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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The House of Nameless by Jason Fischer

Writers of the Future XXVI

A semi-surreal, semi-Greek-myth, semi-symbolic fantasy world full of pocket universes manipulated by strange godlike beings. While on a date, Raoul, a “Renaissance” minotaur, finds a blurry intrude on his date. The blurry man promises to undo all of Raoul’s work. This one’s reminiscent of many posthuman, far-future, decadent world where technology looks like magic, as Arthur Clarke stated as one of his laws. The blurry man threatens their decadence, so that when they’re trapped at one of their parties, they seek a way to trap the threat.

This one can be read in multiple ways, which is fun for readers who enjoy a challenge, although for other readers the fluid cause-effect will bar their enjoyment. Yet for any reader, it will be hard to fault its pyrotechnic invention.

The Ice Is Singing by James Patrick Kelly -- Reader’s Guide

The story is written in second person. Are you supposed to believe that that “you” is you?

A three-piece suit usually suggests what? What’s the irony here?

The ice is described as singing and sounding like a gunshot. What does that do both for the story and theme?

Look M.C. Escher, if you aren’t yet familiar with his work and note how his patterns work. What makes the Escher tie appropriate to this story?

What do you feel toward the character that he studies the author photos of another woman?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coward’s Steel by K C Ball

Writers of the Future XXVI

Tate wanders a post-apocalyptic world, joined by the voices of her mentor, Jolene, who reminds her of Jolene’s eight laws. She joins a group of survivors who may or may not belong in the same timeline as she does. Tate falls in love but Jolene’s voice urges her to move on, which turns out to be a good and bad thing.

This one requires a bit of work--not too much, but rereading of certain parts may well be required. Who some of the earlier characters she encountered becomes clear what their identity is. Some of the magic doesn’t seem essential, or its use is not clear, but the story’s a fun and clever read to investigate.

KC Ball now has a collection out including short works in Analog and Flash Fiction online.

Serpent by James Patrick Kelly -- Reader’s Guide

Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2004

Background: If needed, read Genesis 1-3.

As in the original, the serpent alters the story a bit.

What does the Serpent see as the two sides?

The serpent’s game is different this time. How so?

What is the point of each joke, including the last “joke?” Why use them?

Contrast the names of the two new humans. Which one does the serpent convince?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Written in Light by Jeff Young

Writers of the Future XXVI

Most aliens alter themselves, but humans terraform other worlds. Aliens compete with each other in order to make the beautiful worlds that can support at least five galactic species. Kiona, a human, encounters a walking tree composed of Zoi’ahmets, wickurn, and chenditi who work together to adapt themselves to the world. Koina gets infected, fevered, and loses her vision and Zoi’ahmets has to get her to safety.

Interesting critique of human assumption of terraforming in favor of human adaptation. Reminiscent of the alien-foreign-ness of Cordwainer Smith and Hal Clement.

The Pyramid of Amirah by James Patrick Kelly -- Reader’s Guide

Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2004

How do the first three sentences capture Amirah’s mood?

What had Amirah expected when she offered herself to the meaning? When Amirah receives the news, what is her reaction--rather, what reaction does she note?

What part do jokes play in this religion? Compare and contrast between this and “Serpent.”

About when was the name “Betty” last in vogue? What does that suggest about her pyramid?

Compare the appearance or lack of miracles in this story and in “Serpent.” What might that suggest?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mask Glass Magic by John Burridge

Writers of the Future XXIII

When Michelle's drug-paraphernalia-dealing bosses get jailed, along with her glass-blowing supplies, she's caught between a rock and a hard place. Many of the Oregon glass businesses were hit, leaving a lot of employees seeking jobs. A friend, Susan, reluctantly recommends Harrington's, which has the most exquisite jewelry that Michelle has seen. Although the owner is a bit odd--he spins a bowl which gives him mysterious symbols that satisfy him that he should give her the job--she wants to study under the man. However, the man hides or masks who he truly is and asks her to wear it, if she wants to use his knowledge.

