RogerBW's Blog

Uncanny 29, July/August 2019 06 September 2019

Uncanny is a bimonthly on-line magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

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

"The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye" by Sarah Pinsker has a crime novelist staying at an isolated cabin to finish her latest book, and her assistant who's… maybe too good to be true? A dead body turns up, and things escalate. It's a very good situation, and the people and the dialogue work very well; if only there were a bit more of a plot beyond "so that's what's going on, now the story ends".

"Big Box" by Greg van Eekhout offers all the storybook deals in one convenient shop, including things like "pants that shave six inches from your waistline and every time you wear them shave four hours off your life". But that's it; it's one core idea and a list of examples, with just a tissue of a narrator to make it a "story".

"Compassionate Simulation" by Rachel Swirsky and P. H. Lee is the sort of story I'm coming to expect from Swirsky, from the point of view of a computer simulation of a dead estranged daughter – which has full access to her memories and thought patterns. So what it's about, naturally, is violent abuse. (Second-person present doesn't endear it to me either.)

"A Champion of Nigh-Space" by Tim Pratt is some honest fun for a change, in which the narrator's girlfriend turns out to be a warrior defending the multiverse. It doesn't particularly make sense, but it's good plain escapist fantasy, and I could easily see it becoming the first chapter of a novel.

"The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor" by Maurice Broaddus is a series through history of vignettes of black people moving to new homes; it feels to me too consciously worthy, but may work better for other readers.

"How the Trick Is Done" by A.C. Wise is a lush and dark fantasy of the magician, and the bullet-catching trick, and the people left in the magician's wake. The people are excellent, and it even has a plot and a conclusion.

"On the Impurity of Dragon-kind" by Marie Brennan is a tie-in to her series; Lady Trent's fifteen-year-old son debates on the subject of whether (all, or some) dragons should be considered scripturally unclean. I don't remember the invented religion in the one of her novels I've read being so blatantly derived from Judaism, but that's very much the model here; it's mildly fun but goes on too long.

"If Love Is Real, So Are Fairies" by Cynthia So is the one of the four pieces of poetry in this issue that had something to say to me.

"The Uncanny Valley" by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas is a short meditation on resilience.

"The Gang’s All Here: Writing Lessons from The Good Place" by Tansy Rayner Roberts is mostly "gosh, this show is wonderful" but tries to draw a few generally-applicable points.

"The Better Place" by Karlyn Ruth Meyer is a consideration of the effect the show has had on the author and her friends, and how to use its ideas in real life. It works rather better than the previous piece.

"Was Trials of Mana Worth Growing Up For?" by Aidan Moher is computer-gaming nostalgia (a game published for the SNES in Japanese in 1995 has finally been translated into English). Doesn't really have much to say beyond "I like it, but I'm not the person I was in 1995".

"Sir Elsa of Tortall, Knight of the Realm" by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (whose name I'm suddenly seeing everywhere, after I ran into her at a Worldcon panel) looks at how a young girl's projection into a Tamora Pierce book has remained with her in later life. To me this is the sort of thing one might do, but not talk about, but clearly it works for the author.

"Beware the Lifeboat" by Marissa Lingen starts from the mindset of The Cold Equations to encourage people to remember compassion, because strict allocation systems and "hard decisions" are never as logical and dispassionate as they pretend to be.

"Interview: Greg van Eekhout" and "Interview: Maurice Broaddus" by Caroline M. Yoachim both avoid asking any hard questions; they're more puff pieces for the authors than anything more.

I may perhaps nominate the Pinsker, and will probably nominate the Pratt and the Wise.

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Series: Uncanny | Next in series: Uncanny 30, September/October 2019

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