REVIEW: “Two Dimensional” by Kellee Kranendonk

Review of Kellee Kranendonk, “Two Dimensional”, Luna Station Quarterly 30: Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was, sadly, not the story for me. Our first introduction to the heroine is a scene in which she takes psychotropic drugs. It’s not that I think all fictional heroines should be held to a high standard of conduct, or that drug use should be erased from the stories we tell, it’s just that such stories are not the stories for me. I say this even given that the drug plays an integral role in the plot — or even perhaps because of this.

Despite this, I think I may have been more disposed to positively review the story if the language were beautiful and well-crafted. Instead, I found it a bit stilted at times, and with a couple of rather abrupt info drops. I found the explanation of the relationship between the two races on the planet a bit strained; the concept is interesting, but could perhaps have benefited from being introduced slower and with more words, i.e., perhaps this would’ve been better suited to a novella than a short story. I also found the ending somewhat unsatisfying: I do not understand why Valo would take the risk that he did if he knew, in advance, that these risks would benefit neither him nor Binya.

It’s never fun to write a downer review, but the flip side of reviewing everything a journal publishes is that sometimes you get a story which just doesn’t measure up — by whatever measure is being used — to the other ones in the same venue. Alas, I think for this issue of Luna Station Quarterly, this story might be the one.

REVIEW: Stories from Daily Science Fiction, September 11-15, 2017

Reviews of stories published in Daily Science Fiction from September 11 through 15, 2017. Reviewed by Caitlin Levine.

“The Depths To Which We Sink” by Melissa Mead, Sept 11, 2017: Read Online.

A tale of mermaids looking for their souls. Mead creates a pervasive resonance with the darkness of the deep ocean. I found the unfolding of events in this story a bit confusing, but it packs a poignant heroic ending.

“Ships Made of Guns” by MV Melcer, Sept 12, 2017: Read Online.

What would you do if your planet was invaded by an overwhelming force? Would you fight, would you hide, would you plot rebellion? Or would you surrender? A gripping story with a vibrant narrator and a gratifying twist.

“We Always Remember, Come Spring” by Michelle Muenzler, Sept 13, 2017: Read Online.

This action-focused scifi story follows the grueling “races” held by planetary colonists. An enjoyable story marred only by a passing hint of colonialism. Muenzler efficiently delivers backstory and takes a sharp look at people pushing their bodies to the limit. Her narrator strikes a hard-hearted tone that invites us to explore the meaning of sentimentality.

“Smile” by Emilee Martell, Sept 14, 2017: Read Online.

Super-short even by flash standards, “Smile” is a satisfying revenge story for those fed up with being hassled as they walk down the street.

“You Can Adapt to Anything” by John Wiswell, Sept 15, 2017: Read Online.

My favorite story from this week! Check out the full review here.

REVIEW: “You Can Adapt to Anything” by John Wiswell

Review of John Wiswell, “You Can Adapt to Anything”, Daily Science Fiction, Sept 15, 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Caitlin Levine.

They say that people are endlessly adaptable. Sometimes that is a blessing; but, perhaps it is sometimes a curse. “You Can Adapt to Anything” follows two scientists, Miguel and Juniper, as they develop trans-dimensional travel. The two are the ultimate pair, united in love, purpose, and excitement. But after their portal breaks down, Juniper finds herself stuck in a different dimension – with a different Miguel.

Wiswell takes us on a technology-filled exploration of the nature of love. Alternately sweet, scientific, and sad, this story is an exquisite orchestration of emotions that never becomes sappy or trite. You’ll have to re-read this one to pick apart the layered questions of love and identity.

This is my favorite Daily Science Fiction story from this week because of the detailed relationship between Juniper and Miguel, paralleled by Juniper’s exploration of her own identity. The ending perfectly highlights the emotions of the piece and wraps up the story while opening the door for the characters to continue on.

REVIEW: “The Waiting Room” by Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

Review of Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, “The Waiting Room”, Luna Station Quarterly 30: Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

When I was young, all the SFF protagonists were young, and I never even noticed, because I was young, and thus the world was young and their stories could be my stories and my stories could be theirs.

But then I grew older (and 35 is hardly old), and they all stayed young, they did not age, and I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by this. Young heros and heroines often do such stupid things, things that only seem stupid in hindsight. But more than that, there was this implicit assumption that to be a hero or heroine was to be young; once you’d reached my age, my stories were no longer their stories, and their stories could no longer be mine.

