- “Between the Dark and the Dark” by Deji Bryce Olukotun (science fiction novelette)
- “The Harvest of a Half-Known Life” by G.V. Anderson (science fiction short story)
- “The Weight of a Thousand Needles” by Isabel Canas (fantasy short story)
- “Unpublished Gay Cancer Survivor Memoir” by Caspian Gray (fantasy short story)
The June Lightspeed shares some of the inconsistency of the June Clarkesworld but also contains a recommended story.
(“Between the Dark and the Dark” isn’t it.) Mysterious things appear which make the Earth less and less habitable. “The only solution was to leave the planet as quickly as possible.” (Easy come, easy go – bye, now.) Lots of starships of various kinds are sent out and, because the survival of the human race is at stake, they are equipped with remote destruct mechanisms which can be triggered by the folks remaining in the solar system when the crew of the ships transgress Earthly morals, such as when they commit cannibalism. One “steward” hastily decides to terminate one ship while another steward argues for more time to understand the situation.
As if this premise weren’t bad enough (and leaving aside innumerable other relatively minor problems which would be major in most other stories), what it argues for in lieu of cannibalism seems a lot like to-may-to/to-mah-to and the plot hinges on a scientific impossibility.
“Harvest” takes place after we’ve wrecked the planet and people scrabble about in the “sunseared” ruins. Almost everything is put to use, including all the parts of those who die. One woman “harvests” her mother’s friend and reflects on the past before eventually setting off to complete the journey her mother and mother’s friend had begun, which provides the climax to the bildungsroman.
This second example of “waste not, want not” is a spectacularly disgusting story which reads like splatterpunk horror but it’s just the way they thriftily live so, if you can get past that and the painfully cliched post-apocalyptic ending, the tale of the Determined Girl Who Could may appeal, as she’s well-drawn and the depiction of the horrible future has its power.
“Needles” is a sort of Scheherazade/Cinderella combo, in which Soraya, a crow, a jinni, and the god of night do a romantic/spiritual dance with much manipulation and deceit from some of the parties.
This is thickly written and the heroine is sweet enough but rather dull and bloodless. It may suit those looking for a sort of Scheherazade/Cinderella combo, though.
The unpromisingly titled “Unpublished Gay Cancer Survivor Memoir” is the issue’s recommended tale. Sydney is a woman who has survived colon cancer and written a book about it but doesn’t know what to do with the life’s she’s won, especially when her book fails to find a publisher. When her old flame Michaela re-establishes contact while looking for her strange boyfriend Edik, Sydney’s situation changes.
This is a tough and quirkily funny tale full of irony and ambiguity. While Sydney’s not exactly the most pro-active character and there is some unresolved darkness to it all, she’s understandable and sympathetic, the tone of the tale and its idiosyncrasies, and some of the well-delivered plot elements and fantasy elements (in a modern, largely mainstream story) all worked for me.