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2016 Stories 40 - 46

Fell behind in these posts due to lots of work and family business to attend to. I've been reading, just not blogging. So here's a catch-up post. To keep it simple, all of today's stories come from the February 2016 issue of Lightspeed magazine (#69), edited by John Joseph Adams:

40. CHARLOTTE INCORPORATED by Rachael K. Jones.  Charlotte is one of the unincorporated -- brains with no bodies. She dreams of affording a body of her own and what it would look like. But at what cost comes mobility and real sensory input? Charlotte's yearning for a better life is instantly recognizable, and isn't that what SF is all about, addressing present-day concerns in fantastic settings? Jones' world-building around her is smooth and detailed while still allowing for twists and surprises.

41. HEREAFTER by Samuel Peralta.  Caitlyn meets Sean by happenstance one afternoon, and this begins a time-travel tale that is beautiful and heartbreaking. I can't say much more without giving away the myriad twists and emotional gut-punches the story contains, but I can say this is a must-read.

42. SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA by Sarah Pinsker.  Bay scavenges what washes up from the ocean onto the shoreline near her hovel. She finds Gabby, a former rock star, and their relationship begins on a contentious note. This is a world post-climate-change, where the rich live on self-contained ships and everyone else deals with rebuilding a society that has collapsed but not been obliterated. Except for Bay, who has run away from it all for reasons that are revealed throughout the story. The multiple POVs, some first person and some limited third person, add to the reader's intrigue as to what is really going on here by questioning which narrators are reliable and which are not.

43. TRANSITIONAL FORMS by Paul McAuley.  Ray Roberts is a patroller around an Arizona "hot zone" where artificial plant life forms grow and change, either naturally or due to interference from hackers. A chance encounter with a scientist begins Ray on the road of transition for himself as well. The almost clinical approach to the story somehow makes it feel even more like a classic western despite the heavy SF world-building: a great example of a melding of genres that pulls from the best of both and creates something new and exciting.

44. MONSTROUS EMBRACE by Rachel Swirsky.  Ugliness personified speaks to a young prince while he's asleep, and implores him to marry it for the sake of his kingdom. It reminds him of his personal history and how their bond formed, and reveals the history of his intended bride as well. The voice is compelling, full of ache and despair but still tinged with hope and something close to love.

45. NOT BY WARDROBE, TORNADO OR LOOKING GLASS by Jeremiah Tolbert.  Louisa's world has turned upside down as more and more people, adults and children, are beckoned through their own personal "rabbit holes" to fantasy worlds where they are the Hero, the Rescuer. Louisa has loved fiction of that kind since she was a child, so why hasn't she been called? As the world changes around her, questions mount about the nature and proliferation of the rabbit holes, and answers do come, for the reader and for Louisa. Tolbert expertly touches on our own inner fantasy worlds, our needs and our compromises between fantasy and "the real world."

46. MAP OF SEVENTEEN by Christopher Barzak.  During her senior year of high school, Meg's older brother Tommy moves back home and brings his boyfriend Tristan with him. Meg is concerned about the effect this will have on her parents, who love thier children but still must deal with being prominent citizens of a small town. Meg ends up confronting her own secrets as they crach up against those of Tommy and Tristan, and thus ends up beginning to create a map of where her life is and where it will go from here. Looking back through the posts tagged with "barzak" in this community, I see that I've read this story at least four time before (and honestly, I was surprised it's only been four times). Even after all those readings, the story still leaves me with tears in my eyes at the end, and the feeling that I really want to know what became of Meg and her family in the years following the story.

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