REVIEW: “An Astronaut Lights a Candle” by Megan Neumann

Review of Megan Neumann, “An Astronaut Lights a Candle”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The most curious and intriguing aspect of this story, for two dozen or so of paragraphs, is the title — without the information that the character lighting the candle is an astronaut, we would never know from the narration itself. What we know from the start is that Siobhan, the narrator, is the one who must put out the candle — but is she the one who lights it?

Who lights it, who the astronaut is, why Siobhan must douse the candle, all these questions are wrapped up in a story of cancer, time travel, and love, a solid, engaging story.

REVIEW: “Wired” by Tianna Ebnet

Review of Tianna Ebnet, “Wired”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In this story, people are hired to become “the Wired”, a short-term lucrative job in which they give up their body and autonomy to become cogs in a giant human-AI machine, keeping systems running efficiently, purifying and filtering air, running security interference.

The narrator of the story tells his experiences in the second-person — you, you, you — a narrative choice I usually dislike. (I don’t like people telling me what to do and feel, or do feel.) But here the “you” doesn’t feel directed at the reader; it feels more like a way of one person explaining how radically othered this portion of their life feels — there is continuity of something between Before and After becoming one of the Wired, but it’s certainly not bodily continuity, and it’s not entirely mental/personal continuity either. So the choice for the narrator to tell their own story with “you” rather than “I” serves to emphasise this split, as if the narrator is telling the story to himself, in a way which felt both realistic and sympathetic. The story only got stronger and stronger as it went on, and this one definitely wins ‘best in issue’ from me.

REVIEW: “The Extent” by Johanna R. Staples-Ager

Review of Johanna R. Staples-Ager, “The Extent”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The confessional narrative that makes up this story is intensely personal and private, and it feels a bit like reading someone’s diary to be reading this story. It is bracketed on either end by scene-setting/framing context, presented in a cold, factual sort of way that I found made it difficult for me to extract much info from, and I had to re-read the opening framing part after having finished reading the entire story.

Doing so made the inner narrative so much colder, so much more real. This is one of those stories that sits uncomfortably in your gut because the boundary between speculative fiction and nonfiction is so smoothly blurred.

REVIEW: “Violent Silence” by Elizabeth Guilt

Review of Elizabeth Guilt, “Violent Silence”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a strange little story, seemingly designed as a wrapper around the question of what life would be like if we could upload our memories into an artificial body after our biological body died. None of the details of how Officer Garth or Officer Sherri Latimer have come to be out in the field testing the military capabilities of a new line of droids, or what battle it is that they are involved in matter — all of these details are backdrop against this one question. Is it worth preserving memories in a body that can no longer experience what the memories remember experiencing? It’s not clear what answer either Garth or Latimer would give to such a question — which is actually what I ended up liking best about this story, the way it poses questions without answering them, making the reader think.

REVIEW: “Pocketful of Souls” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Review of Jennifer Lee Rossman, “Pocketful of Souls”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

When you think about it, it’s funny that in administrating something as complex as hell, there aren’t more clerical errors. But whether due to clerical error or the “cursed result of the union between a human and a demon”, Amy was “not like the other demons”. But while on the surface Amy was pure and innocent and childlike, underneath she’s not all that she seems, and she exploited her childlikeness for demonic purposes.

The way the story is set up, I think many people would find it humorous, and laugh at Amy’s antics. For me, it wasn’t to my taste simply because of a personal not liking people who are not children pretending to act like children. I never felt any sympathy with Amy, but neither did I feel any sympathy with her victims. As a result, this story somewhat passed me by rather than brought me in.

REVIEW: “The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld” by Jasmine Shea Townsend

Review of Jasmine Shea Townsend, “The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld”, in Fairy Tales and Space Dreams (Jasmine Shea Townsend, 2019): 64-95 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

There was a depth to this story that the others in this volume did not quite achieve — and not just due to its length, as it’s roughly as long as the Rapunzel retelling — more depth of character, more depth of scene. The humor in it is more subtle, and yet more ever present. (“Don’t lie, River.” Short Mrs. Valentine croaked from the back. “I know your parents!” (p. 70).)

Pros: One MC is Korean and the other is the “glitzy, lavender woman…complete with a bodaciously huge halo-like afro of prismatic hues and an aquamarine alicorn protruding from her forehead” (p. 67) who graces the cover of the book.

Cons: Flippant usage of ableist language (specifically concerning mental diseases), as well as casual invocations of lynching.

REVIEW: “Ambassador Berry” by Linda McMullen

Review of Linda McMullen, “Ambassador Berry”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In our prosaic early 21st-century world, we already know that global warming is a thing, and as the world gets hotter, the water gets lesser, and that places like Africa are going to be the worst hit: We know this, and we know it’s going to happen soon. In McMullen’s story, it’s only thirty-odd years from now, and as Ambassador Berry recounts her activities in “what used to be the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou, now dubbed the U.S. Mission in the Western Sahel”, it feels more fact than fiction.

I liked that Ambassador Berry was a woman in her sixties; she would’ve been about my age, now. I like that her predecessor as Ambassador was also a woman. I laughed at the idea that they will still be using Fahrenheit in the 2050s, though, then again, Berry and her compatriots are American; maybe this isn’t so unrealistic. I liked all of these things, but I still felt like I never quite got what story was being told. Two questions I often find myself asking myself when reading a short story are, “Why this story?” — why tell this story instead of another one? — and, “Why this story now?” — why now instead of another time? I’m not sure I found an answer to the first one, which made any answer to the second one rather moot.