which a woman with a dying or dead girlfriend must embrace the pain to come out the other side, with a razor-bladed spiky cat as a sleeping companion and symbol. Turning to more straightforwardly fantastic pieces, a thief confesses her “Fall” after being coerced by a dandy and a cop into stealing something for them, though nothing turns out to be as it seemed. Either the narrator is a pathological liar in addition to being a thief (in which case nothing in the story can mean much) or it’s all a case of misfortune more than her fault (in which case the story’s kind of pointless) and the tone was off-putting but some may appreciate the reversals.  “Twilight” has a lot of backstory (which stories can have without being sequels but this feels like it is and apparently isn’t) but little plot or action as it presents a woman with another visitation from fairyland which forces her to decide between it and the life she’s made for herself in Mundania. Despite its simplicity, it’s pleasant enough. “Washer” is a very strange story based on a real myth (so you can’t fault the author for that part) in which an ominous woman washes clothes for the dead. A man sees a murder and later sees that weird woman before finding that they and he are connected. He learns he has a curse and a power and has to skirmish with the washerwoman in an effort to maintain his power and do something with it. The theme is not burning any motherhood statements but the tale was interesting and some might find the modernization of the myth especially so.

I’m not sure why “City” needed to be a novella but it reads quickly and is probably the best of the issue. Extending the “Alaric the Minstrel” series, this is a sumptuous tale about a trading caravan arriving in a decayed city after a strange, magical interlude in the desert. It seems to be about a lot of things (including, especially, “drugs are bayud, m’kay?”) but turns out to be about the unraveling of a romantic knot (along with the revelation of some backstory). It’s well-constructed and effectively evokes an exotic “Arabian Nights” feeling.

Links (2018-12-26)

Science Fiction

  • Suggestions For Library of America 1970s SF « F&SF Forum. Know of a 1970s American SF novel you think ought to be enshrined for posterity? Head on over to the F&SF forum and tell us about it.
  • Site News: tweaked Featured Futures‘ top menus and sidebar for 2019. I added the 2018 “year’s best” stuff to the “Featured” menu, reordered the “Magazine Reviews” menu into “Full,” “Special,” “Select,” and “Defunct” categories (WordPress’ menu functionality is… non-optimal… but I did the best I could), renamed “Tangent Reviews” to “Reviews for Tangent,” put the “List of Webzines” page in the “Misc” menu and entirely removed the “Pages” items from the sidebar, and refreshed the “Links” widget in the sidebar (cleared out a couple of dead links, updated a couple of changed URLs, and so on). If anyone notices anything else to fix or improve and/or has any URLs to add, feel free to comment on this post or to contact me.

Birthdays

  • 1921-12-26 Steve Allen
  • 1882-12-28 Arthur S. Eddington
  • 1933-12-28 Nichelle Nichols
  • 1915-12-29 Charles L. Harness
  • 1931-12-31 Bob Shaw
  • 1949-12-31 Ellen Datlow
  • 1949-12-31 Susan Shwartz
  • 1854-01-01 J. G. Frazer
  • 1888-01-01 Chesley Bonestell

The data in this section is from the ISFDB. ISFDB entries usually have SFE and/or Wikipedia links for biographies. For free works of older authors online, try sites like FreeSFOnline, Archive.org, Gutenberg, or PoemHunter.com.

Science

Other

History

Humor

Calvin and Hobbes at GoComics:

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip for December 21, 2018

Music

Now to conclude the “alt” compilation album…

Continue reading

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-12-22)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

  • The Bonus” by Liz Maier, Terraform, December 16, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • For the Last Time, It’s Not a Ray Gun” by Anaea Lay, Diabolical Plots #46B, December 17, 2018 (technofantasy short story)
  • Sequestration; Vitrification” by Allison Jamieson-Lucy, Strange Horizons, December 17, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Solstice” by John Gilbey, Nature, December 19, 2018 (science fictional short story)
  • A Circle of Steel and Bone” by R.K. Duncan, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #267. December 20, 2018 (fantasy novelette)
  • A Martyr’s Art” by J.P. Sullivan, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #267. December 20, 2018 (fantasy novelette)

Sequestration; Vitrification” introduces us to Lynn, a scientist who’s trying to genetically engineer diatoms to survive long enough for them to eat radiation and safely store it in glass-like structures while her artist friend deals with his boyfriend’s cancer and her roommate protests and so on. It basically deals with not committing suicide in a sickening world by fixing things in various ways. Despite this, depression dominates this under-plotted, though otherwise well-written tale.

Bonus” seems like it’s going to be yet another “sleepless” tale but just turns into an unremarkable tale about brainwashing. “Solstice” is a vague tale of an academic being invited to a seasonal party in the quantum magic room.

