REVIEW: “Time and Space” by Laine Perez

Review of Lane Perez, “Time and Space”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story starts off with a contradiction:

When Mira sees the library for the first time, it is exactly as she remembers it.

How can one remember what one has never seen before? But such contradictions are to be expected in a story where one character can see the future.

For all that this is a story about pushing the boundaries of time and space, this isn’t SF. Rather, it has a quiet, almost fairy-tale like quality, and what is at the forefront is Mira and Cy and how they navigate a relationship together: Not just how to fit together when one person sees the future and the other moves unexpectedly through space, but how to build a life within those confines that doesn’t end up feeling utterly fatalistic. The lack of free will or free choice that is apparently entailed by foreknowledge of the future — a problem that has been vexing not only science fiction authors but philosophers for millenia — is deftly handled here by Perez in this satisfying story.

REVIEW: “Morph” by Sarah Pfleiderer

Review of Sarah Pfleiderer, “Morph”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is in essence a first-contact story; although contact with the Phytomorphs was actually made some 30 years prior to when this story starts, this is the first time that humans and Phytomorphs have attempted to live together. It is also, the further you read, increasingly a horror story.

There was a lot I liked about this story, particularly the clever, educated, older, female protagonist. When we are introduced to Dr. Audra Grissom in the opening paragraphs, I was quite pleased to see what I don’t often see in stories — someone like me!

But there were also a number of things which I didn’t like so much. The way Dr. Grissom was set up to us made me optimistic for both her and the society in which she operated, which is why I felt even more caught out than I might have been when I read this:

She had started graying in her 30s, but had given up trying to dye it back to its original brown once she hit her 40s. She had no husband or children to keep up appearances for anyway.

That second sentence — what a strange justification to add! It just goes to show that no matter how hard we try to write stories centering women and leaving behind the problematic social structures of reality, it’s hard to escape persistent and invasive ideas about how and why women should act the way they do. (Why should it make any difference to her hair color if Dr. Grissom is married or not? I’m married, with a kid, started greying in my 20s, and the only color I dye my hair is purple. I have no need to “keep up appearances” for anyone other than myself.) The upshot of this one single sentence is that I come away from the story pitying Dr. Grissom, knowing that the freedom and authority it seems that she has is only seeming, and not, yet, real.

I also felt vaguely uncomfortable about a lot of the colonial overtones that were present in this story. When Dr. Grissom meets the Phytomorph that she has corresponded with the most, we find out that she doesn’t know their name, but has given them a nickname of her choosing; the Phytomorph, on the other hand, addresses her by name. Why? Why did she give her name to them, at some point in their communication, but never ask theirs? Similarly, when she is confronted with the possibility that this co-habitation is harming the Phytomorphs, her first response is to protect the science, rather than put the objects of her study first.

REVIEW: “Our Lady of the Wasteland” by Carly Racklin

Review of Carly Racklin, “Our Lady of the Wasteland”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story has that chatty, conversational tone between narrator and reader that can work very well if the reader is given enough clues in order to know how to fit themselves into the context, but less well if the reader is left a bit floundering as to the who-what-why. I had enough details to place myself — a hot, dusty place, where shelter is hard to find — but I felt that the story was much more a monologue (and this despite the fact that it is clearly conversational!) than it was a narrative or a story. I felt like the speaker’s words should have moved me at the end, but unfortunately, I was left unmoved.

REVIEW: “You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance” by Michelle Ann King

Review of Michelle Ann King, “You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

If you had the option of entering a machine that would either make you one year older or one year younger, and you didn’t know which, would you take it?

That’s the titular chance to be taken in this story, and it’s an intriguing premise. It felt to me, however, that more time was spent setting up the story than was spent on the story itself; by the time we are ready to watch Disa make her decision, it is already almost the end.

REVIEW: “The Thing in the Wall Wants Your Small Change” by Virginia M. Mohlere

Review of Virginia M. Mohlere, “The Thing in the Wall Wants Your Small Change”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I loved the title of this one, because I didn’t know whether to expect horror, humor, or Doctor Who.

What I got was a story of family ties and family love, and the ways in which our lives pull us in two, and which a third of the way through took a sideways turn that left me grinning from ear to ear, and another third later left me gaping speechless at how much power a single act — to take the word of a woman seriously and act on it, no questions asked — can have to make a reader want to cry. A lot of the story made me want to cry.

Read it. It’s sad and good and happy all at once.

REVIEW: “The Volcano Keeper” by Jenny Wong

Review of Jenny Wong, “The Volcano Keeper”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is a relatively short story, filled with descriptions. There is only one character, Ari, but the way in which she interacts with nature, including the volcano, with her history, and with the looming future makes the story feel richer.

It’s a quiet little allegory of ecology balance, quick and pleasant to read.

REVIEW: “Campfire Songs” by Kimberly Rei

Review of Kimberly Rei, “Campfire Songs”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is a shadowy story of post-war/post-apocalypse horror. It breaks upon a narrator running from wolves (and other, worse, howling beasts) through the dark and alone. There is no place to hide, and no one left to fight with.

It is, altogether, a relatively typical sort of scene, and the details of the horror are vague enough that I struggled to find anything that made this story distinctive. Even after the narrator, Sura, finds an unexpected house with an unexpected object left behind in it, and we are introduced to one of the antagonists, Auntie, I never quite got into the story. Auntie felt like she could’ve been a complex and majestic character, but all that we got to see of her made her feel a bit flat, cruel and autocratic simply for the sake of it, and not stemming from any deeper reasons or nature.

I do not usually go for horror stories, and this one similarly ended up not really appealing to me.