Review: Apex #110

Apex #110, July 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “The Chariots, the Horsemen” by Stephanie Malia Morris (fantasy short story)
  • “When You’re Ready” by M. Ian Bell (science fiction short story)
  • “Kerouac’s Renascence” by Tal M. Klein (science fiction novelette)

This issue also includes a reprint and a translation as well as the Patreon-funded original novelette and the usual two originals. I did like aspects of the first and third originals but the sum didn’t work for me.

In “Chariots,” the protagonist and her mother can fly, or could, if the patriarchal figure wasn’t literally keeping them down. It’s mostly well-written and has a well-realized protagonist but is thematically simple and unsubtle.

Ready” is about a boy who meets a boy and loses a boy and, undaunted by an apocalypse that should render such things even less likely, takes narcissistic mad scientist steps to regain boy. It’s stylistically very dull and is a case where the present tense specifically contributes to that problem. With yet another example of the “and… or… and… or…” structure, it has no real plot or climax.

Other than wondering why I was reading it in a “speculative fiction” magazine and its downer subject, I was mostly enjoying “Renascence.” A man dying from Huntington’s is leaving his suicide journal to his sister while on a cruise. However, it then tried to qualify as speculative fiction two-thirds in with a ludicrously presented “too bad even for TV” twist and then withheld the obvious conclusion for too long as though it were a big reveal. Also, by the end, the narrative device of the journal had come to seem inconsistent and inappropriate.

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Links (2018-07-04)

Site News

Humor

Politics

History

Philosophy

  • The Splintered Mind: Will Future Generations Find Us Especially Morally Loathsome?. While this article has its own points to make (and I disagree with, or at least question, some of them, such as the idea that people of moral excellence would condemn, rather than seek to understand, the morality of others), it raises issues I’ve long wanted to articulate and which I think are especially pertinent in this era of disturbingly absolutist, holier-than-thou attitudes which bring to mind the “loathsome” eras of Puritans, Salem, Prohibitionists, etc. But if you’re not interested in my take, don’t let that discourage you from reading the excellent article for the author’s viewpoint and for your own.

Science

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

  • 1900-06-29 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • 1877-07-02 Hermann Hesse
  • 1883-07-03 Franz Kafka

This week’s authors are, oddly, all non-English. I don’t really recall Saint-Exupery‘s  The Little Prince, but who hasn’t read it? I haven’t read Hesse for years but things like Steppenwolf had their effects. I love Kafka‘s The Trial, which is a perfect metaphor for almost everything. He’s, of course, famous for “The Metamorphosis” as well, but I’ve read his complete stories and it was well worth it.

Music

Happy Birthday to the U! S. Aaayaay! Continue reading

Review of Galaxy’s Edge #33 for Tangent

The thirty-third issue of Galaxy’s Edge contains four reprints and nine originals. Of the latter, the Davitt, Kleijne, and Spires are strictly flash fiction, while the Nikolopoulos and Birch are less than two thousand words, and the Nickel and Leen are less than three. The heftiest stories are the Hodges at four and the Roberts at six. Five of the tales are fantasy and four are forms of SF. Regardless of genre, almost all are humorous or at least light and nearly as many provide some degree of enjoyment though those looking for tales of great complexity, depth, and angst will need to look elsewhere.

Full review at Tangent: Galaxy’s Edge #33, July/August 2018.

Honorable mention:

  • “Resigned” by Floris M. Kleijne (science fiction short story)

Review: Clarkesworld #142

Clarkesworld #142, July 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “Gubbinal” by Lavie Tidhar (science fiction short story)
  • “A Gaze of Faces” by Mike Buckley (science fiction novelette)
  • “The James Machine” by Kate Osias (science fiction short story)
  • “For What Are Delusions if Not Dreams?” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu (science fiction short story)

Perhaps the most accessible short story is the adequate science fictional romance story “The James Machine” which, aside from being four times too long, feels like a Flash Fiction Online story. A dying husband and his wife try to make an AI emulation of the husband and she decides that, if you love someone, you must get them free will. The somewhat less accessible “Gubbinal” is set on Titan and features a woman who is hunting for artifacts left by Boppers (sentient, organic-like machines) when she comes across an injured Ermine (a person modified to live on Titan and other worlds without mechanical aid) and they both set off to explore until pirates have other ideas. This underplotted tale, which seems to be a small piece of a larger story, also seems to want to combine Rudy Rucker and Wallace Stevens in ways not entirely clear to me, but it was interesting. The least accessible, most perplexing short was “For What Are Delusions if Not Dreams?” which deals with a human being treated like an element of a computer or an element of a computer being something like a human. Either way, it would seem to be a metaphor for individual humans caught in the inhuman emergent System of modern society. It’s much softer and quieter than an Ellison story but appropriate that, after his death, it’s reminiscent of such tales as “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.”

