RogerBW's Blog

Clarkesworld 164, May 2020 13 May 2020

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.

"What Happens in Solarium Square 21" by Ashleigh Shears: has one really good idea, the domestic robots keeping up the appearance of normality after their principal has died, but then wanders off into "this mysterious minor thing that X was complaining about is actually terribly important because Y that I didn't bother to mention" territory.

"Albedo Season" by Ray Nayler is a straightforward ecological puzzle, which is quite interesting… except for the dull simplistic characters and the pointless framing story.

"A Stick of Clay, in the Hands of God, is Infinite Potential" by Jy Neon Yang is trying to be an interstellar mecha war story and a story about gender identity at the same time. Which has potential. But by saying "this particular person, who's a biological construct without conventional upbringing, is therefore unsure about their gender identity (if any)", it feels as though it's also saying "but other people have less excuse". Eh, I don't think this is really written for me anyway.

"Quantum Fish" by Bo Balder is another, slightly less straightforward ecological puzzle (why two in the same issue?) with a bit more personality to it. There's rather more than really fits in the short story, and I'd like to read it at greater length.

"The Language Sheath" by Regina Kanyu Wang, translated by Emily Jin and Regina Kanyu Wang, has a controlling alcoholic mother trying to freeze her (obscure and somewhat obsolescent) language for use in automatic translators… but it never does anything interesting with it (e.g. the obvious-to-me idea that once the translator works, nobody will ever bother to learn this language again). A bit of a let-down.

"The Translator, at Low Tide" by Vajra Chandrasekera has nothing to say about translation. The island is flooding, civilisation is collapsing, imagery imagery no plot.

"Ray Guns, Robots and Spaceships, Oh My! The Birth of Science Fiction Toys" by Mark Cole is a catalogue more than an analysis.

"Flying Ponies: A Conversation with Lois McMaster Bujold" by Arley Sorg is the first interview I've seen in Clarkesworld not done specifically to promote a new publication. Interesting things both about Bujold's early reading and writing life and about some of her recent work.

"The Horror of it All! A Conversation with Tamsyn Muir" by Arley Sorg is more conventionally promotional, but since Gideon the Ninth was the last thing I read before this I was in the mood to read more about Muir. As I'd suspected, there's quite a bit of depth to this series.

"Editor's Desk: Focus Neil, Focus" by Neil Clarke: he's having trouble maintaining motivation. (Why? People are still wanting to read!)

Nothing here that I liked well enough to nominate.

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Previous in series: Clarkesworld 163, April 2020 | Series: Clarkesworld | Next in series: Clarkesworld 165, June 2020

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