Inventive fantasy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Phlogiston Age by Corey Brown

Writers of the Future XXIII

In an alternate America, the US has a rocket, the Destiny, pointed to outer space. Reporter Irving, enemy of the space age, arrives to relate the story of the first woman to pilot this rocket, the alluring Deirdre Calahan. Unfortunately, several people want to thwart this and work to undermine and destroy it before it can get off the ground--one of whom paid Irving a good deal of money: the chief competitor of phlogiston fuel that powers the rocket. Irving has a change of heart. He chooses to try to blow up the rocket before it can harm the beautiful Deirdre. Before he can carry out his elaborate plan, thugs await him.

This one has a lot of character, its strength.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Gas Drinkers by Edward Sevcik

Writers of the Future XXIII

Story within a story. The narrator is half past the remaining air and can not find an escape when he runs into two thugs (Sebastian and Chang Mao) and a con man, Volkonski, who greets the narrator as Frederick. Volkokski talks them into jacking into the illegal gas while he tells them a story.

Volkonski and his crew are traveling to Titan with a load of valuable material; however, they are low on fuel and in what seems an impossible situation. Instead, they shoot for a Langrangian Point near Primaeus. So they reach there finding a strange, pseudomorph fungal-organism(s) that use iron to live. Of course, humans use iron in their hemoglobin. Also pseudomorph can change their shape or mimic a pitiable woman's cry for help.

A clever structure. Both stories equally fun although the first probably would be less likely if it hadn't been interrupted by another story.

Writers of the Future, Edward Sevcik

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cruciger by Erin Cashier

Writers of the Future XXIV

Humans have wiped themselves out due to a plague initialized by a fundamentalist. An AI starship, WC Planet Builder Duxa, is charged with recreating a new Earth. As Duxa works, she sifts through recordings of humans railing against religion and cheering on humanity’s better qualities, urging Duxa to make sure that only these qualities. The ship has found the perfect place to reconstruct humanity; however, she only discovers later that jellyfish-like aliens exist here. Only after killing 20 in experiments does she communicate and learn that aliens are intelligent.

An admirable vision of compromising what their “heaven” can be (although I’m not sure why Duxa did not seek a compromise earlier). Moving .

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Circuit by J. D. EveryHope

Writers of the Future XXIV

An archivist shows Lela, his daughter, the Compendium of Literature and Literary Analysis, which is a first edition, artificially intelligent book. When the book refuses to state how it feels, it demonstrates that the book is emotional and biased. However, his daughter is fascinated and steals it, shaping her mind with stories and poems the Compendium reads to her. Lela grows up to challenge the predominant Postcultural Objectivist culture. After Lela dies, the book falls into other hands--one who will become a great orator. Finally, someone recognies the book as the catalyst for all of these great people and suggests it be destroyed, but the book talks about being stowed away, so that one day (the text suggests) it can be taken up by other hands.

Clever story about the impact of literature.

Writers of the Future, J. D. EveryHope

Friday, July 20, 2012

A War Bird in the Belly of the Mouse by David Parish-Whittaker

Writers of the Future XXIV

Nigel was a fighter pilot in WWI who has been reincarnated to reenact WWI air battles more than 100 years later. Franks, a German pilot, has also returned to train and give people the opportunity to sense what that life was like--albeit, hamming up his role to the annoyance of Nigel. However, an overeager Marine pilot, who hasn’t seen as much action as he’d like, butts heads with Nigel over flight experience and tries to shoot down a another pilot.

Interesting thought sprouts from this: that people are a product of their time and culture (pointing out exceptions as well).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Simulacrum's Children by Sarah L. Edwards

Writers of the Future XXIV

Told through letters in 190-, a man relates how he has created Mitchell and Gwendolin, two life-like creatures, in competition with another clockwork maker. In fact, both creatures become sentient. Taking a turn for the worse, they are kidnapped. The kidnapper turns out to be the letter writer’s maker, who believes himself human. However, one of his creatures considered the original maker a machine, in an ironic twist.

Although not deeply philosophical, this presents an interesting play of what makes a creature man or machine. Good use of the letters format.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Bird Reader's Daughter by Kim A. Gillett

Writers of the Future XXIV

Catia and her grandmother read fortunes through the birds they keep, actually seeing into the future. The grandmother read her daughter’s fortune and tries to prevent her daugther from seeing any army officer from asking the future, but the officer arrives and demands. In her haste and effort to see what she wants to see, she gives the officer only a limited vision, which brings the officer back, ready to destroy all she and her family have.

