- “Flesh Moves” (Part 2) by Adam Rothstein and Brendan C. Byrne, Terraform, June 1 and 9, 2018 (science fiction novelette)
- “Quietly Gigantic” by K. C. Mead-Brewer, Strange Horizons, June 11, 2018 (surreal short story)
- “Further Laws of Robotics” by Josh Pearce, Nature, June 13, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Withholding Judgment Day” by Ryan Dull, Diabolical Plots, June 15, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “The Worst Commute” by Aaron Gordon, Terraform, June 15, 2018 (science fiction short story)
The science fiction stories in this span were disappointing. The fantastic tales were much more interesting.
“Flesh Moves” is about a murderous psychopath trying to scam the system that’s scamming everyone, using fellow drug-addled “truckers” who accompany the self-driving vehicles which ship “pax” from place to place. Its fractured, staccato, jargon-filled faux-Burroughs cyberpunk “style” makes it frankly unreadable and it’s never a good sign that the reader’s disappointed more characters don’t die. “The Worst Commute” is an initially decent take on the privatization of the subways (which is becoming a reality in Chicago) but is lacking in story as a “commie” pisses off a “subbro” and becomes a indentured servant for violating the mysterious Terms of Service. Finally, “The Further Laws of Robotics” is another piece which lacks story despite its initial, appealing, gimmick. A robot is about to blow up a particle collider and kill a lot of people, causing Detective Warren to try to stop him, resulting in an entertaining bout of number theory argument dealing with numbers other than Zero through Three.
“Quietly Gigantic” is about a lunatic lesbian housesitting for ten days with a cat and a roach problem. The style is initially appealing and the calm, matter-of-fact narration sprinkled with bad craziness conveys an effect almost like an elevator steadily rising but for moments of stomach-floating drops, which threaten to grow worse. I was never sure if this was fantasy or going to become outright horror (it’s ultimately just surreal and can be rationalized as mainstream with an insane narrator). Unfortunately, I came to feel it was too long and lost confidence in its having any plot. While an end game was clearly in mind, the extent seemed made up of strung together incidents which could have been decreased or increased and the whole thing felt like an accordion stretched to arbitrary length. What turned out to be the ultimate thrust of the story, however symbolically creative, was also trite and somehow smaller than the story had led me to expect.
While still not earth-shaking (except in an apocalyptic sense), my favorite story of the week was “Withholding Judgment Day.” A weird order of monks “expects” Judgment Day in shifts due to a biblical verse that can be interpreted to mean that Judgment Day works like a watched pot. While the world at large is often enough, the monks are really set on not letting it boil, as souls still need to be saved before the big day. Unfortunately, on a day in which the most of the world is distracted by a historic World Cup match and others have other issues, even the triple-redundancy of the monks is not sufficient as they don’t really expect the world to end. Unless I’m not reading the “2:56 PM GMT” section properly, it doesn’t seem “paradoxical” like the others but actually inconsistent, and the story’s ending may be clever but is still a little flat, but it was an entertaining tale with a good narrative tone.