Oh man, I am excited about this one. I’ve been wanting to get it since they first announced they were accepting submissions for it, but it wasn’t until the Humble LGBTQ Bundle that I had an excuse to do it.
Now, as this is a big ol’ anthology, I’m going to split it up into a series of mini-reviews, which, unlike how I’ve done anthology reviews in the past, I’ll be writing after reading each story. Without further ado:
Original Short Fiction
There’s rather a lot of short stories in this one, so I’m going to break the organization up the same way the magazine itself does.
勢孤取和 (Influence Isolated, Make Peace)
I’ll admit to Googling the author of this one and the four english words so that I could copy and paste in the other characters above.
I did enjoy that I share a name with one of the characters. That’s about all we’ve got in common, though:
Gray was too hard, too buff, and too tall all at once to truly look human. However, no human ever noticed. Blond haired with intense blue eyes and an irrepressible smile, he and his lightly pink, freckled skin invoked the heartland, middle America, and the Things That Made Us Great. Granted, this would be some sort of middle America where everyone changed the tires on their pick-up trucks by lifting them to chest height with one hand while loosening lug nuts with the other. He’d always been the squad’s candidate for Cyborg Poster Boy.
Anyhow, it’s a short story, and a sweet one at that. Basically, exactly what I wanted from this anthology, so props to the editors for putting it first.
It’s set in the aftermath of some big war – I’d assume against China, but it’s hard to say – where the primary weapons the US used were, apparently, some seriously advanced cyborgs. Who, as a result of the peace treaty, are to be decommissioned – maybe. It’s a whole bit thing, and figuring that out is the core plot point of the story. Or rather, the setting against which it’s built – the core plot point, I’d say, is more of a short, sweet little love story. A good start.
Let’s be honest, we all know that the most likely apocalypse at this point is going to be a superintelligence coming out of the Bay Area.1
The work isn’t its own reward, not to me. I wanted the world to see what I could do. I wanted to be the next Einstein, the next Marie Curie. I never thought I’d end up being Oppenheimer instead.
This one is distinctly less happy than the last one, if the quote didn’t tip you off. Less happy sweet, but still sweet.2 And hopeful, in a way. You get the feeling that this could be a movie, if the author wanted it to be- it’d work well as a large-scale cinematic, though this would only be one scene of many.
Trickier With Each Translation
I’m going to leave this one short: time travel is weird, and the time traveller in this one is a creepy, slightly rapacious dude. Grade-A misuse of superpowers, there.
The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal
“When bad Americans die, they go to America.”
Personally, I don’t feel like steampunk fits precisely into the category of science fiction, but evidently Lightspeed‘s editors do, as that’s what this is. Sort of a cross between Jamestown and… well, I don’t know what, really.
All I’ve got left to say is that I found this one funnier than I should’ve, mostly because a key plot point boiled down to “the waiter has slept with all but two of the people in the room.”
The Tip of the Tongue
Okay, the love story in this one is cute but oh god is the setting a nightmare. There’s a couple references in there that made me check the date to make sure it wasn’t a riff on Trump’s presidential campaign, but the part that was really scary was the forced illiteracy. The government of this world apparently decided that being able to read was too much power for people.3 So, with some worryingly inaccurate nanotechnology, they erased the ability read from almost their entire population. And ugh, that’s just a nightmare to me. agh.
How to Remember to Forget to Remember the Old War
I’m unclear on where in the timeline this falls. It could easily be right now, and the characters just happen to be extraterrestrials who were shipped off to Northern California for some reason after a war, or it’s a thousand years in the future and the Bay Area is just resolutely remaining the Bay Area. Hard to say.
What Ah Meng loved most, even more than urban myths and fried garlic, was telling Qiyan to bear children. This was Ah Meng’s hobby. At least it kept her busy, Qiyan’s mother said whenever Qiyan got fed up – as if being busy were enough to keep this ancient relic alive to the point of vampirism.
File this one under “okay, maybe I read too much superhero stuff” because I was really expecting a small apocalypse to happen and everyone to be running around trying to fight a bunch of overly-devoted plants.
Instead it was just a sweet little family story. So happy.
Nothing is Pixels Here
The setting for this one is a bit strange – I’m unclear on how the economics of the VR in this world work. Apparently it’s cheaper to keep people’s bodies in medical sedation and let their minds run around separately, doing work on contract? Rather confusing.
But the characters are nice, and a bit sad, but it’s still sweet.
Oh, this was fun. Modern-day setting, with just a hint of science fiction in the results of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug. The main character has to deal with a rather unhelpful psychologist, and it kinda made me think of Sense8,4 what Nomi had to deal with early in the first season.5 Not quite the same, as the protagonist in this one is a cisgender female, but still. Similar disbelief in what she’s going through.
