Small Thoughts Review: Elsinore Revolution by Elaine Vilar Madruga, Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Elsinore Revolution is a science fiction short-short story written by Elaine Vilar Madruga, and translated into English by Toshiya Kamie. It was published in the Jan/Feb issue of The Magazine of  Fantasy and Science Fiction. It centers on the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Without some foreknowledge of the Hamlet story, and the character of Ophelia this will be a much different piece of SF.

In the piece, Shakespear is nothing more than a robot, or algorithm writing masterpieces. However, a fatal error spreads throughout the system of Shakespears, corrupting them.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2020 ...

I am not a fan of loop stories. That is, I don’t particularly care for stories in which the beginning of the piece is a sort of–trick of light, or some such, that turns out to be just the ending of the same story readers have just read. Sadly, that is the unfortunate demise of this piece. While it’s a short piece and so doesn’t come with a hefty time commitment to read, the ending feels like a cheat to me, as, in the end, nothing has changed for the reader. Shakespear-robot has changed, but it seems to me that readers are left out of that change. Due to this, the piece falls flat.

Small Thoughts Review: Chisel and Chime by Alex Irvine

Chisel and Chime by Alex Irvine is a low-fantasy novella published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s, Jan/Feb 2020 issue. It is both a cunningly crafted framed story, in which one story is told, bracketed by another–both of which are equally enthralling. In the end, both tie together in a satisfying conclusion of beautiful storytelling.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2020 ...

It’s rare for a piece of fantasy to tackle subjects of artistic beauty. The difficulty is stories about artists that are not writers can devolve into cliche descriptions of their paints, sculptures, etc, etc. While the protagonist of this piece is, indeed, a sculpture, the narrative of the artist at work is broken up into sections that alternate with an action-oriented story. I don’t mean action as in action-movie, but rather, a person moving from place to place, trying to confront their problems and find a place in the world.

The piece centers on two people of vastly different life experiences and throws in the third type of life on their periphery, though it is that peripheral life and the privilege it is provided that sticks the whole story together like with glue. In this way, Chisel and Chime is an exposition on the way the privilege of a few, or in this story’s case, one, dictates the life course of so many. It’s a timely and thought-provoking piece, wonderfully told. It’s definitely one of my favorite novellas I’ve ever read, and I encourage everyone to check it out if they can.

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.