REVIEW: “Soonest Mended” by Honor Hamlet and Till Kaeufer

Review of Honor Hamlet and Till Kaeufer, “Soonest Mended”, in Around Distant Suns, ed. by Emma Johanna Puranen (Guardbridge Books, 2021): 17-20 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I have pretty narrow tastes when it comes to poetry, and I’ll admit this one wasn’t exactly my cup of tea; it was a bit too “post-modern”, I think, for my tastes — unsurprising because Hamlet and Kaeufer’s collaboration is one of the closest, with Kaeufer contributing a machine learning programming that actual wrote a line of the poem! But what I loved, and which makes poems like this such a wonderful contribution to the volume, was what the poet and the scientist said in their collaboration notes: “While writing a poem, you’re constantly asking if the information in the previous line is relevant enough to trigger a reaction in the next line” (p. 20). What I want from my fiction and poetry is something that makes me think about things differently, and I got that.

REVIEW: “Glossary” by Emma Bussi and Christiane Helling

Review of Emma Bussi and Christiane Helling, “The Stripped Core”, in Around Distant Suns, ed. by Emma Johanna Puranen (Guardbridge Books, 2021): 11-15 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a lovely long-form poem full of the struggle of trying to express onself through words that other people will understand — whether this is writing a scientific paper about atmospheres on worlds we can visit only in imagination or it’s writing a poem about trying to express oneself through words that other people will understand. 🙂

I really loved it, and felt a lot of sympathy with both the poet and the scientist.

REVIEW: “Emily” by Marian Denise Moore

Review of Marian Denise Moore, “Emily”, in Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, ed., Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, (Aurelia Leo, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This piece is halfway between flash fic and poetry and tells, in sparse, beautiful language, the story of a seven-year-old girl who has runaway from being enslaved. Across two centuries, Moore reaches out to this girl and offers her hope of a better ending. Very touching.

REVIEW: Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

Review of Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, ed., Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, (Aurelia Leo, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

When I received an invitation to review this anthology, my response was the email equivalent of grabby hands: Oh my, yes, please!!! This is exactly the sort of fiction I want to be reading, and exactly the sort of fiction I want to see more of being published and promoted — stories that introduce me to new worlds, stories that fill gaps in my knowledge of history, stories that bring me into the unknown. So buckle in, and join me on a tour of these thirteen wonderful, wonderful stories, ranging from poetry/flash fic all the way to nearly novella-length. They cover the entire spectrum of speculative fiction, some fantastic, some scientific, some lingering on the borders of horro. As usual, we will review them individually, and link the reviews back here when they are published.

The ARC I read unfortunately had a number of typos in it (as well as no pagination, so we have left page references out of the individual reviews); I hope they are all fixed before the final publication, as they would otherwise mar what is an excellent collection.

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.