This week’s SFS is going to be a bit different since I read about 16 or 17 short stories and I don’t want to make an overlong and boring post. So this week’s I am going to review issue 115 of Clarkesworld because I just got a subscription to this magazine and this issue was particularly good.
As I said, it was a very strong issue, I disliked onlly one story, one was pretty meh but the other four were very good. What I love about short fiction is that it allows me to discover some new authors without having to commit to a novel. I don’t have much time so short fiction is perfect for me. I know that a lot of readers don’t enjoy this format, I can understand. Before 2014, I had never read any stories, in 2014, I read one, in 2015, I think that I only read three short stories and I don’t know what exactly happened in 2016 but I think that I must have read at least forty and I am now subscribed to a short fiction magazine.
Anyway, I should probably stop rambling now and actually start my review.
Clarkesworld is a short fiction that mostly focuses on science fiction even though sometimes they also publish fantasy. Each issue is divided in three categories, original fiction (where we can find new stories published by the magazine), reprint/classic fiction (where they reprint two stories previously published elsewhere) and non-fiction (where we can find interviews, short essays on different SFF things etc..).
Touring with the Aliens by Carolyn Ives Gilman **
It is story about a woman who has to guide an alien on a USA tour. Not gonna lie, it was my least favorite story of the issue, I’ve heard mixed things about Dark Orbit by Gilman and reading this story did not manage to convince me that I should pick it up. The writing was pretty dry, the characters, one dimensional and it was overall pretty boring. There was some interesting ideas about conciousness but really, it didn’t add anything new to the subject. Also the ending left me a bit angry because the main character does something very, very dumb and selfish at the end and it was extremely frustrating.
Balin by Cheng Quifan *****
I am very bad at giving synopsis in general and it is even worse with short fiction because I don’t want to spoil anything but I would say that it is a story about friendship, family, cultural identity, science, ethics and empathy.
The more I read from Chinese authors, the more I like their perspective on things. They usually have very different views and writing style from Western authors and I really appreciate that. This story was heartbreacking and beautiful and I can’t recommend it enough. If you enjoy Ken Liu’s fiction, you’l probably love this. (It is translated from Chinese by Ken Liu by the way and I feel like it was story that could have been written by him).
The Bridge of Dreams by Gregory Feeley ****
I don’t really know how to rate this one. I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual plot (it’s basically about someone building a bridge between Pluto and one of its moon) but the ideas and concepts were great. It is a reflexion on genders, time and humanity in a Norse mythology/space opera setting. I would be very interesting in reading other things written by him.
The Cedar Gird by Sara Saab ***1/2
This is a story about the consequences of the death of a child in an alien terrorist attack.
It was one of the most surprising story of the bunch. Yes, the pacing wasn’t great and I probably would have liked it more if it had been longer. I can excuse this because it is Saab third published short story and I think that she’ll probably improve a lot in the future. However, I really enjoyed how humans emotions such as grief and pain were portrayed and how believable the characters were. It was a beautiful story with some incredible lines and I really enjoyed it. It is extremely short (less than 5000 words) and as I said it could have been the double.
I am definitely looking forward to other things she’ll put out in the future!
Old Friend by Garth Nix **1/2
This is the meh story I was talking about at the beginning, it wasn’t bad but it was pretty confusing and didn’t really understand the point it was trying to make (or if it was trying to make one at all). I never read any Nix before so I don’t know if it’s a good sample of his work or not but yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan. I don’t even really know what it was about. A tree which drinks coffee maybe? Not 100% sure.
Winter’s Wife by Elisabeth Hand *****
I don’t even want to say what it was about because you should read it 😛 but this is set in a small American town but it has magic and Norse mythology in it.
I really enjoyed this one! It grabbed me in like four paragraphs and I couldn’t stop reading. I never heard of Elisabeth Hand before even if she’s apparently pretty well known. This story was originally published in Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois in 2007 and Hand wrote four short story collections and a lot of novels.
This story was a fantasy story which is pretty rare for Clarkesworld. I must admit that even though I love fantasy, I much prefer to read fantasy novels than fantasy short stories because I like stories to have a very solid worldbuilding which is not always an easy thing in 10 000 words. This story was amazing though, the atmosphere, the pacing, the ideas, the characters were all fantastic and, I would recommend it to everyone!
I don’t have much to say for this category, I skim read Silver Machine: Hawkwind’s Space Rock Journey throughout Science Fiction and Fantasy by Jason Heller because I wasn’t interested at all. The interview of Davin Brin was fairly interesting. I really enjoyed Another Word: Technology Creates a New Golden Age of Speculative Fiction by Margot Atwell even though I didn’t learn anything new but I don’t really care since I read Clarkesworld for its stories not really for the non-fiction.
I would really highly recommend this issue!