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2013 Stories 183 - 195

All of the stories in this entry come from the anthology A KEPLER'S DOZEN: THIRTEEN STORIES ABOUT DISTANT WORLDS THAT REALLY EXIST.  Editors David Lee Summers and Steve B. Howell gave authors information on exo-planets culled from the actual Kepler telescope mission (for which Howell is the lead scientist) and these are the stories that resulted. For more information, you can read my interviews with editors Summers and Howell.

183. MIDDLE GROUND by Mike Brotherton   Some exo-planets will have only a small zone that is comfortable for humans to live in, due to an orbit that keeps one side of the planet always facing the star and the other side always facing away. That's the setting for Brotherton's tale of a scientist who has transmuted herself and her son into the form of a native non-human species in order to better study them. But what happens when other humans arrive intent on claiming the planet for themselves? Does the scientist side with the race she is a part of, or the race has adopted? There are some complex moral issues at the heart of Brotherton's story, and the author projects the alien-ness of the planet and indigenous species expertly.

184. TURTLE SOUP by Laura Givens   Givens' story is one of several which address the issue that some exo-planets will be difficult to establish human colonies on without the colonists experiencing some genetic manipulation. In this case, the genetic manipulation has given rise to the Torts, a race that could perhaps vaguely be called "mer-people," who have built a human-safe "Habitat" and are welcoming the first fully-human colonists to the watery planet. But the newcomers have attracted the attention of some of the planet's indigenous predatory life-forms in a way the Torts have never experienced.  Givens really ratchets up the tension throughout the story to a rather explosive ending.

185. THE GLOOM OF TARTARUS by Gene Mederos   In this story, a colony has also been established through genetic manipulation to allow life to thrive in a setting rife with microbes that will do horrible things to normal humans (including a "cuckoo spore" that infiltrates the womb and kills off the human fetus so a baby alien will be born instead). Cut off from ever leaving their colony, the citizens of Tartarus have instituted a strick "no more genetic modifications" rule. So what happens when a colony child is born without the genetic adaptations necessary to survive? Mederos explores the concept emotionally, through the relationship of two brothers -- one born "normal" for Tartarus and one born without the adaptations. I can honestly say part of this story made me cry.

186. A GLINT OFF THE GLASS by Rick Novy   The planet Dabrina and her fellows are stationed near is as uninhabitable as Venus, but that doesn't mean there's nothing worth investigating. Novy's story explores what we might learn from the way a planet's magnetic fields might interconnect with the nearest star's fields. Not all life in the universe is going to be immediately recognizable to us, once we start exploring. Another story that ramps up the tension of a very claustrophobic situation.

187. OMEGA SHADOWS by Carol Hightshoe   Hightshoe takes the opportunity to imbue her already-existing SF universe with some verisimilitude thanks to Kepler research. I'm not sure how much I can say about the story without spoiling the author's other works. Selaynia and her wolves see a way out of the distrust they're experiencing on the rebel outpost they've been taken in by, when a crashed "omega shuttle" is discovered. She uses is to track back to the team she was once a part of, and that's where the story gets interesting. I felt capably immersed in Hightshoe's world and didn't feel like I was missing vital information. In fact, the story made me want to seek out more of the authors' work to explore her  Rebels vs. Confederation setting.

188. DANIEL AND THE TILMARIANS by Doug Williams    Some stories just have a "YA" feel to them no matter where they're published. Williams' story is one of two (Givens' being the other) in this volume that give off that vibe in this collection. It's a fun story of a young boy's First Contact with aliens from a Kepler planet and how that contact affects not only him but their civilization.

189. EXPOSURE AT 35b by Mike Wilson   This rather short piece uses a Kepler planetary system as a setting, but the planet is far less of a "character" than in the other stories of this collection. Wilson's tale is a story of a "love that dares not speak its' name" in a far future where we see that prejudice has not been completely eradicated, but also that love will likely exist across sentient species regardless of body-type.

190. HOT PURSUIT by David Lee Summers  Like Hightshoe, Summers takes the chance here to further explore his own SF universe. This time, Captain Firebrandt and the crew of the pirate ship Legacy become embroiled in a cat-and-mouse game over cargo they've obtained; cargo they don't understand because the man who booked passage with them is dead. The star Kepler 17 and gas giant planet 17-b play an integral role in the outcome of the game and the story. I have to say, it's always exciting spending time with the crew of the Legacy.

191. TRACKING THE GLINTS by Anna Paradox  There are lots of possible ways we could some day explore the stars. Paradox explores the possibility of natural "glints" that move bodies from one solar-system to another. But if such a thing does exist, will we be able to map out the system to be able to maximize our use of it? And what strain would that initial exploration take on a ship's crew unsure if they'll ever find their way home?  Paradox's story is another in which a sense of claustrophobia and rising tension is expertly expressed by the author and also in which the exo-planet system is used as more than just a back-drop.

192. AN ETERNITY IN LIMBO by J. Alan Erwine  The editor's note that starts off the story compares the Kepler-11 system of our future to the Australia of our past: "far away," worth exploring, and a great place to send criminals to get them out of our hair. Erwine's story takes place on an observation post exploring the nature of the system, and capably merges strong personalities with political and scientific intrigue.

193. A MANGO AND TWO PEANUTS by Steve B. Howell  Leave it to the lead scientist of the Kepler mission to give us one of the most intriguing stories in the collection: Howell posits that one of the three exo-planets discovered around Kepler-37 might not in fact be a planet, but rather a construct by scientists out there attempting to do much the same as what our scientists are attempting here.  The strong point of Howell's story is his understanding of team dynamics and how they affect the way research is conducted and the outcomes of experiments. It's a fun story that also makes you think.

194. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP by M. H. Bonham  The Kepler-16 system is apparently the closet to Earth, at 200 light years out. Bonham's story takes place there, and focuses on a xenobiologist and her canine companion. Not every planet out there is going to be home to life-forms that will be friendly to humans (as several of these stories have shown), and Bonham plays that angle up strongly with a missing research assistant, a trashed all-terrain vehicle, and indications that something on this planet hunts in packs. A strong first-person narrator makes this one of the more enjoyable stories in the mix.

195. KOKYANGWUTI by Melinda Moore  The anthology closes with a story about the journey to a Kepler system rather than a planet on which a colony or research station has already been established.  Moore's story is dream-like in execution, which matches the method her explorers use to cross the gulf of space, as one person's intellect is bonded with the ship in which her people will travel. Moore captures well the feeling of being alone despite being in the company of an entire ship full of people, and tells the story in a voice that feels very much like the Hopi tales it references. A strong conclusion to the anthology.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
You made that sound like a really solid anthology. And since it was available DRM-free on Smashwords, I just bought a copy. If I can get through my backlog, I'll post a review of my own.

Meanwhile, here's a vote for open media!
Jul. 22nd, 2013 01:18 am (UTC)
Re: Sold!
Looking forward to seeing if your thoughts match mine. I realize I didn't really "review" each story so much as summarize the premise of each one. I did enjoy pretty much all the stories, although if I had to pick a few favorites, it would be the Mederos, the Summers, and the Paradox.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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