Two By Two
I’m just… not a fan of apocalyptic stories, folks. The universe is already a terrible place,6 so I don’t really see why people feel the need to add to that. And this one had an added bonus of “the friggin’ South turned back into the CSA,” although, to be fair, they did very lightly pretend it wasn’t about being the Confederacy, they’re the Christian States of America. Sigh.
Die, Sophie, Die
“Like what? This ate my life. And for what?” I looked up at her, trying and failing to keep the hopelessness out of my voice. “It was a snarky article about sexism in a video game. That’s it. I’m not an activist, I’m not like Anita or any of them, I just . . . I just wanted to poke fun at these dudes and get my damn check. That’s all. I don’t even know why this blew up so bad. And I hate that nobody cares anymore. It’s just become normal for this to happen.” I sighed. “I should have known better.”
Like I said. The universe is a terrible place, because this is completely realistic.
“You’re crazy,” the guy said.
“Maybe!” I said. “I mean, after being harassed and stalked and sent pictures of my own dead, mutilated body every day for weeks? Because I wrote an article about sexism in a game? Yeah! I’m probably crazy! I’m fine with that.”
Despite the amount of hatred present in this story, it was surprisingly sweet, and happy. Kindness amidst the hatred.
Original Flash Fiction
These are a good bit shorter, so they get shorter reviews.
Another one of those “surprise brain surgery” type things, only in this one it’s removing specific words. Which is horribly creepy.
Rubbing is Racing
Advanced technology doesn’t mean advanced tactics; the alien superpowers of this story apparently think it’s worth it to write off an entire civilization to kill some sort of bacteria or something that grows deep in the oceans of the planet. Rather rude, if you ask me.
Think Gravity but even more alone, and with a quicker ending.
The Lamb Chops
Is… is that one of the Lizard-People?
I’m still laughing at “Trojan Whores”
Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 13, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind
Man that is one smart 13-year-old.
I… kinda want this one to be made into an animated horror movie.
A Brief History of Whaling with Remarks Upon Ancient Practices
In names there is found whimsy and poetry enough to betray the human heart.
I really liked this one. My favorite, so far, of the flash fiction section, and anything after it is going to have to work hard to surpass it.
Nothing Goes to Waste
In the Dawns Between Hours
Folks, history is important.
Increasing Police Visibility
Get it? The joke is that the TSA doesn’t work.
Letter From an Artist to a Thousand Future Versions of Her Wife
Y’know, I feel like there were ways to test out the ansible technology before thousands of people got left without a lifeline because it failed. Just a thought.
Some slightly longer stories, this time.
Across the Atlantic Ocean and underground, Jean-Michel Gregory was speaking to Dr. Benedicta Goeppert about the end of the universe. She felt very strongly about the nature of existence being cyclical, that all matter would eventually return to the state that stimulated the beginning of the universe as we know it – long after humans were extinct and our sun was dead, expanding space would shrink until it was conducive to a big bang and everything that ever was would be again in its earliest, most basic form.
This one was sad, but I’m glad it included that little blurb there, because that’s the sort of thing I think about a lot. It’s what I hope for- because otherwise, it means that the universe will come to an end and that will be it. I hate that idea.
This one was pretty sad. Depression is a rough thing.7
Y’know, this one probably should’ve been tagged as NSFW, editors.
The Sound of His Wings
I am so confused, folks. But… I think I liked it? Huh.
O Happy Day!
This was… absolutely not what I needed to pick myself up from the terrible mood the news out of Orlando has me in. Agh.
Excerpt: Skin Folk
In this guy’s defense, I also find humans weird and strange. Seriously, biology is weird.
Definitely some interesting stuff to read in here, but nothing that I’m going to break down like I have been the stories above.
A nice little artist’s gallery to start off. I might have to go get the PDF, instead of just the AZW, so I can see some of it in color.
That said, I’m going to stop this review here: It’s more than 2,000 words long, and I never have as much fun writing about nonfiction as I do fiction.8
Even through the bad mood I’m in, though, I can recognize how much I enjoyed this one. You can pick it up on Amazon.
- Okay, no, technically I think first place goes to global warming and second place goes to “Cold War defense system triggers itself due to lack of maintenance and we all nuke ourselves to death,” but THIRD place goes to the AI. ↩
- And now I’ve got “Piano Man” stuck in my head. “It’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete…” ↩
- This after they’d already banned art in all its forms, so really just a matter of time once things get that bad. ↩
- Which I haven’t finished, actually, so no spoilers. ↩
- Is the second season out? I’m bad at following TV shows. ↩
- Citation ↩
- The whole “sad mood” was really compounded by the fact that, right before I started reading this one, I got an email from TIME’s Breaking News department saying that 50 people had died and 53 were injured in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. So, yeah, the world remains an awful place. ↩
- Plus, I’ve spent too long reading the news today, so I’ve got a headache and a deep hatred for mankind, so I shouldn’t really be doing much writing anyways. ↩