REVIEW: “Reincarnation” by Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Review of Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, “Reincarnation”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 377 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This spare, evocative poem makes for a wonderful closing piece to the volume, playing on the idea that we are all stardust, and stardust we will all become.

REVIEW: “Legato” by Brian A. Salmons

Review of Brian A. Salmons, “Legato”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 363-364 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This poem, described as “a pantoum after a line from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Planet of Exile, is a beautiful one full of sweet longing. I wasn’t familiar with pantoums before reading this poem, but I have decided I love the style — full of ripples and repeats like the tide ebbing in and out.

REVIEW: “Gliese 581g” by John C. Mannone

Review of John C. Mannone, “Gliese 581g”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 191-193 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This poem comes with an informative note! “The exoplanet, Gliese 581g is a highly contested planet about twice Earth’s mass in the middle of the habitable zone” (p. 193), and it is also the subject of the poem…or rather, it’s the objective of the space crew that are en route to colonise it. But of course, we never know what might greet us when we finally do make it to another planet…

The poem itself is written with a repetitive structure — not quite a rondelle, not quite a villanelle, but picking up a phrase from one stanza and reusing or adapting it in the next. I love this sort of poetry, but I felt that this one would have benefited from have a slightly more defined structure — the repetitions felt repetitive, rather than structured, at times. Still, Mannone’s poems remain one of the highlights of the volume.

REVIEW: “Sounding Light” by John C. Mannone

Review of John C. Mannone, “Sounding Light”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 125-127 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a really gorgeous poem, telling the story of how the poet-narrator, self-described as d/Deaf, makes first contact with an alien species and discovers how to hear the light. I loved how personal the story felt, and appreciated the clear disability representation.

REVIEW: “The Space Traveler’s Tense” and “The Space-Traveler’s Husband” by Benjamin S. Grossberg

Review of Benjamin S. Grossberg, “The Space-Traveler’s Tense” and “The Space-Traveler’s Husband”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 145-148 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I’m not sure if these two back-to-back poems were meant to be read as a set, but given their titles and proximity I decided to read them as such.

As an amateur linguist, I loved the premise of the first poem — a new tense for “nouns in the process of passing”, a tense to speak of dying friends, of dinners being eaten, of “a planet you no longer stand on // but which still exerts on you its // considerable tug” (p. 145). It is also the tense that the space-traveler uses to talk of a planet dweller they once shared their couch, and their years, with.

Nothing more detailed is said of this planet dweller, other than his gender, but I prefer to think that he is the husband that the second poem refers to. This poem was not as evocative as the first one, but the two complement each other well — I would be interested in reading the entire story of the space-traveler and their husband, told through such poems.

REVIEW: “Nothing Lasts” by David Estringel

Review of David Estringel, “Nothing Lasts”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 79-80 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

If the hope of this anthology is to engage the wider public with science through the media of fiction and poetry, then the lesson we are to apparently learn from this poem is that “Nothing lasts”, which is both the title and the refrain at the end of each verse. It is a depressing and hopeless message.

REVIEW: “Dark Constellations Beneath Electron Microscope” by Carla Durbach

Review of Carla Durbach, “Dark Constellations Beneath Elecron Microscope”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 59-60- — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Lately I’ve been struggling about what makes a poem a good SF poem. Durbach’s poem is just that: It tells an undeniably and intrinsically science fiction story, but in a way that enhances the beauty of the poem rather than distracts.

REVIEW: Beneath Strange Stars edited by David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland

Review of David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This gorgeously thick volume of short stories and poems is a charity anthology supporting the Association for Science Education, the United Kingdom’s professional association for teachers of science and science technicians and “the largest subject association in the UK” (p. 11), with proceeds going to benefit the ASE’s wider educational mission. Hannah Russell, the ASE’s chief executive officer, provides a brief introduction to the volume that stresses the importance of novel ways to engage the wider community with science of all kinds — such ways including, naturally, science fiction and speculative fiction more generally.

I expected more science fiction and less fantasy, and the quality of the stories varied. But even so, as a whole, the stories and poems in this collection made good on what was promised: They both entertain and instruct. And across the board, the poems were the high points. I do not usually have a very high tolerance for poetry, but I really enjoyed so many of the poems in this anthology.

As usual, we’ll review each of the stories in turn, and link the reviews back here when they are published.

REVIEW: Poetry in Starward Tales II

Review of poetry in Starward Tales II, edited by CB Droege (Manawaker Studio, 2017). — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I decided to tackle all the poetry in the anthology in one go because poetry can be wicked hard to review and it made sense, in the context of a themed anthology like this, to discuss all the poems together.

“Penelope Longing for Odysseus” by Vonnie Winslow Crist (p. 141)

One of the hallmarks of a classic story is that it transcends both time and genre. In this poem, Crist has transposed the story of Odysseus to far into the future, with Penelope waiting at home for her space-ship captain to return. Whether told in epic poetry and set in ancient Greece, or told in short blank verse form and set far in the future, the story of Penelope’s patience, love, and dissatisfaction with her wandering husband remains a powerful one. (The poem also reads aloud nicely, and rated an “It was good” from my 6 year old.)

“Chained” by Vonnie Winslow Crist (p. 39)

Like Crist’s other poem in the anthology, this one also draws upon a foundation of Greek myth, but it is not a straightforward retelling of a known tale. Instead, Crist uses the familiar elements of mythology to couch an unfamiliar future, when humanity has been awoken from cryo-state on a foreign planet. Will we find ourselves in the underworld, in purgatory, or in paradise?

“Girl in the Red Hood” by Richard King Perkins II (p. 97)

The inspiring story for this poem is obvious from the title. The first four stanzas follow the traditional story for the most part, with embellishments and details that make it a distinctive and not generic re-telling. The final stanza is where the dramatic climax is reached; unfortunately, there was not quite enough in it for me to understand the import of the ending. It wasn’t clear who the narrator of the poem was, nor what memories it was that the girl in the red hood forgot before the wolf devoured her.

“Icarus” by María Castro Domínguez (p. 117)

(Note that the table of contents puts this poem on p. 115).

The story of Icarus is one of my favorites, so I was immediately drawn to this poem from its title. The poem did not disappoint — Castro Domínguez paints some vivid pictures with her words — but I am not sure what connects the story of the poem to the story of Icarus.

“Beauty, Sleeping” by Marsheila Rockwell (p. 173)

This brief (10-line) poem takes the story of sleeping beauty and turns it upside down — what happens if when the prince comes to wake the princess instead of giving her his animative power, he takes hers instead?