- “Death Rides Shotgun” by Michael Haynes (fantasy short story)
- “The Stars So Black, the Space So White” by Robert Jeschonek (science fantasy short story)
- “Things Said to Me in the Anxari 12 Station Bar When I Said I Wasn’t a Xenosexual (and the Things I Wish I’d Had the Courage to Say in Reply)” by Matt Dovey (science fictional short story)
- “You Get Hit and Your Moose Goes Ping” by Brennan Harvey (science fiction short story)
- “The Gift” by Regina Kanyu Wang (science fantasy short story)
- “The Electrifying Aftermath of a Demon Thrice Summoned” by Larry Hodges (fantasy short story)
- “The Sin of Envy” by George Nikolopoulos (science fiction short story)
- “Perfect Little Boy” by Jon Lasser (science fiction short story)
- “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” by Steven H Silver (science fiction short story)
As with the last issue of Galaxy’s Edge, this issue’s original offerings are all short stories or shorter. Unlike the last issue, not everything is fantasy but, like many things lately, most of the things that aren’t straight fantasy only loosely qualify as SF.
(Two odd notes: I like the cover; three of the authors (Dovey, Harvey, and Lasser) are introduced as various sorts of winners of the “Writers of the Future” contests.)
Perhaps the most interesting and most science fictional of the flash pieces is “The Sin of Envy” which involves a human confronting a robot over its signs of supposed envy but learning that humanity may not be so appealing to a robot. Despite a good thought in here that could have been pushed further, it instead goes for a conventional “twist” ending. The purest fantasy flash is “Death Rides Shotgun,” which is a flip tale of Joseph going to his car to visit his estranged daughter and her new child but finding Death inside. Joseph gets in anyway, because family is important. The other two stories seem to aim for feminist statements which are arrived at awkwardly at best. “The Gift” is a science-free “galactic empire” story about an emperor demanding gifts with which he aims to win back his estranged wife before he Learns Better. “Things Said to Me” is scarcely longer than its title and is a list of nine sexual innuendos from “aliens” followed by repugnantly abrasive insults from our “hero/ine” with a final, variant call and response which makes its mundane point.
“The Stars So Black” is a kind of comic book science fantasy about a Georgia bartender having been abducted by aliens and loving it. Initially, rather than describing things which blow our minds, he doesn’t describe things and tells us that, if he did, our minds would be blown. Eventually, he goes on a mission to another universe to try to save ours from destruction at the hands of its natives. It’s possible some, especially newer or younger readers, would enjoy aspects of this. The space operatic “Emporium” is much like “The Great Culling Emporium” in this Spring’s Cirsova but this deals with a drug dealer trying to sell brussel sprouts to the aliens of the Fifth Zone, who find it a narcotic, when he encounters an old business associate (with ally), gets beat up, and has to deal with their efforts to steal his ship. (And, just as in “Galactic Gamble” from that same issue of Cirsova, he loses the literal “keys” to his spaceship.)
“Demon” would be a pure fantasy except that it’s really all in the service of a satire on the American public and our politics—specifically of Donald and Hillary, portraying both as stupid, deceitful, malignant summoners of a demon. The story is narrated by the demon who, when the Senate summons him and botches it, “fixes” things his own way. The humor in this wore thin almost immediately and there’s little depth to the satire, though it is an appealing concept.
Of the more science fictional tales, “Moose” is a time travel story but also gets into a little detail regarding cloning as it tells the tale of an environmentalist from the future getting into a moosemobile while the biological moose is whisked off to the future for a sperm sample. Meanwhile, the protagonist has to deal with an incredibly accurate and persistent hunter and the usual timeline change problems that almost all time travelers have, with an ironic ending. Finally, “Perfect Little Boy” takes the fairly preposterous approach of having a judge’s baby switched with a robot after three days and, every time it goes to the “doctor” (which is apparently very often) it gets sideloaded into a new body and sometimes gets software updates, all in the context of a similarly unconvincing conspiracy of similar child-replacements and surveillance of key people by them. It opens with the naive boy narrator and switches gears into the voice of the sophisticated but conflicted older AI, somewhat in the fashion of Charlie from “Flowers for Algernon” and, had it just been described as a machine brain in an organic humanoid with a convincing conspiracy and similar improvements, might have more successfully targeted similar emotional power and/or phildickian paranoia. This is probably the most substantial story of the issue but fell short for me.