Resonant theme and Catia’s a dynamic character.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Girl Who Whispered Beauty by Al Bogdan

Writers of the Future XXIV

Reminiscent of Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Fluted Girl,” whisper-girls are kept by the High-Ones to maintain their prestige. The girls change shape to slip between cracks, and also breathe out a healing air, causing infirmities to reform and plants to grow. When Etelka’s father fails to take her away from the Mistress in order to pay off the debt for her mother’s illness, Etelka is distraught. With Ibi’s inadvertent help Etelka hatches a plan.

Inventive with the feel of a fairy tale.

Poison Inside the Walls by Scott W.Baker

Writers of the Future XXVI

As the Krees and the humans of Tora are at war, Lt Ashia secretes mushrooms discovers for a medicine that will ease her son’s pain, but Kurtas, her son, sells it to addicts. While the society is not unusual in the genre--women are judges and warriors, men sperm donors and nannies--but Baker creates some complex tension in a tight space. Ashia does not want Hector to have credit for siring her child, so she has her son apply for genetic paternity testing, which he agrees to if she’ll bring him more mushrooms. Meanwhile, Hector’s DNA matches the child than he ought to and Kurtas has fallen in with another addict.

Good use of a different society.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Confliction by Simon Cooper

Writers of the Future XXVI

After pumping his body with black-market nanodocs, Flynn Mason needs a heart transplant. Dr. Maxwell finds a donor to cure him--only Flynn finds out he’s the one doing the donating: someone’s taking over his body using the transplant to transfer over non-licensed nanotech. They’re rewriting his neurons to turn him into someone else. If this weren’t bad enough, he’s now automatically quarantined as harbored the non-licensed nanotech--not to mention the gun the transplant donor pulls on him.

Impressive biology, thinking out many biological details although it may be unlikely to unfold in this manner. SF is a dialogue, and this one’s worth exploring.

Crown of Thorns by Sonia Helbig

Writers of the Future XXIV

In a world ravaged by the effects of Global Warming, Marie, a primary school teacher, has to elect a student to wear the crown of thorns, so she picks Joshua. The process itself is apparently painful initially, but the real pain comes if the child actual is a Jesus and is whisked away from parents. This is doubly painful because Marie was “successful” once before and sent a child up from Joshua’s relatives. Then Joshua is chosen as well.

Gripping scenario. The reasoning about selecting the children is a bit murky as yet, but moving, nonetheless.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hangar Queen by Patrick Lundrigan

Writers of the Future XXIV

Gina, the AI unit for a nuclear bomb, prefers to hang out in the hangar and hoped to stick with her friend Marty. However, Marty disappeared after a battle, and Gina investigates what happened. She’s missing key pieces of her memory. After getting shut down a few times, she hooks up with her starship’s fragmented memory to learn that Marty volunteered to go on a suicide mission and erased Gina’s memory. Gina’s choice to sacrifice is met with resistance.

Worthy story of friendship, sacrifice, and sentience.

Exanastasis by Brad Torgersen

Writers of the Future XXVI

While a war broke out on Earth, destroying everything, Atreus and his wife died on the moon. Now they have been resurrected by their lunar AI computers (their “children”) they’d left to rebuild. Atreus immediately recognizes it to be too good to be true. Angry at being manipulated only to save their children--his wife is only the good aspects he remembered--and at their not yet recreating Earth as commanded, he refuses to communicate with the North Koreans coming in to attack the moon. Unlike the Koreans, the lunar inhabitants are unarmed, but Hypatia has a plan.

Torgersen has gone on to publish a number of stories at Analog. He does a good job reinvigorating old SF tropes and updating them. The emotion, however, feels over the top, and the story acknowledges this. Perhaps it might have been better if the story had brought us to where he is, progressively.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Seeing Double by Tom Crosshill

Writers of the Future XXVI

Since high school when Sasha would have troubles with another student at school, John and Sasha jack-stream into one another. John would race to the restroom and then deposit his fighting skills into Sasha's mind. Sasha becomes a college professor and, according his friend Dima, very peaceful. But when John jack-streams into Sasha, Sasha beats up or kills people (political assassins). Therefore, Dima tries a two-prong attack to separate their connection.

