RogerBW's Blog

Clarkesworld 148, January 2019 24 January 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.

Eater of Worlds by Jamie Wahls is a splendid machine story: a magical-nanotech device arrives at an alien world and tries to complete its mission, but consciousness gets involved. I found one particular bit of name juggling somewhat confusing but overall this worked really very well indeed.

One's Burden, Again by Natalia Theodoridou has mysterious machinery and letting go of grief and the punishment of Sisyphus translated to an asteroid mine… but somehow it never quite sparks, at least for me.

Fire in the Bone by Ray Nayler is set on an agricultural world with human masters and robots which, it becomes apparent, are enslaved; it has sensible things to say about how slavery damages the masters as well as the slaves, but spoils it with a pointless twist ending. (Though I think it's usually an error to talk in passing about something that sounds much more fun than the story is currently being; in this case it's "Ocean worlds of sentient, phosphorescent tentacle minds".)

The Ghosts of Ganymede by Derek Künsken has both sets of refugees from the war that destroyed their countries sent off to settle a new world, so that's a disaster waiting to happen even before things go wrong. It's not really about the people, though, but about mysterious quantum phenomena which are unquestioningly regarded as the enemy even before anything is known about them; which is an idea that might be developed, except that the writer seems to feel that way about them too. Also jumps about in tense, in a way an editor should have caught ("This part of Ganymede didn't have real regolith, a deep mixture of particles and loose stone, but a layer of dust a few centimeters deep seems to have lain here for all time").

Venus in Bloom by Lavie Tidhar is a mood piece rather than having a plot. And it's another story that hints of far more interesting things happening elsewhere: "Not like the real heaven that the priests in the Robot Vatican on Mars were trying to create in the zero-point field".

Left to Take the Lead by Marissa Lingen is mostly a story of growing up, but the setting – lots of space-dwellers after a big catastrophe of some sort, forced to labour on Earth to pay for their education – has some interest. I wouldn't mind reading more of this setting and this person.

They Have All One Breath by Karl Bunker has humans failing to cope with post-Singularity life. It has some good lines ("So as of now, there's no such thing as human progress anymore, because it isn't humans who are doing it") but it's rather dreary overall.

Eros, Phileo, Agape, Storge: Love and Romance in Science Fiction by Carrie Sessarego is mostly a catalogue piece but tries to show the breadth of the field.

The Meisner Technique, Alien Consciousness, and Bathrobes: A Conversation with Wesley Chu by Chris Urie is an interview with an author I find unreadable; to me he comes over here as smug and self-satisfied, getting away with the trick, but probably people who like his work will appreciate this more.

Another Word: The Trouble with Utopia by Kelly Robson is a call to write utopias (and to make them interesting), with some of the pitfalls laid out.

Editor's Desk: 2018 Reader's Poll by Neil Clarke asks readers to be ready to nominate the best stories of the year.

Eater of Worlds may well get a Hugo nod if I'm nominating next year. Two stories that I really enjoyed is a better score than many issues.

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Previous in series: Clarkesworld 147, December 2018 | Series: Clarkesworld | Next in series: Clarkesworld 149, February 2019

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