REVIEW: “When We Dream We Are Our God” by Wole Talabi

Review of Wole Talabi, “When We Dream We Are Our God”, Apex Magazine 120 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

A man explains his decision to join his mind with others in a network seeking to connect and learn, inspired by the birth of the first true artificial intelligence. It’s a fairly intellectual story, driven by science and philosophy, but uses that as a vehicle to explore matters of the heart.

In my experience, stories about the singularity tend to posit that AI will either seek to destroy us, or else want to become our friends. This story find a nice middle path between those reactions, though the AI is actually only a small part of this tale. Still, I felt like it did something different with a the concept, which is noteworthy.

I believe that this is, above all, a story about potential, and about hope. Humanity’s potential to overcome our problems. Hope that the universe will be friendly, or can be made so, and hope that sentience can win out over hatred and fear and divisions.

REVIEW: “N-Coin” by Tobias Buckell

Review of Tobias Buckell, “N-Coin”, Apex Magazine 120 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

A stockbroker is about to end his life, after losing one billion dollars of his firm’s money money (not to mention his own) on a new crypocurrency: Negrocoin, or N-coin, as he prefers to call it.

This is a unique take on both the volatility of the stock market, and on the complete lack of reparations ever made to African American after slavery was abolished. I did not really understand the details of how this crypocurrency worked, but I had no trouble at all following the historical anecdotes about how former slave owners were compensated for their “lost property,” but the 40 acres and a mule promised by General Sherman never materialized for those freed slaves to make a start at live, how how that has never been rectified, leading to huge differences in generational wealth over time.

This story is short and sweet, getting straight to the point without any meandering. The first person narration works perfectly, capturing the stockbroker’s desperation and lending a personal voice to all of the lessons on history and economics.

This is a good, quick read for anyone interested in a bit of a revenge fantasy for structural inequality, based very closely in reality.

REVIEW: “Like a Bell Through the Night” by Kayla Bashe

Review of Kayla Bashe, “Like a Bell Through the Night”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Jaffa Volkovitch like many other women had a childhood penfriend. Unlike many other women, Jaffa’s penfriend was a fairy, Rihannon; and unlike many other woman, Jaffa herself was a werewolf. Now Jaffa’s grown up, and Rihannon’s letter catches her by surprise: I’m coming. Help. But what kind of help can a fairy need? And what kind of help can Jaffa offer?

The story itself was fun enough, but I found the presentation/narration of it confusing; it started off in 3rd person, from Jaffa’s point of view, but scattered throughout were 1st person portions, which I never quite figured out who they were, no matter how many times I went back and re-read it. At first I thought they were actually Jaffa’s internal thoughts, but there was never anything that marked them off as such; however, after the third or fourth try, I suddenly realised that the POV had switched to Rihannon, which made me think then that maybe they were her internal thoughts. In the end, I felt the narrative issues in the beginning of the story preventing me from fully enjoying the plot, sadly, even once we got past the issues.

REVIEW: “The Incident at Women’s Town” by Lara Ek

Review of Lara Ek, “The Incident at Women’s Town”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The thing I struggled with the most was the fact that the story was written in dialect, specifically one that is intended to mimic the white American idea of how Black people, especially in the South, speak. It always makes me uncomfortable. In my own writing, I try to avoid phonetically representing dialects, because most of the time this sort of language is used as a means of othering a certain class of people/characters who don’t fit a particular set of linguistic norms — white, well-educated, English-speaking norms. As a reader, I am deeply uncomfortable when white authors try to write in a “Black” voice; on the other hand, I don’t think white people have any business policing Black authors who are writing in their own vernacular. So this is a particular stylistic choice where knowing the background of the author affects the way I interpret the choice. Unfortunately, spending all this time worrying about who the author was meant I never get to quite enjoy the story itself.

I’m also not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed the story without the issues of style, because of the unpleasant and sometimes disappointing nature of the content. The inciting incidents require a content note, of murder and sexual assault of a minor. Sarah, the FMC, turns out to be ace — which made me happy when this was first made clear, ace heroines are hard to come by! — but we find out she is ace just after she’s propositioned by a man, and just before she decides to go against a lifetime of, as she describes it, “I ain’t had stirring toward women nor men since I was born”, and agree to sleep with him simply because it “‘Could be interesting. Something I never done’.” Someday the default will be ace characters who are ace because they are, not because it can be turned into a plot point. But not in this story.

REVIEW: “Sex After Fascism” by Audie Shushan

Review of Audie Shushan, “Sex After Facism”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The story kicks off with Kris on her way to who-knows-where for who-knows-why, but she’s in the company of her new-boss-cum-new-crush, so she doesn’t mind. Her narration is filled with a wry humor, poking fun at the experience of being a modern woman (and reading modern women’s magazines) and constantly second-guessing and revising her descriptions. She is entirely engaging and loveable — except I have to say, who doesn’t like pecan pie?!

But the story itself seemed a story of two parts; and the quirky, enthusiastic Kris of the first half gives way to a much weirder and darker story in the second half. Without the second half, there would’ve been no speculative element to the story; with the second half, I’m not entirely sure how well the story functions as a whole.

REVIEW: “Genie’s Retirement” by Sarah Newman

Review of Sarah Newman, “Genie’s Retirement”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Retirement doesn’t mean quite the same thing for a Genesis Model household AI robot as it does for a human person. It’s not like robots have hobbies, after all, or need to move to warmer, sunnier climes to soothe their aching bones. But robot bodies get old, software gets outdated, and eventually their “life” must come to an end. Newman’s story explores what this end might look like, in a sympathetic and touching way.