This one's written as if Nancy Kress were channeling yet rewriting the visions of William Gibson. I had to reread this a number of times. Maybe I was too tired while reading it, but I kept wondering if I were to question John's veracity. In the end, I think not. So far nothing I've read in these anthologies is a literary-intellectual challenge; so I doubt this would be an exception.

Snakes and Ladders by Paula R. Stiles

Writers of the Future XXIV

Owen Landover was mortally injured after a pair of blasts give him severe damage. However, he manages to inject some nanos that repair him. Meanwhile, the nanobes appear to also be attempting to take control of his body as well, formulating strange questions and demands. They want more than Owen can give.

A transcendent story suggesting those who seem to have less may have more. Nano sentience may be dubious, but still worth reading.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ripping Carovella by Kim Zimring

Writers of the Future XXIII

The narrator rips memories from heads talented people--people who want to keep their memories in order to play music or write stories, but they will be generously compensated.

Ironically, Rex, the narrator, married one of those talents who’d had her memories ripped: Carovella. Carovella is not passive about her loss; rather, she hires another ripper to give back her writing abilities, but when her husband fails to back her up (because art is dangerous due to men like him), she gets ripped again. This does not deter Carovella, but her desire for art only gets her and her husband in deeper.

A well-evoked tale examining the resistance of loved ones who hate the art that motivates artists. The irony that a ripper married a ripped, however cool, is difficult to understand how it occurred. While the science of memory extraction seems unnecessarily cruel (especially in light of functional MRI), the process makes for good story.

Gray Queen Homecoming by Schon M. Zwakman

Writers of the Future XXV

Solstice, a human who has died and been regenerated innumerable times by Alissa, his AI companion, returns home after a long time. So long in fact that they are unaware that there’s been a convoluted war involving synthetic and biological humans and AIs. The upshot being that AIs must be destroyed, which makes Alissa a problem.

A good deal of SF invention and adventure here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Last Words by Damon Kaswell

Writers of the Future XXIII

Project Slow Down sends the corporal into the future to report back what happens in the war to see if they can avert the future. But they can’t, and the corporal continues to move forward. He encounters descendants who try to help but fail, so running out of food, the corporal presses forward to the end of time.

Reminiscent of HG Wells’ _Time Machine_ . Great job evoking sense of wonder without repeating what’s already been done.

The Dizzy Bridge by Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Writers of the Future XXV

Lin, a young boy, has made friends with the town pariah, Brindisi--a pariah because of his unnatural arms. Lin beckons Brindisi to come see the giant peacock get hatched from its egg. Brindisi sees the bird is nothing more than illusionist and doesn’t understand why the people would be in awe of her and loathe him. But the boy is enchanted with her and the feather gifts she bestows on him, including the silver heart feather. Brindisi tries to hide his disbelief, but the boy sees.

The boy also sees that she is sad. For the boy’s sake, Brindisi goes to see what he can do. The bird woman immediately knows that Brindisi did not keep her gift to him. He offers to repair her birdbath, but that isn’t what she needs she says. As she gets more sickly, the boy sings to her so that she can fly to the next place.

Sweet tale, told in a voice that captures the sense and sound of magic. A rare ability, that. A few minor blemishes: the last paragraph and other over-explanations. Also, it’d be nice to see more of what Brindisi can do in this world. Still, the voice is an amazing accomplishment. Cheers to Krista that she may harness it to even bigger and brighter stories.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Saturn in G Minor by Stephen Kotowych

Writers of the Future XXIII

Paolo, the famous composer, invited the young man who wants to study the composer as he orbits Saturn and composes his next masterpiece involving Saturn itself. Because Paolo is reluctant to divulge information about himself or his work, the researcher combs through his computer but finding the final movement only creates trouble and learns more of his connection to the composer than he suspected.

A wild ride on a planetary music roller coaster.

