There aren’t enough mermaids stories where the mermaids are in fact hideous sirens. Top marks to this one for being one! Well done, full of delicious creepiness and a tinge of horror.
Content note: Systemic misogyny; racial stereotypes.
Heelee is a member of the Chiaxxa Bia, the one all-woman warrior caste that devotes its life to the defense of the people against smugglers and other raiders. Despite a life bend on killing and destruction, she one day saves the life of an innocent baby, and in return is exiled by the Chiaxxa Bia. In the end, a man comes in and rescues her, and takes her away to a new life.
I was a bit disappointed in this story, mostly because it reinforced the trope of a “strong woman character” being one who fights, who kicks and bites, who is feared. There is a place for women like that, but if that’s the only notion of “strong woman” that a story contains, I always come away a bit sad. It also felt weighed down by all the worldbuilding, which had to be established before the story itself could even begin. It just didn’t work for me.
I was intrigued by this story right from its very excellent title. In this story, Mary Morales has been called in to see if she can help repair the arX AI that her parents created when she was a child. It’s a very simple, spare story: a conversation between Mary and arX. But in the span of that conversation Hill gives us a glimpse into Mary’s familial bonds, her childhood, her complicated relationship with the arX, as well as forces us to grapple with the question of the boundaries of AI. Really enjoyable (even if a bit sad, too)!
Content note: Infertility; racism.
This was a sensitive, delicately written story revolving around Ruthie, and her struggle to conceive with her husband Joe, and her great-aunt Astrid, who too had faced barrenness all her life. When Ruthie receives a phone call that Astrid has died, aged 92, neither she nor the reader expect what follows afterwards at all. I spent much of the story anxiously awaiting the resolution, utterly unable to predict it, and if I didn’t quite get what I was waiting for, I got a very sweet happy ending.
Spaceships are always a great way to start a story, but this ship is a bit different. It looks different, it’s goal is different, and it communicates differently.
We switch between two points of view – one is of a scientist trying to decipher the message coming from the spaceship, the other is another scientist farther in the future who has a different task at hand.
Memory is a strong part of this story, seeping into feelings, thoughts and conversations for both women. Another tale from this Clarkesworld issue about the transient nature of time, with the emphasis here being on the transient nature of humans in time. Longing, memory, and feelings collide to make this a powerful novelette.
Jaydren lives in a world that feels very much like a version of what our own future could be like: Technology at every turn, that links us to our social media, our entertainment, or transportation. All of his actions are directed at or built around things these. Lyuber did a good job of taking our current technology the next few steps down the line; what was less successful was the way this was integrated into the story, as I often felt like the story was the vehicle for the cataloguing of the technology, rather than the other way around.
Max Villafranca is an origami artist who has paid for two weeks’ visit to the orbiting station Gaia, where he is very much the bumbling tourist that the long-suffering crew puts up with because it pays the bill. This was such an utterly charming mixture of the strange and unfamiliar and the ordinary, almost mundane. Max was an extremely disarming hero, and I felt great sympathy for Captain Nguyen having to put up with him. And I loved the way in which this story was slightly more than science fiction, it also had a fantastical element that segued always into horro that I was not expecting.
A story revolving around Johnny and his chosen family. Gaps in memory that are slowly but surely getting larger, to the extent of forgetting people entirely. Aided by hints of a folk song that takes on a tragic, terrifying color. A childhood memory that brings a certain type of solace.
The walls are closing in, but only metaphorically, because the world is getting larger and lonelier otherwise. A twist comes and makes things better, but the overarching feeling of the transient nature of memory remains. Time is fickle and we are reminded of this through the tale in various ways.
I found this story confusing; it was arranged into short scenes, and by the time I was five scenes in, I had to keep pausing to go backwards and forwards to determine whether the narrative character had changed, or whether the temporal location had changed, and I could never quite tell. Taken at face value, this is the story of a imprisoned 90yo, the daughter of an Azerbaijani carpet maker, who reminisces in prison about how they “read a book in my twenties about a fantasy world magically hidden in the knots and patterns of an oriental rug”, which sparked their fascination with carpets — why then, when the narrator has grown up among carpets from her birth? Why also does the narrator speak of arriving in Baku as an adult as if Azerbaijan is a foreign, unfamiliar company? (And how does the child of an Azerbaijani carpetmaker meet and become friends with a woman from Singapore in the 1940s [I’m guessing, based on the fact the narrator is 90 and her father was alive in 1921]?). By this point, I’ve even forgotten to wonder why the narrator is in prison in the first place!
Some of these questions get sorted out, but not all, and not until much later on; unfortunately, I spent too much time being uncertain of what was going on to be able to enjoy this story as much as I would have liked.
Content note: Reference to self-harm.
In its simplest description, this is a story of unrequited love — ugly and chaotic. It was a tough read: Characters whom you wanted to sympathize with became increasingly unsympathetic, and the hurt and anger and betrayal that is woven through everyone’s story was hard to handle sometimes. Sluss shows real mastery in writing this piece.