In “Ray Gun,” a shy guy is out on a date but there are a couple of problems. He doesn’t think she knows they’re on a date and she hates emotional displays so much that she turns a girl who’s crying at the next table into an Englishman with a stiff upper lip with her not-a-ray-gun. This is generally funny and has peaks of extra-funny but is perhaps a shade too long and, while the ending is fitting enough, it doesn’t “ooze glitter” or anything. Still, if the sense of humor hits you right, you’ll probably get a kick out of it.

Circle” is the first of two fantasy novelettes from BCS. In this grimdark tale, the Christians are Christianizing Prussia when a demon is let loose. After much buildup, they fight it and the story ends abruptly and easily. While the protagonist is a “Martyr,” neither she nor anyone else are Christians in the second tale. A goddess has died and left behind 100 tears which turn into a steady pool of 100 Martyrs, people who can transfer the injuries of others to themselves. Our heroine is contracted to serve a very nasty man and is put in a bind when another nasty man wants to acquire something valuable. Plans go awry, she’s forced to improvise, she orders a dinghy to “follow that boat!” and magically levels up, so to speak. Another abrupt and easy ending follows, though with a bit of an epilogue. A trace of ironic detachment makes this the minimally lighter tale. Either tale may suit fans of their types but neither seemed remarkable.

Review: Analog, January/February 2019

Analog,
January/February 2019

Analog-1901

Original Fiction:

  • “Ring Wave” by Tom Jolly (science fiction novelette)
  • “Love in the Time of Immuno-Sharing” by Andy Dudak (science fiction short story)
  • “A Message from Our Sponsor” by J.T. Sharrah (science fiction short story)
  • “The Last Squirrel Keeper” by Shane Halbach (science fictional short story)
  • “All the Smells in the World” by Julie Novakova (science fiction short story)
  • “The Umwelt of the Shark” by John Alfred Taylor (science fiction short story)
  • “Forever” by Mary Soon Lee (science fiction short story)
  • “Clockwork Cataclysm” by Edward M. Lerner (short story)
  • “The Narrowest Eye” by Howard V. Hendrix (science fiction short story)
  • “Applied Linguistics” by Auston Habershaw (science fiction short story)
  • “A Civilization Dreams of Absolutely Nothing” by Thoraiya Dyer (science fiction novelette)
  • “Lulu’s Friends” by Aimee Ogden (short story)
  • “Temple of Children” by Jennifer R. Povey (science fiction short story)
  • “Reboot” by Robert Reed (science fiction short story)
  • “Soft We Wake” by S. B. Divya (science fiction short story)
  • “Fingers” by Frederick Gero Heimbach (science fiction short story)
  • “The Fading Pages of a Short Story” by Bud Sparhawk (science fiction short story)
  • “A Place to Stand On” by Marie Vibbert (science fiction short story)
  • “The View from Proxima Centauri” by Susan Pieters (science fiction novelette)
  • “The Savannah Problem” by Adam-Troy Castro (science fiction novella)

I don’t recall ever seeing the listing of novellas, novelettes, and short stories in an issue of Analog fail to fit on the verso page but this issue achieves the feat by including sixteen short stories ranging down to 226 words. (A pain in the recto, you might say.) There is also a novelette about eight words longer than a short story along with two others and a novella.

(Note: This is probably the last time I will discuss all the short stories in an issue of Analog. In future issues, I’ll highlight anything worthwhile, balancing that with an assessment of the average.)

None of the half-dozen 226-2000 word stories are considerable and some fail to be science fiction or even fiction. “Cataclysm” describes a recent actual event in metaphorical terms; other than needing to get consent, I don’t see anything particularly speculative in “Lulu,” in which an orangutan signs up to help her friends with medical conditions. “Temple” is a non-story, much like another recent one I can’t remember, in which five-gendered aliens arrogate to themselves the raising of human children in an unbelievable way which concludes simplistically; “Reboot” is another non-story dialogue about AI, human aggression, and survival. A man deals with his ex-husband, a rich capitalist who wants to live “Forever.” Finally, one story has an interesting idea about people becoming illegally addicted to VR experiences of the “Umwelt” of animals (though why a good English word like “weltanschauung” wouldn’t do, I don’t know) but “rookie cop does the right thing despite superiors” isn’t enough of a story to exploit it.