Gone Black by Matthew S. Rotundo

Writers of the Future XXV

Pure story, firing on all cylinders, hot damn! This is what I’m talking about when I talk about Rotundo powerhouse stories.

Due to his not ratting out someone, Manny has been detailed to the lowest of duties: latrine duty for a captured officer of the Walphin aliens. But he’s noticing changes: The alien is less lively, even sickly, and the waste material is getting thicker. The interrogator is trying to learn what the next attack is, and the crew has been spreading rumors: They are in quarantine and are infected by some alien virus, including Manny. To make matters worse, friends have lost family to the Walphin and would be just as happy to see it dead.

But the XO takes Manny into his confidence in order to get at the bottom of what’s going on to the alien.

An excellent treatment of what duty is and means.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not in the Flesh by Adam Colston

Writers of the Future XXVI

Aboard The Moment of Clarity, Aaron Tanaka evaluates the android who’s studied biology and philosophy and is being a bit too independent of a thinker. Aaron is about execute it when breaks out of its confinement, kidnaps Aaron, and boards an escape pod where they discuss sentience and watch The Moment of Clarity blow up. The android gets the last laugh, and Aaron is forced to reconsider his position.

Clever. If it hasn’t been done before, it’s one for the books.

The Reflection of Memory by C.L. Holland

Writers of the Future XXV

This is an incredibly intricate look at memory, names, identity and reflections and their connections. The narrative opens on a young lady who has lost her name. She is aided by two strange men: one who converts himself into birds, the other who has golden skin and can heal himself. When she looks into mirrors all reflections reject. So the two men take her to an island South to discover her true name, which may not be something she wants to know. Meanwhile, the relationship between the three gets complicated.

Due to the nature of not knowing one’s identity, aspects of the story lies in shadows although perhaps a little more light could be shed on the situation. An imaginative little mystery about finding the self and finding what you may not what to find.

Monday, July 9, 2012

By the Waters of the Ganga by Stephen Gaskell

Writers of the Future XXIII

One-of-Promise wakes in the world of India memories of a different world traveling either in dreams or in the mind. His dreams assure him that he is an alien--an underwater world of kelp forests filled with sea life. One-of-Promise begins to doubt his dreams until he hears of another who told similar stories. However, when he gets there, the other storyteller’s mind is gone (the most powerful moment of the story). The narrator experiences a religious journey pondering life, identity, purpose, doubt, and sanity.

Gaskell has written a wild novella called Strata with novelist Bradley Beaulieu.

After the Final Sunset, Again by Jordan Lapp

Writers of the Future XXV

The Phoenix wakes from ashes to a new body. Memories of previous lives fled, she learns that she lives and dies in a day. She follows compulsions to save the lives of other people until she runs into Death. Her fear of Death keeps her from following the compulsion to save other lives. Instead she saves herself, after a bit of ingenuity, surprisingly surviving one day to the next until she makes the ultimate act of life which is also her sacrifice.

Moving tale, examining what it means to be human and alive. Minor logic problems or missing explanations: the Phoenix bathes in liquid nitrogen at her birth when she should be cool; liquid nitrogen would suffocate anything that breathes. But these don’t take away from solid work--a story worth reading.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Risqueman by Mike Wood

Writers of the Future XXV

Leo has worked on an algorithm that assesses physical risk. Although there’s more work to do, the government takes over the equation and wants to start applying it insurance, limiting what people can do. Trains quit running due to high risk. Crops rot due to people not going to work due to risk. Recessions kick in. Leo decides to come up with a new algorithm that addresses the missing if intangible risk factors.

This makes convincing points about the necessity of risk in life. Curiously, one of the examples was Leo’s husband, Jen, needing to continue postmodern art although the tale is told in a traditional SF manner.

Pilgrimage by Karl Bunker

Writers of the Future XXIII

After seven posthumans try to kill their space enemy that ignores them, a black hole forces the Span to retreat, stranding the narrator live on the distant planet, Beach Glass. He has to learn how to survive. He comes to see his survival, working with his hands instead of directing the Span, as being more important to life.

