REVIEW: “Saturday Night Science” by Michael M. Jones

Review of Michael M. Jones, “Saturday Night Science”, Broadswords and Blasters 1 (2017): 37-52 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Yana Shepard.

This one is humorous and easily my favorite so far. And sapphic relationships! I’m all about f/f relationships! I was so happy to read this.

The main character, Camille, shows some fire when needed and a huge nerd, showcased via locations in the story. There’s also disability rep. Camille has no feeling in her legs so must rely on a wheelchair to get around.

Daphne, the other character, gave me a Doctor Who vibe. I love Doctor Who. Love that show. So it was no surprise to me that I fell in love with Daphne just as much as I fell in love with Camille.

“Saturday Night Science” had so many nice surprises.

I recommend it to any who enjoy SF, multiverse shenanigans, humor, and happy endings.

REVIEW: “Making Us Monsters” by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly

Review of Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly’s, “Making Us Monsters”, Uncanny Magazine Volume, 19 (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Jodie Baker.

Do you enjoy weeping? Well then, I highly recommend you read “Making Us Monsters”. Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly have written a correspondence across the ages between wartime poets, and lovers, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. If you’re not crying yet there’s a good chance you will be by the end of the story.

The science fiction element in this story is quite subtle. In 1932, Sassoon suddenly begins to receive letters from beyond the grave. Front line missives from Wilfred Owen are delivered by post or appear mysteriously among other correspondence, in pockets, or among the pages of books. These letters, delivered by an unknown hand after all these years, is all the sci-fi the story includes, but such a small otherworldly touch yields a deep, examination of two men, their relationship, and war.

Sassoon documents these finds in his diary, and is soon speaking directly to ‘Will’ in his entries. It is clear that Owen thinks Siegfried has forgotten him, as he receives no reply in 1918. Siegfried fears what each letter will bring but also longs for each new word from his former lover.

The idea of letters supernaturally appearing from beyond the grave alludes to the growing interest in spiritualism that followed WWI, as people sought solace, understanding, and connection in the face of such large scale tragedy. And there is so much to dig into in this story. The distanced correspondence sharply dissects Sassoon, a man often torn between hatred of the destruction war brings, and a belief that war somehow uplifts and unites men to make the feeling beyond soldiers finer than anything else. And the writing style does a fabulous job of emulating the way the poets wrote about war – often full of tragedy, emotion, and lush, dark imagery that seduces the reader into seeing war through the prism of gothic romance before it rams home the utter, brutal hell of battle.

Sassoon’s relationship with Owen – as mentor, lover, and stirring influence – is laid bare, and is heartbreaking. Was I wrong to hope that the science fictional aspect of this story might lead to a happier conclusion? A letter that allows Sassoon to find some peace? An entirely out of this world reunion with Will? Sadly, it was not to be. Instead I was left sad, although in other ways quite satisfied, by “Making Us Monsters”. The horrors of war, especially the way the men in charge aim to create soldiers who suit their bloody purposes, are brought to the fore. And I found this story a fascinating take on the First World War, and on these two men in particular. If you enjoyed Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy about the war poets make this your next read.

REVIEW: “Elemental Love” by Rachel Swirsky

Review of Rachel Swirsky’s, “Elemental Love”, Uncanny Magazine Volume, 19 (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Jodie Baker.

“Elemental Love” is a story about the poetry, and romance, of science. If you feel a sense of wonder when you hear that ‘we are all made of stars,‘ this is the story for you.

An unnamed narrator details the remarkable nature of the elements contained inside their lover’s body. Under their watch, each component is revealed as a marvel with links to the wider world, remarkable properties, and a deep soulful poetry at the heart of their function:

One percent: Phosphorus.

Named the light-bearer for the morning star, for Venus glowing on its nightly rounds. It dwells in the membranes of your cells; it nurtures them; it mends them. Love’s namesake keeps you whole.

It is an unbearably romantic declaration. What a shame biology lessons were never like this in my day.

The narrator unfurls this list of elements in response to their lover’s query: ‘You asked: Why I would love you.’ And this is where the more traditional science fiction element of the story kicks in. It is revealed that the narrator is something other than human, and considers their own body less full of wonder. ‘There are no miracles in me,’ they announce towards the end of the story.

However, it is clear from the reported speech of their lover that not everyone agrees. The narrator’s miracles are the kind of engineered marvel that many a sci-fi fan can appreciate. The story ties up with a little bitter-sweetness, as the narrator casts doubt on the value of their own astonishing nature. Yet the reader is able to see that this romance is more equal than the narrator perceives, and leaves this story with the satisfying image of two beings tangled together in awe. Biology meets engineering, and both prove as fascinating as the other.

As in her Hugo nominated story of love and loss, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love“, Swirsky shows a deft touch for rhythm and feeling in “Elemental Love”. The flow of this story, the placement of line breaks, and the restraint of what Swirsky chooses to include about each element, all build to help this story move at a perfect pace; slow, rippling, and subtle. Let yourself be seduced by Swirsky’s way with words – you’ll never look at your own body the same way again.

REVIEW: “Seven” by Sarah Krenicki

Review of Sarah Krenicki, “Seven”, Syntax and Salt 4, 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal.

I cannot express just how much I love this story. It has magic, and children, and growing up, and fireflies, and magic. Sarah Krenicki takes us for a short trip into a world where children gain magic on their seventh birthday, and lose it the day after they turn eight. It’s a rite of passage all kids go through to become “big kids.”

All kids except for little Katy. She turns seven, gets her magic…and never loses it, even when she turns eight, then ten and twelve. In this, Katy is almost a Peter Pan figure, with her older sister (or so I assume) playing the part of Hook. Or perhaps it would be better to say that Katy is Peter, her magic is Wendy, and her sister is the jealous fairy Tinker Bell.

However you want to look at the characters, the story is definitely worth a read…or two or three.

REVIEW: “I’m Your One-Way Street” by Naomi Libicki

Review of Naomi Libicki, “I’m Your One-Way Street”, Persistent Visions (7 July 2017): Read online. Reviewed by Essence B. Scott.

After the slog that was the last couple of stories from Persistent Visions, I was definitely looking forward to reading the next story in the queue (working backwards from the most recent story): Naomi Libicki’s “I’m Your One-Way Street.”

This story, though a little shorter than the previous ones, did not disappoint. I was immediately drawn into the world established for the reader. It also was a bonus that this is a love story and I don’t read many love stories. However, the header photo and the title got me curious to see what this story was about.

“I’m Your One-Way Street” reads like a stream of consciousness; the reader becomes one with the story and, much like a something caught in the river, flows along with it, which I think was what Libicki was trying to go for. If so, a job well done. Libicki uses her human protagonist, Josephine’s (or “Jos,” as friends call her) drunkenness to start the story. But, the reader wonders, is Jos so drunk? Is her supernatural lover, Via, real? Is this all happening in her head? Could the story just very well be a dream? I personally don’t think the entire story is a dream; it feels very much real to me. Could it be a premonition? I don’t think so. No matter which way you cut it, Via is real to Jos, and vice-versa.

In the beginning of the story, the lovemaking scene is beautifully written. As my mom would put it, “sexy, but not dirty.” I felt the connection that Jos and Via made and was actively rooting for them to hopefully get back together. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you. Give it a read…