Small Thoughts Review: Eternal Recurrence Revisited by Brandon Robshaw

Eternal Recurrence Revisited by Brandon Robshaw is another look at Nietzsche’s interpretation of the recurrence of life and death Infinitum. It is published in issue 137 of Philosophy Now: A magazine of ideas.

Nietzsche’s take on eternal recurrence is, to nobodies surprise, rather depressing. Or at least it is for his sake. The idea is that every person will live life, again and again, exactly the way they have already lived it, making all the same mistakes and feeling all the same pain and joys as they are doing so right now in their current life. For Nietzsche, himself, this may have been perhaps debilitating. He was not a happy, optimistic person. Brandon Issue 137Robshaw, on the other hand, interprets this particular concept in far different ways than Nietzsche might have for himself. As Nietzsche was blighted by health issues, few friends, and constant personal egotistical demons, not everyone is. That’s what Robshaw brings to this. For some–Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence might be wonderful, for they have lived happy, fulfilling lives (by and large). However, Robshaw can’t stray too far from the near nihilistic nature of Nietzsche. Robshaw posits: if we are doomed to live and relive all our past experiences, are we then at what point is everything meaningless and the same, since it has already happened–even if we don’t remember our past lives, or the lives to come that will be exactly as our lives are now. Suddenly, life is not so linear in the sense from point A to Point B, for death entails another birth–are you an antinatalist? Do you prescribe a positive or negative value to birth? If you do then the continued birth-death-birth-death-etc, the cycle is no doubt depressing. But then there’s the chicken-or-egg conundrum: Can we tell which came first, birth or death? One may signify the other if we take Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence for a fact. Suddenly, time seems not something fix, but rather nearly a room we could walk through sampling what experiences we might enjoy and those we do not–if only we could recall our past lives.

Small Thoughts Review: Banshee by Michael Cassutt

Banshee by Michael Cassutt is a science fiction novelet published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s, Jan/Feb 2020 issue. While I say it’s science fiction, it could be categorized as science fantasy in the sense that little of the plot hinges on the actual science that makes the plot possible. Stretching subgenre even further, this could be considered science weird literature, or weird science fiction, similar to Jeff Vandameer’s work, though less on the horror spectrum and more on the absurd.

The premise hinges on the idea of the “Banshee,” a person who has gone through a medical proceeding that changes their whole body into. . . well pretty much anything. There are people who have morphed or “Bancheed” themselves into dinosaurs, unicorns, Martians, etc, etc. It’s ridiculous. Yet, the main character was interesting enough to keep reading about–which is a testament to the piece.The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2020 ...

However, I find this pice irksome for other reasons as well, despite its redeeming qualities. For instance, the piece functions on the premise that nobody over the age of 30 can make scientific breakthroughs. It’s a joke, but the piece goes to lengths to illustrate how people over 60 have good or great ideas that benefit everyone. This sentence really drew my attention in today’s political and economic climate, as well.

“But he had proven one thing: Smart political decisions could be made by people over sixty.”

Sure, this may be true–but putting it in this piece, which didn’t feel overtly motivated by politics, felt like a plea to readers to trust in the old political guard of today. A guard that has given us deregulated banks that caused the 2008-2010 recession, unprecedented levels of student debt, and a for-profit health care system which only makes money when it can successfully deny care to as many people as possible. That sounds cynical and maybe agist, but all I’ve seen, my adult life, is white, male, politicians creating policies that ultimately impact my generation and those younger than myself in negative ways. In the rare occasion, a politician with policies that would affect me and my generation I positive ways does gain a foothold, everything possible is done to make sure they cannot implement their platform. While this piece is ultimately about an older man changing in his ways and views to become relevant again, the quote above feels like an appeal to younger generations to trust their elders. It’s difficult, we’ve been given few reasons to trust our elder political leaders. While trust in some may be warranted on a case-by-case basis, I think the trust needs to be earned, not granted due to empty promises.

Small Thoughts Review: Air of the Overworld by Matthew Hughes

Air of the Overworld is a fantasy novelet published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2020, issue. It focuses on a reoccurring character that Hughes has written about for years; a wizard’s henchman named Baldemar.

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If you haven’t read the other (mis)adventures of Baldemar, this specific tale may be difficult to connect with that first. There are minor characters who regular readers have gotten to know in prior installments, as well as references to events in the past that would surely feel more important if you’d read about them. Me, I’ve read one other story about Baldemar, so I at least understood the type of magical world he lives in. I think the barrier to access may be–thicker, so to speak, if I had not.

Air of the Overworld is a retelling of a classic tale. It could be equated to the story of Icaris–that foolish man who made wings of wax and flew to close to the sun, or it could take on a more biblical feel–it really depends on the connection the reader makes. Baldemar is basically the test subject of a powerful wizard–not the one he is employed by, but a different one–though how he got there I never really was sure. This powerful wizard wants to ascend to the high plane–the fourth plane, and experiments on Baldemar, sending him to this plane of perfect existence in an attempt to learn what he can from the air Baldemar traps in a golden bladder. The wizard is certain he can ascend if only he can learn enough, perform the correct spells, etc.

While Baldemar shows clear ingenuity to help himself out of a difficult situation in which his very being is altered due to his visits to the Overworld, the stakes, at least for me, never really felt so urgent that I was compelled to keep reading. It’s a story with all those fictional elements, character development, and agency, a person, in a place, with a problem–that is then fixed by that character or not, though what is most important is that they seem to have the ability to help themselves. And Baldemar does. But still, something felt amiss. I think it may be chalked up to nothing more than being thrust into a story that is the latest in a serialization, and while I wanted to know what would happen, it felt as though I lacked some context for it to be truly fulfilling.