RogerBW's Blog

Clarkesworld 154, July 2019 17 July 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.

"The Visible Frontier" by Grace Seybold has someone learning about navigation on a strange world:

"So you don't trust sky maps for navigation, not by themselves," the captain continued. "Shore maps can be good for a generation, and sea charts are good enough if you get them updated every year, but stars can change between one night and the next. And there's no pattern to it; they can change by a lot, or by a little, which is worse."

There are wildly varying technologies, and species, and you can work out the nature of the world, and it's all becoming rather enjoyable… until the author decides that Fun Time Is Over, the narrator's interest in learning about things is shut down (for his own good), and he goes away to have an incurious life. After the enjoyable start, this felt like a slap.

"Xingzhou" by Ng Yi-Sheng: an undeveloped narrator describes his ancestors: a peasant making it as a rickshaw coolie in the big city, a demon, a hive intelligence, all in a city paved with stars (literally, it's painful to walk). Which is fine, but the random throwing in of recognisable terms and phases from other SF stories is distancing (Hooloovoo, Slurm, Shoggoths, "I should have recognised your foul stench"), and the interesting ideas are mostly there for gosh-wow rather than to be explored.

"Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart" by Sam J. Miller has Ann Darrow, post-King Kong, catching a cab… and why and how the world ends. I don't love it, but it's powerful and effective.

"Wu Ding's Journey to the West" by Tang Fei has people who live backwards, and the complexities of forecasting of when a great project will fall out of disrepair and become usable… but it goes on, and on, and doesn't get anywhere.

"Flowers on My Face" by Geo-il Bok shows a community of directionless robots on Ganymede, after the disaster killed all the humans. It's atmospheric, but has no tension or direction.

"One in a Million" by Rodrigo Juri has a rich kid (constantly describing themself as "we" for no obvious reason), and a doomed holiday romance, and the awkward people who fight against paradise (but there's no reason given other than their awkwardness, no sign of the shared ideas that would bind them together). Predictable and drab.

"The Weapons of Wonderland" by Thoraiya Dyer: two separate people writing to someone who might be able to help them trying to talk her onto their side, but it's constantly jumping back and forth without clear signalling of the jumps, and there no sense of wonder about it all, just grinding "this is how it has to work".

"Tolkien and World War I" by Carrie Sessarego is a much-needed antidote to the recent film Tolkien, which like most depictions of creative people removes all the actual creativity and claims that everything in Tolkien's books was directly inspired by events in his life. This piece tries to be a bit more even-handed.

"Fractal Universes, Serialized Novels, and a Cat: A Conversation with Yoon Ha Lee" by Chris Urie promotes the upcoming collection Hexarchate Stories. I grew less interested in Lee as a person as I read more about him, but I still want to read the collection.

"Byzantium, New York, and Rose Petals: A Conversation with Arkady Martine" by Chris Urie promotes her first novel A Memory Called Empire. I doubt I'll want to read it, but at least I know why.

"Editor's Desk: From the Moon to Magazines" by Neil Clarke talks about two recent anthologies, and the difficulty of having a system in which people expect short fiction to be free. (With no mention of the difficulty that the modern SF magazines are not the only short fiction source that now exists.)

The Miller piece might get a nomination, but this felt like a very dull issue overall.

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