May 7th, 2016


2016 Stories 96 - 104

Still trying to catch up. This entry is the fiction contents of the May 2016 issue of Lightspeed Magazine (#72), edited by John Joseph Adams:

96. THREE POINTS MASCULINE by An Owomoyela.  The setting is a brutal near-future civil warzone. The narrator is a City Guard soldier with a secret, one of two guards in charge of a Womens Volunteer Nursing Squad. The squad includes a trans* guy named John, with whom our narrator has some personality conflicts. Running triage in an evac area, the squad encounters revolutionaries, and things get both bloody and tense. The story is fast-paced and as I said brutal, but what raises the story up to "amazing" for me is the narrator's voice: the speech cadences, the idioms, the way the author addresses lost memory/time and the blur of combat and concussion.

97. TETHERED by Haris A. Durrani.  Charlie and Kalimi are junkship operators in high Earth orbit. Their latest commission seems secretive to Charlie and he turns out to be right: the zombie satellite they've been sent to decommission is actually still active. Complications abound. Durrani mixes in asides that range from actual historical (and for the reader, recent) events through a well-thought-out near future history of Earth's satellite debris field.

98. DEATHLIGHT by Mari Ness.  Els and Dun are a couple on their last deep space run, and they've encountered problems that will likely result in their deaths. They're drifting almost powerless across a nebula (which provides the "deathlight" of the title) when they encounter an object that looks man-made, in a place where nothing man-made should exist. Will it result in a chance for them to love? Ness really caputres the cold, the claustrophobia, the way circumstances can turn love to hate. Her descriptions of the confusion and vertigo the characters feel are terrific.

99. THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE by Tora Greve.  A bit of "hidden history", applying SFnal concepts to real interactions between Dr. Isaac Barrow, Isaac Newton, Sir Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Captain Edmund Halley, FW Leibniz, John Locke and Christian Huygens, and involving Newton's theories, secret alien races and the Philosopher's Stone. A very dialogue- and idea-heavy story that reminded me of the great Philip Jose Farmer, (especially his novel The Other Log of Phileas Fogg).

100. NORTH OVER EMPTY SPACE by Tim Pratt.  Sigmund and Carlsbad work for The Table, an organization that hires out powered people for various covert jobs. On some downtime in North Carolina, Sigmund's power to  look into the past revealrs a woman with no past further than 3 months back. A really  neatly-told bit of urban fantasy with a fast-moving plot and no unnecessary digressions. Also interesting ruminations on the power of creation and the idea that power corrupts.

101. THE JAWS THAT BITE, THE CLAWS THAT CATCH by Seanan McGuire.  A girl from the Tulgey Wood travels to the City of Hearts to rescue her kidnapped younger sister. McGuire digs into a possible aftermath of the Alice in Wonderland story and gives us an interesting twist on not just one of Carroll's more famous creations but also on the structure of Wonderland as a whole. Highly recommended.

102. HUNGERFORD BRIDGE by Elizabeth Hand.  Fantastic world-building and characterization in such a short space. Hand gives us an encounter between our narrator and an old college friend that leds to the passing on of a secret. What that secret might be is teased througout the story. There's not a wasted word in the story and the narrator's voice is very engaging.

103. WEDNESDAY'S STORY by Wole Talabi.  Wednesday (the personification of the day of the week, not the child of Addams Family fame) narrates the true story behind the nursery rhyme / legend of "Solomon Grundy," including her involvement in it. A really cool, thoughtful take on the nature of stories, storytellers, authors, audiences and how stories, or the details of stories, migrate as the tales are passed down / handed on.

104. THE PLAGIARIST by Hugh Howey.  Adam Griffey mines computer-simulated worlds for works of fiction he can sell in the real world. This is a common practice in the time-frame of the story, but during his visits to these fake worlds Adam has fallen in love with a bookseller named Bellatrix. She doesn't know her world isn't real; Adam plods through his own existence wishing he could spend all of his time with her. The story gives the reader lots to think about regarding the nature of reality and our potential for developing virtual reality and realistic computer simulated worlds, and also touches on how far we can take the definition of "plagiarism."