October 27th, 2017, The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, Originally published on tor.com, 2016.
Blurb: This felt, to me, like the first story that is in this collection due to the writer’s reputation rather than the piece itself. Even though the guest editor reads all 80 stories selected by the series editor, devoid of author name, I feel as though this specific piece only made that 80 cut due to Beagle being a legend in the realm of fantasy writing. This story is about a judge in ancient China who is so just a unicorn shows up when he has difficult decisions to make and helps him enact justice. When Kao Yu, the judge, falls in love with a young woman who is a thief and liar, his reputation goes to hell. It’s well written, but didn’t feel like anything new. (C)
October 28th, 2017, What I Told My Little Girl About the Aliens Preparing to Grind Us Into Hamburgers by Adam Troy Castro. Lightspeed.com, 2017
Blurb: A story about how fathers speak with their children. It’s about what you think, which, having read other pieces by this author, was something of a disappointment for me. While this piece has some interesting insights into fatherhood, it isn’t this author’s best work. (C)
October 29th, 2017, The Trouble by Smith Henderson, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Originally published in American Short Fiction, 2016.
Blurb: This story pops off the page with a readability and tone rarely seen in fiction. The characters are full and interesting, the ideas in it are unique, and the worldview of the piece is fresh. When a young man comes to turn his life around in a small town in Montana, the big man in the town, nicknamed, Daddy, hires him to be on a fire crew. It turns out this new kid is an idiot and fucks up in high fire season, is fired, only to be found having sex with Daddy’s daughter, who’s only 15. I don’t want to give the rest away, but you won’t forget this story. If there is one flaw, it’s the ending. I feel like I could have used a bit more. (B+)
October 30th, 2017, Smear by Brian Evenson, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, Originally published on Conjunctions: 67, Other Aliens, 2016.
Blurb: A spaceship-ghost story in which a man awakens from cryo, or space travel sleep inexplicably and can see something his ship/computer can’t identify for him. He can’t move and is locked in his chair which feeds him intravenously, he thinks. But as time goes on his body begins to look more inhuman. The “Smear” for which this story is titled, continues to be seen by this man, until he extricates himself from the chair and crawls, horribly weak, so he can look at it. I don’t want to ruin it for you.
There are a couple things I felt were frustrating about this piece. 1: there is no explanation about the smear. 2: the man only gets out of the chair near the end of the piece, why didn’t he just do that earlier? 3: In no way do characters change or understand something about the larger world/universe. 4: at the end of the piece the problem at the beginning has not been resolved or addressed. (C-)
October 31th, 2017, The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, Originally published on tor.com, 2016.
Blurb: A story about a young black man in NYC who embodies the city against its imminent destruction. An allegory of how cities and civilizations eat themselves due to their own injustices. Well written, but I have a difficult time with action sequences. Typically they just don’t hold my attention, and this story had quite a bit of action-description-blocking language, that just didn’t do it for me; not because the language wasn’t strong, but because action often seems dull compared to the synthesis characters do AFTER the action has taken place. (B-)
November 1st, 2017, The Houseboat by Anais Nin, Under a Glass Bell, 2014
Blurb: Anais Nin was and is more famous for her feminist erotica than her literary works, but The Houseboat certainly falls in the the latter. It’s the story of a woman living on a barge, converted into a houseboat. This piece deals with the sublime within nature, and the unfortunate distancing of nature and the sublime with it. Human activity in this piece constantly described as negative, while the little bits of nature the narrator is privy to while in Paris is expounded and sought. An interesting and poetic look at the connections, or lack thereof, between humans and the natural world. The biggest complaint I had in this story was the repeated words within close sentences. Sometimes the sentences were awkward. (C)