RogerBW's Blog

Clarkesworld 150, March 2019 17 March 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.

But, Still, I Smile by D.A. Xiaolin Spires is one of those terribly clever multi-layered stories… only it's the simple version where it's obvious how the multi-layering works and what it's all about. Much more about the metaphor than about the plot or people.

When Home, No Need to Cry by Erin K. Wagner has a dying astronaut who wants to go on One Last Mission, skating over the actual difficulties in favour of lots of description. It almost works, but doesn't quite hold together.

Death of an Air Salesman by Rich Larson does have an air salesman, but doesn't have a death. It's oddly inconsequential, there to show off its grotty world much more than to tell a story.

Dreams Strung like Pearls Between War and Peace by Nin Harris asks: how can you have a revolution, when the secret police can take you apart and put you back together the way they want you? Or rather, perhaps, when the people discover this, how can you not have one? Our protagonist has never been anything but loyal, but…

Now, she watched as her ballroom was transformed into a pristine white wonderland with glistening ice swans and chandeliers with myriad sentient crystals that sang. Calla lilies were woven onto the trellises that soared above carefully positioned tables while crystalline bird-mobiles flew from table to table with dainty hors d'oeuvres, using the same steam-powered technology that powered the Governor's mini-dirigibles.

All right, the steampunk-ness is mere surface flash, but I really enjoyed this one for the people.

Treasure Diving by Kai Hudson has aliens (or modified humans?) looking for treasure. It's a basic mild-peril story that doesn't quite go anywhere in spite of its attempt to Change Everything; there's so much necessary worldbuilding that it all feels new, so there's no sense of weight when one of the bits is changed.

The Thing With the Helmets by Emily C. Skaftun tells you how roller derby saved the world. Yeah, really. It's not brilliant, but it is quite fun.

26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss by Kij Johnson is a fable of a woman who buys a travelling magic show. There's rather too much deliberate distancing (very much as in The Privilege of the Happy Ending last August), which is strange, because otherwise it's just about perfect.

The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente is a Valente story all right:

My name is Tetley Abednego and I am the most hated girl in Garbagetown.

And it's all downhill from there. There's a moderately interesting world behind all this, but everything is ghastly and will never get any better.

The Magician's Garden by Paul Riddell talks about how amazingly complicated it is to grow plants outside their native habitat. It's so superficial that it reads more like a catalogue of objections than like a set of ideas for stories.

High Seas, Multiple Selves, and Unspoken Songs: A Conversation with Sarah Pinsker by Chris Urie has some interesting questions about the interaction between fiction writing and song lyrics, but is mostly a promotion for the new short story collection.

Electronic Music, Science Fiction, and AIs: A Conversation with Jean-Michel Jarre by Neil Clarke manages somehow to say nothing interesting about moderately interesting people; it's mostly a promotion for a new VR project.

Another Word: A Flock of Crows in a Swan Suit by Fran Wilde suggests in short that big unexpected events ought to be foreshadowed, because (a) they often are in the real world if you look, and (b) it makes for a less satisfying story if they aren't.

Editor's Desk: A Celebration of Many Things by Neil Clarke mentions the magazine's internal awards, and various SF translation projects.

The Johnson may get my award nomination (if only there weren't that blasted distancing it would be a dead cert), and the Harris definitely does.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 06:27pm on 17 March 2019

    The Future is Blue was one of the better stories in the Drowned Worlds anthology. It had an actual plot, with actual conflict. Which many of the others in the collection did not.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 06:32pm on 17 March 2019

    That's a thing that many modern story writers and editors don't seem to regard as essential. (And presumably at least some readers don't mind the lack either.)

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