Most of the four 2,000-4,000 word stories are a little better. Humans crash-landed on an alien world years ago and the “Squirrel Keeper” is the “last human” in a story with bad science which depends on an extreme obtuseness in its protagonist for its sentiment. “Wake” is an under-dramatic but reasonably interesting tale about a bunch of people who have been frozen near our time and have awakened in the post-human future. All but a handful have “graduated” to the world outside but a couple of people hang back, having difficulty adapting to their brave new world. “Place to Stand” is a lot like “Persephone Descending” (Derek Kunsken, November 2014 Analog) except with Mexicans instead of Quebecois. It’s a basically competent “woman against nature (and technical failure)” story about a worker risking her life to save a habitat she’s been helping to construct in the clouds of Venus but using this as a vehicle for her to work through her mommy issues doesn’t do it a lot of favors. When a company starts trying to add “Smells” to VR and an employee suffers an accident, she scents the sharp tang of lemons being turned into lemonade. This is a pretty solid story which, remarkably, is the right length for its focus on its central idea and, speaking of lemons, actually adds a little twist to the overdone VR motif.

Unfortunately, aside from one recommendation, the quality of the other half-dozen stories in the nearly-5,000 to nearly-7,000 word range is akin to the short-shorts. “Fading Pages“is an initially interesting story about medical aids which could help with a father’s memory loss but, among other problems, an event later in the story makes that all irrelevant and it ends in an overly sentimental way. “Narrowest Eye” is less a story and more a collection of phrases, most of the form “none who desire to be free of desire ever achieve their desire” which, to use other phrases, asks “for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” for “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a subsistent man to enter the kingdom of God.” It is another strange SF attack on “basic income” as well as sour-grapes anti-utopianism. If the phantasmagorical “Eye” would fit into some straight-laced inversion of underground comix, then “Message” is a story about advertising run amok which could slip into a 1950s issue of Galaxy without comment, but for its bizarre strawman attack on the “obstruction” of the First Amendment. Like “Pages,” it has a back-half which undercuts its front-half and, like many, has a very weak ending/last line. “Fingers” is a survivalist-tinged post-apocalyptic gray goo story narrated by its special protagonist in initially opaque horror-story terms. In “Love,” Earth has been ravaged by plagues, including one that is a defense against other plagues – the “immuno-sharing” which has taken the place, for all but a few perverts, of “repro-sex.” From a peregrinating sensualist society, a quartet arrives on a mainland riven by revolution and the survivors of that band experience a reawakening.

Finally, the protagonist of “Applied Linguistics” is a mimetic blob which can swallow almost anything. If you can swallow that it is a conscious, intelligent entity which can learn to use language and don’t mind a late bit of minor convenience and an unnecessary twist, then this should be a great read. It takes place on a prison moon with some amazing biotech and paints a gigantic interstellar empire into the background almost casually, but the whole is tangible and effective. The blob finds itself drawn, despite itself, into a strange relationship with a prisoner who teaches him to speak and, ultimately, into a sadly less strange relationship with the universe at large, partially conditioned by that conceptual framework. This is a very tough and often wonderfully bizarre story (the eyeball part and the bones part were particularly blobby) with a disciplined imagination which hit me like Real Science Fiction™.

Turning to the longer stories, “View” barely qualifies as a novelette and is an uneventful and essentially anti-space exploration tale with an unconvincingly amateurish mission sending two people to Proxima Centauri to investigate the complex signals emanating from there. The longest story, “Problem,” is another middle in the Draiken saga in which every single step is narrated in exhaustive and exhausting detail, producing the effect of it all being in slow motion, as Draiken recruits a knifeman for a twist at the end, interrupted by an “irritating delay” which opens another threat to all humanity in addition to (or in variation of) the one that Draiken is fighting. Fans of this series still wanting more may be satisfied; others likely won’t.

The two long novelettes both deal with the ends of worlds. Some may respond favorably to the imaginatively conceived group-minded memory-manipulating marsupial aliens of “Nothing” and will be caught up in the existential threat to them and their wandering planet but, despite the extremes of their sibling rivalries, the aliens struck me as all-too human under their funny suits and the milieu’s overcomplicated structure was mostly unexploited. I could never visualize this as anything but an animated cartoon and it had a huge windup for a very short pitch. “Ring Wave” has a neat idea for a story. When an extinction-level asteroid hits Earth there is a region where material will be ejected forcefully enough to achieve escape velocity but not too forcefully to survive. Many pods of varying sizes and capabilities are produced and Aleja rides one such into space where she must battle pod pirates and make alliances with decent folk in an attempt continue surviving. The story, itself, though, has a questionable POV-switch almost halfway through, has a semi-incompetent hero and a cardboard villain (because piracy and and murderous activities aren’t enough, he’s also apparently a pedophile), has too many conveniences (and convenient inconveniences) and, most importantly, while I understand that the debris is still expanding, space is still too small in this story. Still, between the good idea and the crisp telling, this was a decent read.