I’m unsure why this is all bold. I’ve tried to fix it, but to no avail. If anyone knows how, let me know.
October 5th, 2017, I’m Here To Rescue The Princess by Helena Bell, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Series Editor, John Joseph Adams, Editor, Charles Yu. Originally Published in Lightspeed Magazine, 2016.
Blurb: A sad story about a boy who is dropped off at camp by his mother and abandoned there.
Opinion: This is one of those sad and quirky stories that is at once funny and a thoughtful look into what it’s like to be the kid that’s quiet, forgotten, and not typically liked by anyone, whether at school or at summer camp. The ending feels right too, because it’s not exactly happy–but more real for that in which nothing about the situation really changes, but the protagonist’s perception certainly does. The fantastical element in this is minimal. (B)
October 6th, 2017, This Is Not A Wardrobe by A. Merc Rustad, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Series Editor, John Joseph Adams, Editor, Charles Yu. Originally Published in Fireside Magazine, 2016.
Blurb: The story of a little girl who grew up never forgetting the world she found in the closet, and how, as an adult, she finally returns.
Opinion: This story was a little too fairy-tale-esk to me. It focused more on the problem of getting back to what was more, or less, Narnia than it did with character. I know, I know, I’m reading F&SF stories–but I still want the depth of character within literature. Thus far I’d say most of the stories in this collection have lived up to “character driven” narratives. This one, however, fell flat. (D)
October 7th, 2017, Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Series Editor, John Joseph Adams, Editor, Charles Yu. Originally Published in Clarkesworld Magazine, 2016.
Blurb: A video game developer creates a VR title so immersive people can’t tell that it’s not real. Further more, the developer/company beta tests the game on prison convicts without their knowledge, which results in psychological issues and drug addictions. I liked this story by way of form–it’s structure is clever, broken up into traditional third person narratives, letters from Themis to different ppl, and a few headlines and excerpts from fictional news papers. The structure and different forms of presentation which built this story makes the world feel like one I’m already a part of. It gave me something to hang onto in a world I was not familiar with. (This blurb just acted as my opinion, oh well). (B+)
October 8th, 2017, Conversation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, published in Clarkesworld: Year 5, 2013
Blurb: This is one of those F&SF stories that just goes over my head. While the genres usually get a bad wrap for being overly simplified, I don’t think many give it the respect it deserves in terms of the heavy lifting these genres do. In literature, the author has a lot done for them due to the fact that it takes place in a world the reader knows. In F&SF, this isn’t so, and the author must construct the world around the story if the reader is to understand the story. I think this story is one of those, that for me, didn’t construct enough of a world for me to understand it. I never had a clear sense of what type of place this was all happening in. I got that it was far future. There was mention of clones and whatnot. But the piece in general was rather devoid of scene and heavy on similes and metaphors, which is difficult when you don’t have a concrete world to relate those constructs to. For me, this story, while poetic, was not effective in telling a compelling story. (F)
October 9th, 2017, The Bumper Sticker by Chuck Kramer, Smokebox.net
Blurb: A story about a man who loves animals and has a neighbor with a bumper sticker that reads, “Abolish PETA, animals have no rights.” That made me laugh. This bumper sticker infuriates Al so much he eventually wipes dog shit all over the guy’s car. Pretty funny. In terms of writing and structure I thought this piece worked well until the very end. I just wanted more of a surprise ending. I wanted there to be a twist. (C)
October 10th, 2017, A Siren Song For Two by Steven Fischer, Flash Fiction Online.
Blurb: This story does some insanely heavy lifting for such a short piece. It world builds, it tells a story with distinctive characters and problems, and it comes to a satisfying ending despite the few words Fischer uses. The premise of the piece is a colonization mission on another planet called Siren. It’s named for a song that wells up from below the ice that coats the surface. This song mesmerized people to walk into the darkness never to return. It’s company policy to never rescue anyone, because when they’ve tried, it doesn’t go well. Then the protagonist tries to rescue his lover. Her voice is the thing that saves them both. Even though she is mesmerized her voice keeps the protagonist from falling under the spell. Thoroughly enjoyable, even if it didn’t quite blow me away. (B)
October 11th, 2017, Universe Box by Michael Swanwick, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2017.
Blurb: A humorous look at love stories and the universe and how they fail. This isn’t typically a short story. This is a novelette, which is to say, over about 10,000 words. The author does a lot of weird stuff with this piece. He’s able to transport characters all over the world in the blink of the eye due to the introduction of a box that contains the universe. Early in the piece a character pulls a bottle of wine out of the box that was stored in Alexandria before the fire, as the universe contains everything that ever was and ever will be. After that, it is’t a stretch to believe the characters can also transcend time and space. While this could have been a serious piece the author uses levity to introduce a cast of characters that seem at once unimaginably powerful, as well as completely incompetent. One of the problems I had with getting through this piece is that much of the time I wasn’t quite sure what some of the characters actually wanted, or if I did, I wasn’t sure why. A silly romp, but not a story that makes me connect with a deeper human nature like I would have hoped. (C)