- “The Metal Eater of Luminous Smoke” by Minsoo Kang, Strange Horizons, June 18, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “Going Back for Hitler” by George Nikolopoulos, Nature, June 20, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Recoveries” by Susan Palwick, Tor.com, June 20, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “The Sweetness of Honey and Rot” by A. Merc Rustad, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #254, June 21, 2018 (fantasy novelette)
- “Three Dandelion Stars” by Jordan Kurella, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #254, June 21, 2018 (fantasy novelette)
- “VRtual” by Rose Eveleth, Terraform, June 22, 2018 (science fiction short story)
“The Sweetness of Honey and Rot, ” much like its title, is an unappealing mix of fantasy and horror elements. This is yet another present tense story of a heroine battling the evil empire, the latter of which is, in this case, a human-eating tree attended by sloths and other humans. The horrible fates that befall all who so much as think of going against the grain make the protagonist’s experiences utterly unbelievable. “Three Dandelion Stars” is trite in both relatively recent and old-fashioned ways: it’s another tale of the difficulties of lesbian weddings and is a “(swamp) fairy offers a wish” story. Like the previous story, this has horror elements and evil systems and, like many more, it’s a revenge fantasy/wish-fulfillment (and an uncommonly preposterous one). Since one character is nothing at all and the other is merely stupid, there are only “Eight Deadly Words” for this. The week’s other pure fantasy, “The Metal Eater,” is a readable tale with some metafiction (and interesting literary criticism) in it but mostly deals with a magical semi-Socratic character puttering about in a myth who must deliver yet more blows against the empire (in this case, a wastrel of a new king). The main problem here is a lack of drama.
The three science fiction tales aren’t very. “Hitler” is a time travel flash piece which, yet again, has a time traveler wanting to kill Hitler. It contains an interesting idea but is delivered in a fairly predictable way in terms of the big picture and completely implausibly in terms of the details. “VRtual” has a woman working as a motion-capture body at a VR firm who meets an aggressive guy at a bar. It seems to argue the VR both really traumatizes her, yet doesn’t prepare her for reality. As a story, especially an SF one, it doesn’t do much at all. The week’s best tale is easily “Recoveries,” which handles its SF motif in a fantastic fashion (with a dash of horror) and takes awhile to overcome the off-putting nature of the protagonists, one of whom (Vanessa) is a court-mandated dry drunk about to complete her year’s sentence of sobriety and go on a binge and the other of whom (Kat) is her eating-disordered best (only) friend and the story’s narrator. As you get to know Vanessa, whose parents believed they were abducted by aliens and who did eventually permanently disappear, and Kat, who never even knew her parents, and how these and other issues play into the troubles of their lives, it becomes more intriguing. Vanessa’s reactions at the end aren’t entirely plausible but I feel like at least noting this tale. I enjoyed Dennis Danver’s somewhat recent “Adult Children of Alien Beings” and this, while different, has some similarity of appeal.