Clarkesworld, Issue #84: A Review

Robot_by_Matt_DixonI don’t usually post my book/fiction reviews here, but I couldn’t stop reading this issue once I opened it up, and when I went to Goodreads, it wasn’t even listed yet!

If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out Issue #84 of Clarkesworld; it’s free, and it’s fantastic!

As a first-time reader to Clarkesworld, I wasn’t expecting much. I like science fiction, but tend to find science fiction collections bogged down by too many nihilistic, dystopian undertones. If Issue 84 is anything to go by, I have to say Clarkesworld is one of the best short fiction magazines out there, and I am thrilled to now have a subscription.

#84 seems to be largely themed around planetary travel, and the risks those travelers make within our own solar system. In this Issue, there was so much to love that I’d like to touch on every section of the magazine separately.

Mar Pacifico by Greg Mellor

From paragraph one, I was absolutely in love with Mellor’s style. The word-smithing, the turn-of-phrase. Every sentence was like a tasty, melty truffle. It was an absolutely stunning work of prose. Usually, I would worry that a writer whose style is that elegant would be lacking in the story-telling element, but Mellor delivers. There was something so perfect about the haunted setting of a dead Pacific that worked so well for this story. Probably one of my favorite science fiction short stories of all time. It will be finding a permanent home in my Kindle.

The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly

I think my favorite thing about this story is how it is told entirely in dialog–believable, sustained dialog between two people. The story itself was unexpected– until the reveal, I did not suspect what was going on, and this kept me really engaged in the story. The small strands of words (e.g. “Noted.” “Go on.”) were so expressive and layered that I could feel the pain of the protagonist. A fantastic story!

One Flesh by Elizabeth Bourne

Another story I really enjoyed. (Three in a row? Wow!) This story takes us to Saturn, and explores the problems and conundrums of the human genome, and our experimentation with it. At the heart of it, One Flesh is a love story, and echoes many of the themes seen in Mar Pacifico. I heartily enjoyed the whole tale, and liked how the main conflicts shifted in such an active way. I’ll be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Out of Copyright by Charles Sheffield

This was the one odd-ball in an otherwise ‘themed’ issue, but I liked it a lot. The story deals with cloning, in a society where geniuses are cloned to help solve the world’s problems. It’s a very clever premise, which I was executed fairly well. I loved how the old ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument was handled, and would have loved to see more character development on the side of the clones.

First Principle by Nancy Kress

This was a really interesting, thought-provoking story. I found myself considering the definition of ‘alien’, and how much it would take for someone who has changed drastically to be considered as such. The story itself is not as highlighted as the internal conflict happening within the main character, but I found I didn’t mind. That conflict was the most interesting part, and so I was more than happy to go head-tripping with Kress’s teenaged Martian. A fun read.

Aliens, Robots, Spaceships and . . . Popsicles? SF on American Radio, Then and Now by Mark Cole

(NONFICTION) This article was really awesome to read. I loved the outlined history of SF radio dramas. It reminded me of when my dad used to talk about waiting anxiously each week to hear The Lone Ranger or Superman. I admit a lot of the names and shows were over my head, as they were way before my time, but it’s great to hear that they’re getting a second life, or second wind, through podcasts. Having just found out about a pod-drama just a few days ago, this was a very timely read.

Organic Synthesis: A Conversation with Ken Liu by Jeremy L. C. Jones

(INTERVIEW) This was a great interview with a translator and Hugo-award winning author about wuxia stories from China. I was delighted to hear about all of his translation work and love of the genre, as one of my favorite books of all time, “The Story of the Stone” or “Dream of Red Chamber“, is similar to the genre (if a bit dense). I really agreed with his take on how translations should be a little strange. I read a lot of translated literature, and when it’s translated well, it’s like nothing else available in English. (“Neverending Story”, for example, or “Ring”.)

Another Word: I am an Endangered Species by Alethea Kontis

(OPINION) I enjoyed this short musing on the general disenchantment of this generation when it comes to love. Kontis’s thoughts on how and why that is were, I felt, pretty spot on. As far as ‘love at first sight’? I still believe! (I also believe in Happily Ever After.)

Editor’s Desk: Post-Apocalyptic Publishing by Neil Clarke

I really wish I got more of the references in this. I have a feeling I missed out on a lot of inside jokes with this one. Nonetheless, it was amusing where I could extrapolate the meaning or joke through context. I read in Neil Clarke’s bio that he was nominated for a Hugo Award for his short fiction editing. I’m not surprised! This was an amazing issue of stellar stories and articles. I am just floored by the quality. Can’t wait for the next issue!

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