RogerBW's Blog

Strange Horizons, September 2019 14 October 2019

Strange Horizons is a weekly on-line magazine edited by Vanessa Rose Phin.

Everything is available in HTML from the magazine's site. I'm collecting all five of September's issues here because that's about the size of collection I feel happy to review in a single blog post.

2 September

The Head by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur: a woman finds a head floating in her toilet, formed from her body waste. And it follows her to other toilets… I assume the author is trying for phantasmagoria, but it's so obviously trying to be weird that for me it loses its effect. That might be an artefact of translation, I suppose.

Guests from the Sky by Ji Yun, translated by Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum: a man becomes a fairy's lover, wastes away and dies. Be content with your lot, peasant! Still, this is apparently a story from 1798, and the translators are at pains to draw parallels with 1950s tales of alien abduction.

9 September

And Now His Lordship is Laughing, by Shiv Ramdas: slightly interesting magic but it's set against the Bengal Famine of 1943, which was entirely because the British were greedy and for no other reason at all. Naked polemics are dull.

The Joy, by Sarah Shirley: blank verse that's really more of an ultra-short story. I rather like it.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar, by Adri Joy: unlike the blatant praise I've seen elsewhere, points up some of the shortcomings of the novella as well as its good aspects. Which makes me more interested in reading it. [Which I have since done.]

A Year Without a Winter edited by Dehlia Hannah, by Octavia Cade, is an excoriating review of what might be a decent short-story collection if it weren't weighed down by all the badly-written non-fiction by people who have plenty of money and time to travel to Antarctica or Tambora but, even in the context of an anthology about climate change, don't see how that might not be a great idea or how other people might not have those options.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, by Electra Pritchett, makes this fantasy set in 1920s Mexico sound fascinating. (And I've liked Moreno-Garcia's short fiction elsewhere.)

16 September

This is How, by Marie Brennan, is a series of snippets of the life of a monster, showing how it might become something else. It's an unconventional style of narrative but I rather like it.

Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson, by Catherine Baker, has a hard job in reviewing this fourth and final book in a series. Baker does well contextualising it as post-post-Cold-War spy fiction, but when I read this I'll start at the beginning.

Monster Portraits by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar, by Nicole E. Beck, was never likely to win me over given previous experience of Sofia's writing, but does a decent job of letting the reader know what they'll be in for.

The Green and Growing by Erin K. Wagner, by Stephen Case, makes the book sound as if it spends too much time deconstructing the idea of the well-intentioned white saviour in a post-colonial narrative to get round to telling an actual story.

23 September

"In Technicolor: A Roundtable on the Future of Diversity in Speculative Fiction" by Nisi Shawl, Linda Addison, Crystal Connor, Eileen Gunn, Greg Herren, Maria Nieto, Sumiko Saulson, Rain Graves, and Tristissima et alia: feels like coming in half-way through an argument, or actually a bunch of different arguments. Most of the writers talk more about their own hobby-horses (and particularly about the future of AI, not in fiction) than about speculative fiction. This may well be great for someone, but I'm not that person.

"The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling" by Nibedita Sen makes the book sound really fascinating. I am likely to give this a try.

"Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi" by Matt Hilliard does a good job of putting the story in context with Rajaniemi's other work and with SF that explores similar ideas.

"AfroSFv.3, edited by Ivor W. Hartmann" by Rachel Cordasco also sounds interesting, though my experience with African SF generally hasn't been positive.

30 September

"Replacement" by Isa Prospero: favela kids sell their body parts for cash. Good atmosphere, but nothing but atmosphere.

"Progression" by Heitor Zen: the narrator has an angel sharing their flat, and this is why he has to run away… no, it doesn't hold together, and being told out of order just makes it more obvious.

"Spider" by Sérgio Motta is another that's atmosphere over everything else.

"Ajé" by H. Pueyo at least has some characters – the hidden magicians who transfer magic so that it doesn't get too concentrated. Mostly it's about terrible domestic situations and giving up, but after the last three stories at least it has a recognisable plot.

"High Hopes" by Kali de los Santos is a fairy tale of a hopeless and pointless revolution, and I'm not even sure that the author realises it.

"The State of Play of Brazilian SFF" by Jana Bianchi traces the history of SF in Brazil (struggling against macho nonsense, even more than in other places) and summarises the current big names.

"3%" by Preeti Singh makes this TV series sound like a Brazilian ripoff of Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, but apparently the characterisation is solid and it goes rather further into self-analysis that one might have expected.

"Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac, translated by Roy Kesey" by Abigail Nussbaum sounds like biopunk with quite a lot of bad sex and underdeveloped female characters; not much fun, I suspect.

"Collision: Stories by J. S. Breukelaar" by Cynthia C. Scott: a combination of "doesn't quite work" and "like Kelly Link when it does work" is enough to put me off from this collection.

There are things I enjoyed in this month's offerings, but nothing I'm likely to nominate for an award.

Previous in series: Strange Horizons, August 2019 | Series: Strange Horizons

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