Clarkesworld, Issue #92: A Review

clarkesworld-magazine-issue-92-cover-200x309I am depressingly behind on reading this wonderful magazine. Way back in September of last year, I read my first issue from Clarkesworld and haven’t picked it up since.

There’s really no reason for it––no excuse. This is a gorgeous magazine, from cover to design to accessibility, with stories that are fresh, emotionally present, and masterfully written.

Issue 92 took hold of me from the start and refused to let go. I found myself savoring each story, unable to just blast through it like I can with other anthologies. The selections made me pause and consider so much about what science fiction can be, how it can feel even when its dystopian.

One of my favorite things about this magazine, more than any other on the market for science fiction, or fantasy, or literary, is the covers. All of Clarkesworld’s covers are epic, masterful works of art in the modern style. It gives the magazine an air of quality that really makes me eager to crack open its pages and dive right in. Here’s just a quick sample of the magazine’s recent covers:

A lot of these artists are people I follow on Deviantart, so it’s awesome to see them getting exposure on the cover of a magazine I love.

In any case, this review isn’t just about the art of Clarkesworld! I have some amazing stories to talk about, as well.

I should also mention that for those people that prefer audio formats, Clarkesworld has a podcast available for download on multiple formats.

The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye by Matthew Kressel

5.0 Stars

In a distant future where stars blink out like lightbulbs and the idea of a diversely populated universe is a thing less of memory and more legend, the Meeker travels the universe with the All-Seeing Eye in search of more celestial fuel. A chance find of human DNA leads the All-Seeing Eye to recreate Beth, a woman doomed to die hours after her revivification.

This story is touching on so many levels, and though the story only features three main characters, it fills the mind like the great expanse of the cosmos. The lonely dark is palpable, and its themes ask the great questions of what it is to suffer, and to be used. I would love to see this story, or at the very least this universe, expanded, but it it just perfect as it is now, as well. If you read nothing else from this issue, be sure it’s this one.

Also, I’ve started following Matthew Kressel’s blog, which is quite well-written and engaging. Take a look!

A Gift in Time by Maggie Clark

5.0 Stars

Time travel. Love (or Obsession, depending on how you read it). A Gift in Time is a wonderful LGBT contribution by Maggie Clark.

Mouse, a modern-day relic hunter, has a special gift. With a thought, a twisting beat of his heart, he can travel through time. His gift he uses for the sake of another, his “Adonis”, a secretary at his work that he is obsessed with pleasing. But a small mention of some long-lost article sends Mouse scrambling into the past to find it, but at the core of this story is the message of losing yourself for another. A touching story that uses its scifi elements to enhance the story, rather than overpower it.

Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds by E. Catherine Tobler

3.5 Stars

It took me a while to slip into this story, partly because the narration was in first person, and even though I don’t mind first person, I tend to find it inauthentic when the narrator gets overly descriptive in a desolate or desperate landscape. I took half a day off from finishing the story and started over, so I could come back to it with a fresh mind and start again.

The story, the trek of a woman across the barren landscape of a future world with merely bunkers and bodies of the dead, is a vignette; a dystopia void of humor, light, or hope. Only the question of ‘why’ pulls the narrative along. For fans of serious, darker science fiction, E. Catherine Tobler’s tale fits the bill. While the story is superb in its latter half, I would have liked more answers to the questions raised by the story, overall.

Night of the Cooters by Howard Waldrop

4.0 Stars

It’s the Wild Wild West, and Sheriff Lindley is just trying to get some shut eye. However, between peach thieves and Martian invaders, it’s hard to even keep his eyes closed long enough to dream. Waldrop’s contribution is a good, old-fashioned hoedown with a retro scifi feeling. I loved the dialog and the action sequences in particular. A little hard to keep track of all the characters in so short a piece, though.

Beluthahatchie by Andy Duncan

5.0 Stars

There were so many things that could have gone wrong in this story. John, a black man from the Deep South, dies after swallowing poison, and ends up taking a train to Hell–except John refuses to get off at the station, and ends up in Beluthahatchie. Duncan creates a vivid, purposeful narrative (told in convincing first person) that takes you down the old familiar tale of the Delta Blues and the Devil.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Crossroads, so this made Duncan’s story an absolute pleasure to read. Another story I recommend not skipping, even if you’re in a hurry.

Nonfiction Articles

For the sake of time, I’m not going to review Clarkesworld’s nonfiction articles individually anymore, but I will point out the few that stood out to me.

Ed Grabianowski wrote an excellent article on prosthetic limbs and their history. Definitely worth a read if you plan to make use of them in your stories.

Bud Sparhawk’s article on the various software available to writers is not all-inclusive, but it’s a decent starting point when starting to shop around for new ways to get writing.

5 thoughts on “Clarkesworld, Issue #92: A Review

  1. Hi Alex,

    Great review.

    I remain intrigued by how you have presented and reviewed some of the pieces of ‘Clarkesworld’. Tell me, is the name inspired by Arthur C. Clarke? if so, do the stories have also something to do with his genre’ of Science fiction?

    Shakti

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    1. Hello Shakti,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I actually don’t know the history behind the name beyond the fact that the founding editor is named Neil Clarke, so I always envisioned it was named after him… but it’s also possible it is a play on words!

      Clarkesworld stories tend to be lighter science fiction, not in the terms of “soft” science fiction, but in terms of overall tones. Whereas a lot of science fiction can become pretty dark or depressing, even nihilistic, I’ve found the selections at Clarkesworld to be engaging and varied in their treatment of our future.

      It’s certainly worth a read––all of Clarkesworld is free reading, so feel free to browse to your heart’s content. 🙂 http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/

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