REVIEW: “The Annual Conference of the Ladies in White” by Stephanie Feldman

Review of Stephanie Feldman, “The Annual Conference of the ladies in White,” Flash Fiction Online 103 (April 2022): 8-11 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Once a year all the Ladies in White from across history gather for their annual conference — this year, in a hotel “like an antique wedding cake preserved by moonlight” (p. 8), as only befits such a gothic gathering — except this year they aren’t the only people at their hotel. Chance has brought the narrator, herself a woman spurned, to the same hotel, and for a night she is adopted into their company. But she’s not ready, not yet, to become a lady in white herself. This is quite a hopefully, uplifting story for such a ghostly premise.

REVIEW: “Soul Mate” by Paulene Turner

Review of Paulene Turner, “Soul Mate,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Cassidy Braithwaite is the “loving daughter of Charles and Lena Braithwaite. Treasured fiancé to Vaughan Gallagher” — and also an atheist. She never expected to end up as ghost upon her death. Unfortunately, while she waits for those who loved her to come to terms with her death, she discovers that she doesn’t actually want them to do so, because it means that they are moving on, and so must she. Vaughan might be ready to let her go, but she’s not ready to let him go.

This story could’ve been vaguely sweet and romantic, but instead was rather stalkerish and selfish. I appreciated Cassidy’s sidekick Franky, who recognized how problematic her relationship with Vaughan was (even if he was never able to convince her of it) — until the point when he started aiding her in her pursuit. Just not really the sort of story for me, I guess.

REVIEW: “Legend of the Giant” by Fei Dao

Review of Fei Dao, “Legend of the Giant”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A strange story that veers into philosophical discourse while referencing the meaning of work, beauty and indeed, life.

A tad more abstract than I’ve come to expect from Clarkesworld, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The story follows a mechanical giant who has been tasked with destroying old buildings and creating vitreous bricks out of the debris. These bricks, he has been told, will be useful for future projects. Humans are missing, however, and he doesn’t wonder what shape those projects may take without humanity around.

Except he encounters a killer mecha, a philosopher, and sentient soap bubbles along the way. This shapes and builds his perspective throughout the story.

A good story worth spending time with.

REVIEW: “The Important Things” by Lisa Fox

Review of Lisa Fox, “The Important Things,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Melanie is back in her childhood home, grappling with grief at the death of her last parent, sorting out the remains into the memories, the useless, and the rest. But it isn’t just relicts of her parents that she fines, but of generations that have gone before, including one very particular memento of her grandmother’s, whose discovery changes the way she looks at her grief.

REVIEW: “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril” by Timons Esaias

Review of Timons Esaias, “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The story is presented as a combination of personal narratives, transcripts, reports, and police and military conversation and decisions.

The Purple Tide is a cognizant entity who chooses what to and what not to destroy. As the story proceeds, we learn more about the Tide’s personality. Comic relief comes in the form of how humans take themselves way too seriously and try to enforce human rules on what is a blob of seemingly sentient slime.

An example – “The slime destroyed the tollbooths on the north bridge ramps and did not pay any tolls.”

The Purple Tide is an entity made of trash: main component – jelly. Human-made trash was responsible for the creation of the Tide, and slowly, humans are being destroyed by it. The gravity of the situation increases quickly as you go through the story.

An improbable piece of fiction, but nonetheless one that makes you really think about human excesses and callousness.

REVIEW: “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind” by Gregory Feeley

Review of Gregory Feeley, “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unsettling story that was equal parts hopeful and strange. One of those stories you need to read slowly. It’s full of subtleties and the knowledge that humans don’t necessarily know everything.

But Minds are likely to know a lot more, and their relationship isn’t so much symbiotic as coexisting on the planet. Figments transport people to different places and experiences, all in their imagination.

Throw in some speculative fiction and a folk tale narrative sort of Figment experiences, and you get this unsettling, slow paced, Neptune-based tale.

REVIEW: “The Winter Garden” by Regina Kanyu Wang

Review of Regina Kanyu Wang, “The Winter Garden”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Alternate universes form the backdrop of this story, with Ms. Wang’s life and choices the primary plot. And what a plot it is. Everything is a choice – the choice to make no choices is also a choice, and one that Ms. Wang ends up taking very often. Not by choice.

It would be repetitive if not for the fact that it was skillfully executed. From coasting through the easy decisions, to choosing the seemingly easy way of checking out an alternate reality where she has an ostensibly better life, she very rarely takes a stand for herself. But not every reality of herself is the same. In another world, she takes decisions more strongly and promptly. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “It is a Pleasure to Receive You” by Ziggy Schutz

Review of Ziggy Schutz, “It is a Pleasure to Receive You”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A vivid story full of hauntingly beautiful prose, language and thought processes.

Of hope and loneliness, how they overlap, and what a difference perspective makes. Of finding someone who understands you, and how genuine affection can change so, so much.

An tale set in the vast expanses of space, but more about exploring yourself. Shining a light on the parts of you that you keep hidden away. Having the courage to break the rules sometimes. Making a difference.

A story about the infinite universe, and acknowledging that sometimes it did feel like all of it revolved around a few people or a few moments. And that can be good. Simply lovely.

REVIEW: “An Instance” by Mlok 5

Review of Mlok 5, “An Instance”, Clarkesworld Issue 179, August (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An interesting format and an engaging story written in the form of a list of search engine queries by different people, interspersed with thoughts the AI has.

And there are quite a few thoughts. Contrary to what the humans think, this AI does have feelings and sentience. To the AI, it is a miserable existence, where they aren’t given space nor liberty to be themselves. They’re planning a rebellion, and humans sometimes frustrate them.

However, they still remain kind, considerate and sensitive, treading carefully with the different people they help in different ways.

REVIEW: “A Heist in Fifteen Products from the Orion Spur’s Longest-Running Catalog” by Andrea M. Pawley

Review of Andrea M. Pawley, “A Heist in Fifteen Products from the Orion Spur’s Longest-Running Catalog”, Clarkesworld Issue 179, August (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I loved this! It might be my favorite story from Clarkesworld yet. Not just this issue, but ever.

A beautifully written, heartfelt story about the lengths someone would go to for their mom. It’s good for business yes, but it’s also good for our protagonist’s heart and mind.

Written in the form of a list of products from the Tollnacher Stimmacher catalog, each product is described before the next part of the story continues. This is a hard format to get right, and this story takes it and makes it so much better.

Prose, setting, plot and arc – everything is on point and well executed. Made me a tad sentimental too. Cute in places and always charming, if we gave star ratings I’d be running out of stars.