RogerBW's Blog

Clarkesworld 155, August 2019 16 August 2019

Clarkesworld is a monthly on-line magazine edited by Neil Clarke.

Everything is available in HTML from the magazine's site, and it can be bought in various other formats.

"Entangled", by Beston Barnett, has an interstellar society where people of various species live on each other's planets… permanently, via telepresence but with no exposure to their home culture because they're put in the telepresence pods at birth or equivalent. (Issues of consent are ignored.) Lovely ideas, and it seems to be building up to a surprise, but not only does the ending not resolve anything, it wasn't in the least surprising.

"Onyx Woods and the Grains of Deception", by D.A. Xiaolin Spires, is very obviously a Moral Story about the foreigners coming to rape the land and someone's decision to rebel against them… but how is she going to rebel? What about the omnipresent secret police who have prevented rebellion thus far? Eh, who cares about that, this is a story about one person making up her mind. Except she mostly seems to have made it up before the story starts.

"Your Face", by Rachel Swirsky, is a dialogue-only piece that's so busy bludgeoning you over the head with the Subtle Hints that someone is talking to an imperfect personality recording of her dead daughter that it forgets to have a plot, or characters.

"The Yorkshire Mammoth", by Harry Turtledove, is a story of a young vet and a domesticated mammoth with a broken tusk (because Yorkshire is right on the edge of the Ice)… but that's all it is. There's no exploration of the background. It's just a slice-of-life.

"In This Moment, We Are Happy", by Chen Qiufan, translated by Rebecca Kuang, is a really weird story. It starts off exploring the implications of surrogate pregnancies, DNA combination from same-sex couples, and so on, in a way that might have been daring in the 1980s and readable in the 1990s but now just seems tired (why yes, many of us have moved beyond the idea that the only value of women is their ability to bear children); then all of a sudden apparently everyone has become infertile but a guerilla gene-lab has produced the next model of human. Maybe it makes more sense in its original cultural context.

"The Second Nanny", by Djuna, translated by Sophie Bowman, has a post-AI-apocalypse colony round Neptune, and starts off well… but oh dear, the "bad" AIs are the Fathers and they rage and make war, and the "good" AIs are the Mothers and they nurture life, so what the hell was the point of wiping out a large chunk of the human race if you can't even get away from this kind of primitive gender essentialism? Also very non-idiomatic translation, with phrases like "the cylinder of the interior of the colony remained a vacuum".

"It Came From the Garage! Technology, Film and the Guy Next Door", by Marc Cole, mostly name-checks a few microbudget filmmakers without saying much about what makes them special.

"Carbon Planets", by Tomas Petrasek, speculates on the existence of planets with a preponderance of carbon in their makeup, and tries to make them sound exciting even though the possibilities of life are fairly minimal. But I'm odd; I'd rather read the papers that were Petrasek's source material than the sexed-up summary.

"Mission Critical: A Conversation with Jonathan Strahan", by Neil Clarke is unabashedly laudatory. But I've read several anthologies edited by Strahan and not yet enjoyed one.

"Editor's Desk: One Hundred Thousand Titles", by Neil Clarke looks at which titles have been used most often in submissions to Clarkesworld. (Most popular: "Home".)

Nothing here that inspired me to anything positive. If the next issue is similarly lacking in interest to me I'll probably stop reading.

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