Review of Galaxy’s Edge #35 for Tangent

The final Galaxy’s Edge of 2018 brings us three flash fictions, two very short stories, two longer short stories, and one novelette. Unusually, all are SF except one of the shorter stories and, in a mathematically improbable way, it is one of the two best stories in this above-average issue.

Full review at Tangent: Galaxy’s Edge #35, November/December 2018.

Honorable mentions:

  • “Cat Lady” by Susan Taitel (fantasy short story)
  • “A Waltz in Eternity” by Gregory Benford (science fiction novelette)

Review: Galaxy’s Edge #34

Galaxy’s Edge #34, September 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “In Which Liz Builds a Robot with Unexpected Results” by Grayson Bray Morris (science fiction)
  • “Employee Theft Is an Ongoing Problem” by Brenda Kalt (science fiction)
  • “The Day Time Stood Still” by Shawn Proctor (fantasy)
  • “The Horn of Amalthea” by George Nikolopoulos (fantasy)
  • “Small Fortune and the Perpetual Luck Machine” by Alex Shvartsman (fantasy)
  • “Yet So Vain Is Man” by A. Merc Rustad (science fiction)
  • “Journey’s End” by Doug Dandridge (science fiction)
  • “Death, the Devil, and the President’s Ghost” by Larry Hodges (fantasy)
  • “El Paletero” by Sharon Diane King (fantasy)

All the original stories in this issue of Galaxy’s Edge are short stories and five of them are very short, with four weighing in at a thousand words or less while the other is about 1700 words.

Of the very short ones, “Amalthea” was the most entertaining to me. While slight and predictable, it was still a clever biter-bit about a man trying to steal the Horn of Plenty from the goat it’s attached to (not to mention Zeus). “Time” takes the familiar motif of losing a loved one (wife) and not wanting to lose another (daughter) so stopping time but then realizing there’s a cost. Unfortunately, the fact that the whole world except for the father and daughter is what’s stopped doesn’t make even fantasy sense and the story is button-pushing more than genuinely emotional. “President’s Ghost,” which aims for comedy, also feels familiar and also has problems with the odd notion that souls are separate from selves and can be both dirty and cleaned. Some President dies and has a conversation with the Devil while Death looks on before things take a sudden turn.

Turning to the more science fictional short-shorts, “Vain” is another familiar tale in which we find an alien on Mars and a corporation stupidly (unbelievably stupidly) transports it to Earth over a scientist’s objections and then that scientist, trying to minimize the threat, makes it worse. This is told exclusively through emails she sends, which feels like a narrative mistake. “Robot” is just what the full title says, in which a robot meant to clean and organize takes a broad approach to the task. Kind of a fluff piece, but readable.

Moving to longer science fictional tales, “Employee Theft” involves a linguist slipping into a group of spies, all disguised as custodial workers, with the former trying to record bits of alien language and the latter trying to steal bits of tech the aliens leave behind in their Floridian quarters. This background is no clearer or more plausible than it sounds and, while I was able to entertain the notion that it would get better as I read it, it ultimately didn’t and the ending was anti-climactic. “Journey’s End” is a shot at hard SF, dealing with a barely sub-light colony augmentation starship. Its skeleton crew learns by a sort of ansible that the colony has been attacked by aliens and they decide to divert the starship with some large-scale Macgyvering. Most everything that happens seems more or less coincidental or accidental and part of the conclusion between two loved ones is jaw-droppingly awkwardly put, at best, but it was otherwise readable.

Of the longer fantasies, “Paletero” is a vaguely Bradbury-ian tale that mixes darkness with wild whimsy and may be deep with symbolism which I missed but just seems like a couple of remarkably imaginative incidents, The “paletero” is basically an ice-cream man with a magical ice-cream cart. The latter incident is somewhat like “Time” in that it deals with a person wanting to reverse time and also discovering it’s complex. I thought this was overloaded with sensory details but many find that a virtue. Finally, the best story in the issue, by a small margin, is another comic fantasy like “Amalthea.” “Perpetual Luck Machine” deals with a woman trying to convince her grandmother that she’s ready to run their magic pawn shop but then encountering a gnome who wants a loan and will put up the PLM as collateral. This gnome is tricky, though, and she’s not getting the bargain she thought. This was smoothly told and effectively comical.

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: Galaxy’s Edge #32

Galaxy’s Edge #32, May 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “Just One More Kitten GIF” by Effie Seiberg (fantasy)
  • “Diamonds in the Rough” by Alex Shvartsman (science fiction)
  • “The Violet Hour” by Laurence Raphael Brothers (fantasy)
  • “Emergency Evaluation for Penny Ante, as Recorded by CAL-Q-TRON of the Benevolent Order of Heroes” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez (fantasy)
  • “Being a Giant in Men’s World” by Walter Dinjos (fantasy)
  • “Chocolate Chip Cookies with Love Potion Infusion” by Leah Cypess (fantasy)
  • “Reality Show” by Brian K. Lowe (science fiction)
  • “Jackbox” by Brian Trent (science fiction)

All stories are short (most very short: three are around 1K and three more are under 2K) and most are humorous. There are reprints, though, and among them are Joe Haldeman’s novella, “None So Blind.”