A good metaphor for how we sometimes think our virtual internet lives are more important than our real ones.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Farthest Born by Gary Kloster

Writers of the Future XXV

Colonization will be conducted from afar. While the children will be in human bodies, the first parents will be automatons moved from back on Earth, presumably through a LeGuin ansible device.

Lilly, one of the five first children, is not disillusioned about her life. She’d rather be back on Earth instead of stuck on a planet where she’ll be expected to live as a reproductive organ although her attitude changes when forced (the communication systems go down) to protect the lives of others as her adopted father had had to save her.

A strong story.

Epiphany by Laura Bradley Rede

Writers of the Future XXIV

Quite a feast of curious characters and imagination.

Barker, the circus barker for the freaks, has to survive the collapse of the circus. A dog-faced man attacks, but he’s spared by a large tree man, carved by a special knife. Gypsies need his ability to do magic in order to give “the perfect woman” (who has no mouth carved into her) a mouth in order that she might tell what she knows about Mama Angelena’s father. Barker, meanwhile, wants the knife as well, for he has an anklet that alerts the local authorities when he tries to use it and compels them to arrest him.

A fascinating motley crew of characters who encounter other characters just as fascinating on a quest- like tale. The ending dissipates its potential power, and it's told at a novel’s pace but still worth reading. Reminiscent of something Tim Powers might write--makes me want to dig out all my Tim Powers novels. In fact, I was curious to read more of her talent and see where else she’s published. She writes YA paranormal fantasy novels and has one ebook currently listed as 99 cents.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lisa with Child, by Alex Black

Writers of the Future XXVI

Black goes for as many controversial jugulars as possible. Karin, sixty-five-year-old woman, fresh out of wars with her AI military pal, has just been informed by said pal that she will be having Karin’s child. Karin has to come to grips with this.

Tour-de-force of controversy: Lesbians, check; lesbians with children, check; abortion, check; woman loving machine, check; older woman raising children, check; machine raising children, check; breaking military rules, check. I’m sure there are others I’m missing. With only one story beat here, however, it has to flashback to their war days. It should be interesting to follow Black’s career.

The Candy Store by Heather McDougal

Writers of the Future XXV

In the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Stephen King, comes this tale of a small gold-rush town that’s been leaking inhabitants since the gold and the rushing have slowed down. A candy store appears on the main street, making no promises but offering customers spells: Revenge, Love, Riches, etc. This bothered the sheriff initially but decided that he couldn’t stop them offering spells. Yet people start dying; a man shoots another out of jealous; a too-young girl wanting love has to fight off men’s advances. The sheriff decides something has to be done, but he’ll need some help from someone who isn’t quite what she seems.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Assignment of Runner ETI by Fiona Lehn

Writers of the Future XXV

In the future, when nameless children are recruited to train for 500-km race, runners represent various charities that compete for one government donation. Runners speed with high technology-- guides, IR goggles, heat-shield shoes, and memchips. The run is dangerous: sand blows, earthquakes force competitors drop out or, worse, die--not to mention saboteurs starting fires and assassins shooting acid darts. If that’s not enough, runners have to ask if those who are helping actually helping.

Interesting mix of politics and sports story. Albeit a bit wordy, this does a good job mixing in politics. Lehn has published a novella with Aqueduct Press.

“The Black Side of Memory” by Lael Salaets

Writers of the Future XXVI

If William Gibson had been more preoccupied with military than corporations, he might have written this. Two military men were involved in a military operation, but their memories were erased. However, they’d recorded their memories and left it with a village girl, so they cross the desert to retrieve it. Meanwhile, government officials are hot on their heels to stop them.

An intense military adventure. Minor: We never really get a sense of what was covered up. Apparently, there’s a novel forthcoming in this universe and hopefully that will clear things up. It might add an intriguing dynamic.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Life in Steam by Gra Linnaea

Writers of the Future XXV

In this clockwork story, Mendel is charged with determining whether the Babbage machine on planet Wood is sentient. Mendel is impressed by its intelligence and commands that the abomination be destroyed by the next day. The entire planet, which has no other profitable resources, is angry and riots fighting off church soldiers. Meanwhile, Mendel has changed his mind.

