Edit (2019-01-01): Added late Slate and Terraform stories.
- “The Book of Winter” by Caroline Friedel, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, December 23, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “Be Good for Goodness’ Sake” by Tim Maughan, Terraform, December 23, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz, Slate, December 29, 2018 (science fantasy short story)
- “Games to Play at the End of the Anthropocene” by Debbie Urbanski, Terraform, December 30, 2018 (science fantasy-like short story)
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.”
- “Real Girls” by Laurie Penny
- “The Trustless” by Ken Liu
- “Placebo” by Charles Yu
- “The Farm” by Charlie Jane Anders
- “The Third Petal” by Nisi Shawl
- “The Branch” by Eugene Lim
- “Maximum Outflow” by Adam Rogers
- “Compulsory” by Martha Wells
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.