REVIEW: “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “The Cold Calculations”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I don’t know where to begin with this story. So beautiful, so heartbreaking, so powerful. I don’t think any review can do justice. Some parts made me emotional, and near the conclusion I had goosebumps the entire time.

It’s about hopefulness in the midst of adversity and difficulty. But hope is not enough – there must be action, and action can start with just one person. Nobody is too small to make a difference. The titular cold calculations that are ever-present in the world, from years past to the present day, where technical difficulties and paperwork sometimes overlook the fact that each number is an actual, living person. And a person is not an expendable resource.

REVIEW: “A Recipe for Trouble” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “A Recipe for Trouble”, Luna Station Quarterly 47 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: masturbation.

Leah loves to look at every book in the booksale, wanting them all but knowing only some will her mother allow her to purchase. But what could be more harmless than a cook book?

“A Recipe for Trouble” is more a series of vignettes than a proper story, and yet Ogden still manages to provide a solid setting with sympathetic characters. The undertones of oppression and repression of women in the story give it a weight that the premise alone would not have managed.

REVIEW: “THH*SH*THHH” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “THH*SH*THHH”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 78–79 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Teller attends the funeral of a member of a near-immortal species, who died unexpectedly as result of of an accident. The rest of the species have a hard time coping with that being’s death.

The author employs a variety of linguistic tools to emphasize the “alieness” of the “THH*SH*THHH” species (such as different pronouns), which I found more distracting than immersive. By the end, the story doesn’t offer much to help the reader empathize with the alien’s struggle to accept death.

REVIEW: “Salt Tears and Sweet Honey” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “Salt Tears and Sweet Honey”, in Liane Tsui and Grace Seybold, eds., A Quiet Afternoon (Grace & Victory Publictions, 2020): 47-50 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story perfectly encapsulates the goal of the anthology: It is one quiet afternoon in the lives of Netria and Kellis, an old couple whose love has become familiar and comforting, and the family they have formed from children they’ve adopted. Every moment is calm and happy and warm. It’s not that their life is perfect or unblemished by worry or care; but rather that everyone knows death and illness are just as much a part of life as birth and health. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes, everything happens in its proper order.

REVIEW: “Buttercream and Broken Wings” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “Buttercream and Broken Wings”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 307 (July 2, 2020): read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

I’m a fan of Aimee Ogden, whose memorable “Never a Butterfly Nor a Moth with Moon-painted Wings” was one of the highlights of BCS’s over-sized 300th issue. Ogden’s latest story features Willowbright, an independent-minded, down-on-her-luck fairy due to the death of an old widow who had often left out food and drink for her. Now “alone, unserved by human hands,” Willowbright’s future is grim unless she can find some other human patron. Toward that end, she provides magical favors for a girl in exchange for food and an unusual refuge from the cold. She also meets a wild fairy who provides unexpected aid in Willowbright’s direst moment. Overall, it’s a good story, if a bit open-ended. Perhaps Ms. Ogden plans to treat us to a sequel.   

REVIEW: “To Persist, However Changed” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “To Persist, However Changed”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June (2020): 105–106(Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

A sentient moon crashes into a planet and discovers another sentient form of life there. The story is told from the perspective of the moon-consciousness as it prepares for the crash.

Billions of light-sensitive organelles orient to the brilliant patch of sky, and magnetosomes orient along familiar field lines. The diffuse awareness of the Moonmind comes to an agreement: Soon.

I must confess, I’ve never been keen on stories that describe an alien consciousness through the physical and chemical interactions that make it up — which seem to be popping up rather often lately. They always strike me as rather contrived. After all, consciousness is an emerging quality. Human thought-processes do not involve moving ions and chemical imbalances, even though it is such events in our brains that make thought possible.

From a fictional standpoint, however, it is a rather effective tool at conveying the “otherworldliness” of an alien mind. The author manages to successfully filter a different kind of consciousness through familiar scientific concepts, and does so clearly and concisely. Moreover, the author did a relatively decent job at maintaining a clear and readable prose, which is crucial for these kinds of stories.

Ultimately, I still don’t think it works, but I can appreciate the effort.

REVIEW: “Never a Butterfly, Nor a Moth With Moon-Painted Wings” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “Never a Butterfly, Nor a Moth with Moon-Painted Wings”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 300 (March 26, 2020): read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

In an earlier review, I said that C.C. Finlay’s “The Hummingbird Temple” might be the best story in this special, 300th issue of BCS. Perhaps it is, but this story is at least a close second. It is told in the form of a never-sent letter, written in code, recalling the life of a mother, Shemi, and the hopes and fears she had—and still has—for her much-loved daughter, Oya. The story begins with an account of how Shemi and her people, wartime refugees, were driven out of their land and forced to settle in a matriarchal, but decidedly puritanical society. There, Shemi’s People of the Butterfly are seen as second-class citizens, at best.  

Interesting though this part of the story is, however, it pales before the account of how Shemi came to accept her daughter for the person she is, something “new and strange and wonderful,” rather than the person Shemi once hoped Oya would become. But it’s not just the story itself that delights. Ogden’s language is beautifully poetic. At one point, for example, she describes her then unborn daughter as “a secret moon riding high in my belly.” At another, Ogden offers a convincing explanation for why Butterflies prefer one-night stands. If that doesn’t get you to read the story, I don’t know what will. 

REVIEW: “Three Cats at the End of the World” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, Three Cats at the End of the World, Podcastle: 499a — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

A flash piece using cat personalities and behaviors as metaphors/representations of the experience of past, present, and future. Evocative and somewhat creepy, with an intriguingly open-ended closing scene. I really enjoy stories that lead me to speculate on how to interpret endings–not talking about vague ones, but ones where it feels like the author had a clear interpretation in mind, but it’s ok if you see a different one.