The world is well described. Mendel’s conversion is somewhat unconvincing (perhaps due to the nature of a short story we cannot know his prior faith), but it is uplifting, nonetheless--his sacrifice to save and rebuild.

Taking a Mile by J. Kathleen Cheney

Writers of the Future XXIV

Viviana Fuentes waits in a cemetery to die. She is an avatar-- uploarded from her original and downloaded into a new body, designed to senesce or die within a certain timeframe or if told to do so--a being that the Pope is unsure if it has a soul, and Viviana had been a Catholic. When she bumps into another avatar, she is given the choice to run and become independent of the Rand company that built her although it’s hard to hide from the company.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

“Living Rooms” by Laurie Tom

Writers of the Future XXVI

“Living Rooms” is a clever play on words. When Rill was twelve, she promised her mage father that if she did not marry a prince by the time she was twenty, she’d become her father’s apprentice. Fulfilling her promise, Rill returns home, only to find another mage is trying to control the house. Although not alive, the rooms of have manifestations that interact with the owner and its occupants. The house did not like the new mage; however, they would not be able to keep him out if he returned with more power. In order to take over the house, she would need to think of it as her home.

A cleverly thought-out (if not expansively so) fantasy playing with the idea of what makes a house a home.

Graham Joyce on fairy tales

At the Guardian, Graham Joyce discusses his ten top favorite uses of fairy tales (in fiction, largely).

Bitter Dreams by Ian McHugh

Writers of the Future XXIV

Constable Bowley receives a body--tongue, eyes, genitals and shadow removed. Bowley is the sole representative of the law this deep in the Outback, and the town doesn’t even have a runesmith. A bitter dream or a dreaming has taken the man. Maise, his longtime girlfriend, wants to check out if her relatives are okay, but Bowley says they should telegraph instead. Shadows of animals misbehave and the animals chase after their shadows trying to flee.

Enter a cowl-hooded spook, the Dappled Man--dappled because shadows he’s taken (stolen or rescued?) writhe across his body. He will help the constable and the newly deputized locals chase down the dreaming, old things that decay away deep in caves but possess a man’s body when touched. But not every man will live to tell about their battles with the dream-taken: shadows stolen and five-foot war boomerangs protruding from their chests.

On a sentence/prose level, this is the best-written story I’ve seen in the WOTF anthologies for some time. While not as focused as it might be, the imagination is sharpened to a keen edge. A must read.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Shadow Man by Donald Mead

Writers of the Future XXV

Jiro Ota is the “Shadow Man” who collects shadows from the bombing of Hiroshima--shadows still talking, reliving their last moments. Part of Jiro’s obsession is that his mother disappeared the morning of the bombing and desperately wants to reconnect. However, local henchman, Four-Fingers threatens Jiro if he doesn’t deliver more shadows to the Mafioso Rice King; moreover, the Rice King has what Jiro wants if he tries not to deliver.

A tale both moving and wonderworking. The surprise ending doesn’t quite work, but the conceit is still nifty. wrihas gone on to publish in F&SF.

Garden of Tian Zi by Emery Huang

Writers of the Future XXV

Tian Zi is a genetic-engineering industrial spy for The Movement, stealing from big companies to sell to the smaller ones. Tian Zi sets up genetically modified organisms like frogs who will release peptide to be used in DNA computing. The Movement sets up cells all around China at a price cheaper than most corporations but still expensive. This makes him a target of thugs who are more than willing to kill. So he tries to blend in to the villages he lives in without getting close to anyone. But then a young lady, Khulan, gets nosy and wants to get involved, which just makes trouble for Tian and Khulan.

The science may be somewhat dubious (which could be a fun project to investigate), but the ride a roller coaster--one with some emotional impact.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Stone Cipher by Tony Pi

Writers of the Future XXIII

Marie and Claude discover that statues are mouthing something slowly, so slowly that it’s barely observable. They race--against time, against museum officials, and against the masses who are frightened by the mystery--to translate the words and discover it’s a countdown. But counting down to what?

An engaging puzzle story with some interesting discussion of linguistics. Tony Pi has gone on to publish stories in Abyss and Apex as well as Clarkesworld.