67. BELLONY by Nina Allan Allan's story of a freelance writer investigating the disappearance decades earlier of a beloved children's book author is rooted in the question of "who we are versus who we want to be." It builds from mundane details to a strong feeling of disquiet/unreality, and the little details really make a difference in the reader's comprehension of what's going on. There were points where I actually wanted to stop reading and use Google to find out if author Allis Bennett actually existed. The questions left unanswered at the story's end are meant to intrigue, and they do .... but they also frustrate. It's not a bad feeling, this lack of closure, when the author has built the story well.
68. DEUX EX ARCA by Desirina Boskovich A little boy finds a box under a table at a farmers' market. It happens all the time, right? Boskovich takes an incredibly ordinary moment and uses it to launch a story that changes the world in increasingly unpredictable and unfixable ways. (For instance, a minor character gets turned into a tuna sandwich ... which they gets eaten by the protagonist because, well, why not -- the guy is never going back to normal, right? Not that it's a conscious decision on the protag's part, really.) Focal character Jackson is the only well-drawn and distinct aspect of a story that hinges on flux and oddness, which makes the events stand out even more.
69. A LOVE SUPREME by Kathleen Ann Goonan In a near-future dystopia, an agoraphobic doctor functions societally only thanks to the nanobot-med cocktail she takes daily. Her life is all habit outside of her workplace, until she receives news that her estranged father is dying. The world-building is solid, but what I like about the story is that it takes a back-seat to the character and her particular situation. Ellie is a very real and relatable character, and the story is about how she functions in the dystopia, not about how the dystopia was built.
70. SCHWARTZ BETWEEN THE GALAXIES by Robert Silverberg A classic Silverberg tale I've never read before (not surprising considering how many there are out there). An anthropologist's real life on an Earth that has become increasingly homogenous collides with his fantasy life on a diversely-occupied starship through a haze of drugs. Not my favorite Silverberg story, but the questions it asked in 1974 are still pertinent now: when will ethnic diversity be a thing of the past, and how will we handle that? What about the increasing likelihood that we will never make it to other planets in our own system, never mind to other stars?
71. DEEP BLOOD KETTLE by Hugh Howey The young narrator of the story compares a meteor being driven toward Earth with the process of plowing under a field to plant new crops -- you have to kill what's already there so new life can take hold. An interesting twist on the "extinction level event" story, but again focused on character rather than the event itself. The boy narrator is surrounded by adults who staunchly take sides rather than working out the complexity of the issue.
72. SMOKE CITY by Christopher Barzak A woman who has escaped into our world must return to her subterranean/alternate-dimension home to fulfill obligations. Her discomfort with those obligations forces changes to her homeland that may affect her ability to return to the family she has in our world. Barzak captures a very dark, dirty, claustrophobic, patriarchal society reached through sleep and water. The story takes an odd twist part-way that I really wasn't expecting but which works well.
73. THE VISITED by Anaea Lay The development of a rock icon, Manuel Black, told in snippets of biography and news report excerpts that also reveal a series of events of religious significance that start out world-wide but becoming increasingly personal/focused on Black. It reads a bit like a Rolling Stone article, which i think is the point. The story is not quite as effective as Jake Kerr's story in the March issue that also experimented with style, mimicking how we get our information in this day and age.
74. A FINE SHOW ON THE ABYSSAL PLAIN by Karen Tidbeck A mysterious traveling theater group performs two plays -- one for an audience one actress suspects is not really there, and one for an audience of one who is clearly there. They present different versions of each play as the story unfolds. The troupe is clearly supernatural/otherworldly while the "audience of one" clearly is not. The story speaks well to our need for an audience, to be acknowledged, and to both tell and have told to us versions of stories that fit our current mind-set and circumstances.
75. DINNER IN AUDOGHAST by Bruce Sterling In a city destined to be forgotten, four Arab men "of the world," so to speak, conduct business over dinner and entertaiment, included a crippled fortune-teller's predictions. The characters react as one might expect, but the reader knows the truth. Sterling plays with the nature of time and predictions and the attitudes of rich towards poor, and gives us a strong commentary on the dangers of hubris and of not recognizing that everything ends in time.
EDITED TO CORRECT MIS-NUMBERING May 11