Of the originals, “Diamonds in the Rough” is the longest SF story at 4K. This would seem to be set in the past, shortly after “perestroika,” (though it could be today) and involves a neophyte Russian gangster participating in his boss’s arms deal with a couple of people who are not normal arms dealers. It has a kind of “B movie” feel which may be intentional and may be a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view.

In “Jackbox,” a soldier encounters a corpse whose combat suit, or the remainder of it, is still operational. While in shock, he characterizes himself with memories and anticipations of home. This story’s effort at misdirection is flawed but it has an interesting vibe of, for example, the “B-17” scene in Heavy Metal. Far more than a vibe, “Reality Show” is a rerun of the South Park episode “Cancelled” but not as funny. When “Earth” is cancelled, an agent picks up Marty’s contract because his violence is ratings gold.

Moving to the fantasy, “Chocolate Chip Cookies” is one of a couple of short-shorts with formerly unconventional structures. In this, a blog post with comments tells the tale of a witch sharing her recipe and working on an antidote. “Emergency Evaluation” (what is it with very short stories often having very long titles?) is humorous superhero fiction written in the form (literally) of a job evaluation of  a newish sidekick. Penny’s a great superhero but not a great sidekick and she doesn’t appreciate her mixed evaluation which requires her to remain a sidekick for a while longer.

Moving to fantasies structured more as stories, “The Violet Hour” is a Weird Western with a hollow earth, a lady centaur sheriff, and a new sheriff from the States going below to work out how they’ll co-administer their regions. Mrs. Miller gets involved right away when some giants are busting up a faun’s bar. “Kitten GIF” says idle brains are the devil’s workshop and, when Jen is snagged by a demon for being such a great procrastinator, she has to think fast to avoid becoming a lobotomized net surfer for eternity.

Most of these stories are fine though not all suited me and different people will like and dislike different ones but the one that stuck out a little more than the others was the longest fantasy of the issue (3K), “Being a Giant in Men’s World,” in which a giant recounts his struggles to get along in a Nigeria which is not made for him. The plotting is a little lacking and it could use more “oomph” but the wry, mellow tone of the unhappy protagonist is appealing and the story is amusing and charming.

Review: Galaxy’s Edge #31

Galaxy’s Edge #31, March 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “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.

Review: Galaxy’s Edge #30

Galaxy’s Edge #30, January 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “Of Love and Olives” by Nick Dichario (fantasy short story)
  • “Kite Dancer” by Laurie Tom (fantasy short story)
  • “See A Penny…” by David Afsharirad (fantasy short story)
  • “Frozen Moments, Stolen Out of Time” by George Nikolopoulos (fantasy short story)
  • “After the Story Ends” by M. E. Garber (fantasy short story)
  • “An Unfamiliar Face” by David VonAllmen (horror short story)
  • “The Godhead Grimoire” by Sean Patrick Hazlett (horror short story)
  • “A Song for Charon” by Eric Leif Davin (fantasy short story)

Galaxy’s Edge returns to webzine status with all January stories being available on the newly redesigned website (which is questionably designed in general and, worse, doesn’t work at all without javascript). The original stories in this issue of the science fiction/fantasy/horror magazine are, disappointingly, all fantasy/horror short stories or flash. Genre and length aside, almost none are especially bad or especially good but it’s a pleasant enough reading experience overall.

The two stories which stuck out a little for me were “After the Story Ends” and “The Godhead Grimoire.” The latter is a horror story in which a woman, who is trying to get a divorce from her cheating husband, receives a package intended for him and opens it, finding a Book which leads her to increasingly bloody acts in pursuit of the godhead it promises. It’s not the most original thing in the world, there’s a glitch involving the dog, and the ending is debatable and has an element of potential confusion, but it’s certainly a vigorous, engrossing, and horrific tale. “After the Story Ends” seems to take a variant page from what I’ve heard of Darryl Gregory’s Afterparty in that it tells the story of a woman who went into Fairy(land) to save her daughter but the narration starts after her successful return when she’s basically dealing with addiction to Fairy’s glitter and glory, as this world now seems colorless, tasteless, and insipid and her love for it and all within it has faded. The speechifying between her and the Wise Character is a little bald but the story as a whole paints an interesting dilemma with plausible dynamics.

Of the other short stories, all involve World War I and/or marriages. Set in Italy, “Of Love and Olives” has a woman find a soldier who was frozen a century ago and is thawed out, having improbable but well-drawn effects on her and her husband. “Kite Dancer” is not set in our WWI but has a tiny Chinese woman controlling the winds for German zeppelins. Like “Olives,” “See a Penny…” eventually takes a fantastic look at marriage via a magic penny that helps grant the power of suggestion to the protagonist.

Of the very short (less than two thousand word) stories, “Frozen Moments, Stolen Out of Time” depicts a desperate father trying to save his child when an assassin pulls the trigger and time stops, “An Unfamiliar Face” is a horror story about a critter trying to reproduce, and “A Song for Charon” is a variant on the Orpheus and Eurydice tale from Charon’s point of view which, for those who know the traditional myth, ends on an odd note.