REVIEW: “Prayer” by Taiyo Fujii

Review of Taiyo Fujii, Kamil Spychalski (trans). “Prayer” in Hirotaka Osawa, ed., Intelligence, Artificial and Human: Eight Science Fiction Tales by Japanese Authors, (AI x SF Project, [2019]): 7-12 — More information here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Contemporary and futuristic technology provides ample scope for crimes that wouldn’t even have been imaginable a decade or two ago. Fujii’s story opens on Kip, in hot pursuit of a tanker housing enough computer power to mine cryptocurrency in sufficiently large amounts so as to undermine Singapore’s economy. He’s got everything he needs to scan the ship and board it, and a support crew to help him get there.

One tends to expect hard SF when reading fiction writing by scientists and computer programmers. So I loved that this, the opening story of the anthology, blew such expectations into the water by focusing on the distinctly unscientific activity of prayer. Technology only gets us so far.

(First published in Artificial Intelligence 30, no. 1, 2015.)

REVIEW: Intelligence, Artificial and Human: Eight Science Fiction Tales by Japanese Authors edited by Hirotaka Osawa

Review of Hirotaka Osawa, ed., Intelligence, Artificial and Human: Eight Science Fiction Tales by Japanese Authors, (AI x SF Project, [2019]) — More information here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I received a copy of this anthology at WorldCon 2019, after a very interesting, and too brief, post-panel conversation with the editor about academics who also write fiction. This collection is eight stories all originally published in Artificial Intelligence, the academic magazine of the Japanese Society of Artificial Intelligence, and translated into English here for the first time. They are written by authors with a wide variety of scientific and non-scientific backgrounds, from software development to electrical engineering to sociology and the arts and more, some of whom are well-known and highly-renowned Japanese SF authors, such as Motoko Arai and Kei Zushi.

The shorts were all quite short — 5 pages a piece — and with only eight stories in the collection it felt like a little gossamer bite. But the stories themselves had plenty to chew on, and I really enjoyed the playfulness that many of the authors adopted towards their hard science: none of the stories took themselves too seriously, while at the same time indulging in some of our deepest fantasies and desires. So many stories I read and came away feeling, “Oh, yes, this, I want this.”

I was also delighted that so many of the stories were written by women.

As is our usual practice, each story will be reviewed individually, with the review linked back here when it is published:

  • “Prayer” by Taiyo Fujii
  • “The Clearing Robot” by Motoko Arai
  • “Downgrading” by Kei Zushi
  • “Concession” by Jyouji Hayashi
  • “Barcarolle” by Fumio Takano
  • “My Six Months With Taku” by Tadashi Ohta
  • “Night Flight” by Yusuke Miyauchi
  • “Fill the Heavens!” by Hiroyuki Morioka

REVIEW: “Gald” by anonymous

Review of Anonymous, “Gald”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

“Gald” is the story of a group of misfits who have banded together to make their own found family. Minnie, Shasta, and Raynald are “all illegal, no profiles, no scan codes, no fish tickets, nothing”, always traveling at night and avoiding the sokes. But one night they meet Venlis, on the run from one of the sokes herself, and with Venlis comes trouble.

Parts of the story I liked — it had a weird, lyric quality to some of it, and there were hints and bits of interesting background world-building — but the structure of the story didn’t quite work for me. It ended up abruptly, cutting off without any resolution or any explanation of what was going on. It left me feeling unsatisfied.

REVIEW: “All Manner of Wounds” by Emily Strempler

Review of Emily Strempler, “All Manner of Wounds”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: Needles.

Noemi is a med-school student, balancing her studies with caring for her mother and her daughter, managing her diabetes, and maintaining a job. It’s funny what things you’re willing to suspend your disbelief in for the sake of fiction, and what things draw you up short and make you laugh at how unrealistic they are: Noemi shows up late to class, and her professor pauses his lecture to tell her to see him after class to get notes for what she missed so that she has them to write her next paper. Maybe I’m cynical, but I’ve been in academia too long for this to seem anything more than a fantasy…

That aside, I found the story compelling and intriguing, to the point where I was about 2/3 of the way through before I realised that there was hardly anything in the story that counted as speculative (other than self-driving cars). I spent the final third waiting to see if there was going to be, without any satisfaction. The story ended abruptly, and I was left feeling like I’d missed something rather important, but being entirely unclear what.

REVIEW: “Tell Me Something Good” by Nicole Lungerhausen

Review of Nicole Lungerhausen, “Tell Me Something Good”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Brief mention of conversion therapy.

The prospect of impending parenthood isn’t always glorious and romantic and hopeful and fun. Sometimes it’s full of anxiety and fear and uncertainty. No matter how many stories other parents tell you, no matter how much time you spend imagining what the future will be like, there is nothing that can prepare you for what it will really be like. This story grapples with all of these issues in a realistic and sympathetic way.