Once I realised this, I started making a point of seeking out stories where the heroine was not a young slip of a girl, but someone older, someone with a history, someone with a family, someone with a past. But I know that I am still young and will grow yet older, and that is where stories like Melkin’s “The Waiting Room” come into the fore: When was the last time that you read a story where the heroine was an old, dying woman? That long ago? Well, now is the time to fix it. Go on, click the link above. Read the story. You won’t regret it.

REVIEW: “Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties” by Jocelyn Koehler

Review of Jocelyn Koehler, “Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties”, Luna Station Quarterly 30: Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

My first reaction was that I straight up love the title, with its evocation of both European fairy tales and 1001 nights. And while the story itself is not a fairy tale, it certainly involves one, albeit a darker, scarier one than we normally tell our children (even in Grimms’ grim tales, there is always a prince’s kiss to awaken the sleeper).

My second reaction was “how am I going to explain what is so poignant in this story without spoilers?” Let me try: Despite evidence to the contrary, despite the perennial moans throughout the ages that youth aren’t what they were like in our day, humanity as a whole is remarkably optimistic: We persist in thinking that, eventually, things will get better, they have to get better; or at least that they won’t get worse, not really. For example, the entire industry of cryogenics is based on the idea that the future will be better than the present.

But one day, the future will be the present. What then?

My third reaction was that the ending made me cry.

REVIEW: “The Man in the Crimson Coat” by Andrea Tang

Review of Andrea Tang, “The Man in the Crimson Coat”, Apex Magazine 100 (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

The story opens in a bar, where a woman named Jo watches a piano man with a shiny cybernetic hand, so we know right away that we’re reading some sci-fi noir. That could go in the direction of parody, but instead takes itself just seriously enough to tell a great story. The world is both futuristic and retro, but never campy. It suggests that even in a future with advanced technology, society will still need seedy bars and cheap motels. People will still be people. It’s an appropriate mood for a story about the importance of human connection.

The narrative interweaves a present-day adventure with back story that eventually makes a seamless whole. I found the flashbacks hard to get into at first, but they eventually yield some of the most touching material, particularly on a second reading. They’re not extra, but necessary to the plot, and I admire the way Tang structures them, concealing and revealing in just the right amounts.

The ending is perfect – both surprising and inevitable – and illuminated the whole story that preceded it.

REVIEW: “Salamander Six-Guns” by Martin Cahill

Review of Martin Cahill, “Salamander Six-Guns”, Shimmer 38: Read online. Reviewed by Sarah Grace Liu.

What do you say when a story’s not really your jam, but it’s so well written? In “Salamander Six-Guns” Cahill presents a detailed world, where creatures of the marshes and swamps have received a sentient boost from Momma Scales, a lizard lord (at least, I think that’s how some of the biologics of this world work—humans can also be turned to scale-folk through a bite or an injury). The scale-folk comprise croc-folk, gator-kin, pyth-people, snake-touched, “iggies,” and more. As the Scaled Nation, they are slowly encroaching on the dry lands. The story opens in “Sunblooder’s Stand…the last living border town abutting the Scaled Nation.”

The greatest part of the story is some of the beauty of the lines. Cahill is clearly a writer who is as much in love with the sound of language as the story it tells.

For example:

How does a body run as slow as it can?

Or, the pop, pop, pop of the meter in this line:

We pulled out our pikes and our steel and our guns.

Or the beauty of the opening line:

He descended on the town like a saint sent from Dark Heaven.

What pulled me out of the story, however, was not the overall masterful construct or the lyrical narrative, but the lingo (dark heaven, bright hell, sunblooders, new dark) and the dialogue: “Even Momma didn’t have such a title and you all looked to her like she was Shadow Matron come High Dark to bless!” It felt…disingenuous, affected. It felt channeled, like some syntax and diction patched together from various colorful pockets of culture. It felt a little bit like appropriation. I find it hard to describe the fact that I felt a little wrong reading this.

Then again, it’s no small feat to create a completely new culture with their own slang and their own way of speaking, and yet give it a feel of familiarity, the feel of a shootout in the west. To that end, Cahill accomplished a lot. I’m just not the person for this story. I’m sure all of these atmospheric touches and details make the story great romping fun for the right reader. There are some GREAT lines in here, and despite myself, I did become thoroughly engrossed in the story.