The novelette, “A Gaze of Faces,” is another example of the stories particularly focused on the cognitive estrangement and dark, unpleasant moods that Clarkesworld is especially fond of. It probably slots near “Gubbinal” in disorientation and near “Delusions” in dark mood. This was the strongest tale of the issue in many ways but had some significant weaknesses. The “estrangement” is produced from simple inversion. The story opens with undefined terms: “I was sixteen when the viz came. The spiral went crazy for a while, shooting, soldiers at the corners.” Then “viz” and “spiral” and the other layers of confusion are basically “de-estranged” by unspooling a series of simple infodumps interspersed with good action scenes. On top of that, the infodumps teeter on the edge of two different connotations of “incredible,” almost leading to a sense of wonder as they expand the scope of the story and its depth of time but almost leading to a sense of ridiculousness as well. Ultimately, the background seems to fall to the latter sense. So now that I’ve begun without a synopsis, I’ll infodump it: on an essentially uninhabitable world, a “vault diver” pokes around in the remnant VR system of the colonial starship and “spiral” of a habitat that was built from it, looking for things of value. He’s tasked with training a young girl and, together, they discover something of importance which changes their understanding of their history and worlds. The numinous alien facehuggers they all live with are quite creepy (though also a plausibility problem) and the brutal, violent, decayed civilization they inhabit is powerfully portrayed. Without seeming to do much to achieve it, the main characters are appealing enough. It’s just that the deep background which produces this powerful foreground doesn’t work. It’s an “honorable mention once removed,” so to speak.

Review: Flash Fiction Online, July 2018

Flash Fiction Online, July 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “‘-Good.'” by Sunyi Dean (science fiction short story)
  • “Untimely Frost, Unlikely Bloom” by Hayley Stone (fantasy short story)
  • “Gathering” by Jonathan Louis Duckworth (fantasy short story)

‘-Good.’” and “Untimely Frost, Unlikely Bloom” are two more in the flood of FFO‘s present tense stories about death. In the first, a spineless woman who says “I don’t know” to everything and whose husband fills in the answers for her, is being asked to be the surrogate mother of that husband’s clone now that he’s dying. What will she say to that? In the second, a fairy tale woman involuntarily kills everything she comes into contact with, including guys she invites to sleep with her. What will become of the child she gives birth to? It’s hard to care about any of the characters in either of the stories, or their situations. “Gathering” is actually in past tense and is about death on a much grander scale. It’s a surreal dreamlike (or nightmare-like) piece about birds trying to build a destructive device and an artist whose work becomes real in weird ways coinciding in an unfortunate way. It didn’t click for me but was the most interesting tale of the issue.

Summation: June 2018

This month produced nine noted stories (four recommended) from a total of forty-five (215 Kwds). Compelling made a strong and welcome return on its new semi-annual schedule. “Nightspeed” also contributed a couple of powerful tales.

Noted Stories

Recommended

Science Fiction

  • Redaction” by Adam R. Shannon, Compelling #11, Summer 2018 (short story)
  • Targeted Behavior” by J.D. Moyer, Compelling #11, Summer 2018 (short story)

Fantasy

Honorable Mentions

Science Fiction

  • Driving Force” by Tom Jolly, Compelling #11, Summer 2018 (short story)
  • Recoveries” by Susan Palwick, Tor.com, June 20, 2018 (short story)

Fantasy

Reviews

Magazines

Other

News

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-06-29)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

  • Report Any Suspicious Activity” by Pat Tompkins, Grievous Angel, June 24, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Hima” by Sam Muller, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, June 25, 2018 (fantasy short story)
  • Traumahead” by Jeremy Szal, Nature, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • A Brief and Fearful Star” by Carmen Maria Machado, Slate, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • The Need for Air” by Lettie Prell, Tor.com, June 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Preemptive Strike” by Jessica Maison, Terraform, June 29, 2018 (science fiction short story)

The fiction from the weekly/one-shot webzines wasn’t very appealing to me this week, unfortunately.

Report” is one of three flash or near-flash pieces to cover. Its bulk is a nicely described but trivial scene of a woman using pen and paper on an airplane and then delivers the climax almost like a punchline but there’s no humor and the two parts, while the former hints at the latter, don’t mesh well. The other is related to Slate‘s quarterly theme of “memory” despite appearing in Nature. “Traumahead” describes an alien gathering up the memories of fallen comrades on a battlefield while looking for his daughter so he can merge her and not have to rely on his own fallible memories. The unmotivated and irrelevant misanthropy of having it be humans committing xenocide is distracting and the whole is so stylized and mannered that the surface action can’t be taken seriously. “Preemptive Strike” is almost two thousand words about what might happen if the mental healthcare system could be changed and gun laws couldn’t. It’s not a very sophisticated story.

Hima” is a retelling of Snow White and delivers a sensory overload of birthday parties and the like as the titular character refuses to play by fairy tale rules. “Fearful Star” is supposedly attempting to be science fiction but feels little different from “Hima” except that it’s even more overwritten. Both stories feature essentially only a mother and daughter and are set in the past. In the latter, I couldn’t find any science at all but the companion article talks about “a nascent, uneven, and controversial scientific field known as epigenetic inheritance” of memories, which I have heard of (and am not impressed by) but, even if you make the generous concession that that’s science, the story doesn’t make clear that this is its subject or do anything interesting with it, at least as far as I was concerned. Others may find it more appealing. “The Need for Air” actually includes a son to go with the mother in another two character story involving maternal conflicts or related problems. Its milieu is even fuzzier than that of “Fearful Star,” but involves a mother who is interested in living in and translating to a VR while doing some tests for some AIs. She incidentally (very incidentally) raises a son who doesn’t want to be in a VR or uploaded. Things eventually get worked out (for broad values of “worked out”).