REVIEW: “From the Void” by Sarah Gailey

Review of Sarah Gailey, “From the Void”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 95-104 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There are so many stories of space ships full of crew in stasis pods, and then inevitable things-going-wrong when they come out. This story is yet another one.

I would’ve sighed and shook my head (and continued reading nonetheless) after seeing that this was the case, were it not for the very interesting way in which religion plays counterpart to the traditional sci-fi model these stories usually fit — there is a lot more praying, creeds, baptisms, and high priestesses in Gailey’s story than in the usual space odyssey story. A lot more religion, and a lot more horror, too. It’s not a pleasant story, though it is finely constructed.

REVIEW: “Thistledown Sky” by Stephen Case

Review of Stephen Case, “Thistledown Sky”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 107-111 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story is told in five parts, moving from factual to elaborate to finally each more spare and pared down than the last. Ostensibly it’s a story of faster-than-light space travel, but really it’s that story from the point of view of those left behind. How does one cognize what has happened when one’s child or friend or parent or lover has slipped beyond the bounds of lightspeed? “I just called it death,” the narrator tells us, but this is not because FTL travel is an irrevocable severing, but because maybe perhaps death is not.

REVIEW: “Evangelina’s Dream” by Jasmine Shea Townsend

Review of Jasmine Shea Townsend, “Evangelina’s Dream”, in Fairy Tales and Space Dreams (Jasmine Shea Townsend, 2019): 96-105 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This final story in the anthology, and the last of the space dreams, picks up the story of the titular character of the previous one, “The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld”, which, despite the title, was more about River Seung than it was about Sophie Zetyld.

The story is divided into six parts, Negatio (“denial”), Iracundia (“irascibility”), Pacisci (“to bargain or negotiate”), Exanimationes Incidamus (“deaths might happen”), Acceptatio (“acceptance”), Excitatus (“I woke up”). Each is a snapshot of a dream, a dream dreamt by a body that is not used to dreaming, not used to eating, not used to being human. How much is real and how much is merely a dream is not clear, as it is in the truest and most vivid of dreams, but in it we learn much about Sophie’s previous life and her current desires. This one didn’t make me laugh quite as much as the “Cosmic Adventures” did, but I think I appreciated it more.

REVIEW: “Quality Time” by Ken Liu

Review of Ken Liu, “Quality Time”, Robots vs Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Gallery / Saga Press, 2018): 29-57 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Susan T. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Quality Time follows a young folklore graduate as they get their first job in a Silicon Valley robot manufacturer and try to come up with the next greatest idea in consumer robotics. … It didn’t work for me at all. To the point that I ended up skimming through the last third of the story to make it go faster. The protagonist was unbearable, mainly for how self-important they were and the way that they treated Amy and ignored their family until they had the chance to use them. I understand that it’s a narrative about thinking through the consequences of your actions and needing to put in the time, but it wasn’t my sort of thing, and while I appreciated the protagonist getting their come-uppance, getting to it was a slog.

REVIEW: Robots vs Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

Review of Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, eds., Robots Vs. Fairies, (Gallery / Saga Press, 2018) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by Susan T.

Robots vs. Fairies is exactly what it says on the tin: an anthology of stories that alternate between stories from Team Robot and Team Fairy – sometimes both fairies and robots appear in the same story, but the stories always centre whichever option the author thinks is most awesome. There’s quite a variety of approaches – the stories draw on Shakespeare, the history of the Old West, Norwegian folklore, shady tech practises, and American health insurance, amongst other things – but for the most part, the stories tend towards the bleaker end of the spectrum, as you might expect from authors exploring humanity through two of the most popular examples of inhumanity. The endings are consistently bittersweet at best, which means that the stories that are mostly positive can feel a little out of place, although there is enough fridge horror in them to satisfy anyone.

The anthology contains:

  • “Build Me a Wonderland” by Seanan McGuire
  • Quality Time” by Ken Liu
  • Murmured Under the Moon” by Tim Pratt
  • The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz
  • Bread and Milk and Salt by Sarah Gailey
  • Ironheart by Jonathan Maberry
  • Just Another Love Song by Kat Howard
  • Sound and Fury by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Bookcase Expedition by Jeffrey Ford
  • Work Shadow/Shadow Work by Madeline Ashby
  • Second to the Left, and Straight On by Jim C. Hines
  • The Buried Giant by Lavie Tidhar
  • Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time by John Scalzi
  • Ostentation of Peacocks by Delilah S. Dawson (writing as Lila Bowen)
  • All the Time We’ve Left to Spend by Alyssa Wong
  • Adriftica by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • To a Cloven Pine by Max Gladstone
  • A Fall Counts Anywhere by Catherynne M. Valente

(Reviews will be linked to as they go live, and caution warnings will be on each individual story!)

On the whole, it’s a very good collection! If you’re in the mood to see how authors explore the intersection of magic and science, it’s not a bad place to start.

REVIEW: “An Astronaut Lights a Candle” by Megan Neumann

Review of Megan Neumann, “An Astronaut Lights a Candle”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The most curious and intriguing aspect of this story, for two dozen or so of paragraphs, is the title — without the information that the character lighting the candle is an astronaut, we would never know from the narration itself. What we know from the start is that Siobhan, the narrator, is the one who must put out the candle — but is she the one who lights it?

Who lights it, who the astronaut is, why Siobhan must douse the candle, all these questions are wrapped up in a story of cancer, time travel, and love, a solid, engaging story.

REVIEW: “Wired” by Tianna Ebnet

Review of Tianna Ebnet, “Wired”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In this story, people are hired to become “the Wired”, a short-term lucrative job in which they give up their body and autonomy to become cogs in a giant human-AI machine, keeping systems running efficiently, purifying and filtering air, running security interference.

The narrator of the story tells his experiences in the second-person — you, you, you — a narrative choice I usually dislike. (I don’t like people telling me what to do and feel, or do feel.) But here the “you” doesn’t feel directed at the reader; it feels more like a way of one person explaining how radically othered this portion of their life feels — there is continuity of something between Before and After becoming one of the Wired, but it’s certainly not bodily continuity, and it’s not entirely mental/personal continuity either. So the choice for the narrator to tell their own story with “you” rather than “I” serves to emphasise this split, as if the narrator is telling the story to himself, in a way which felt both realistic and sympathetic. The story only got stronger and stronger as it went on, and this one definitely wins ‘best in issue’ from me.