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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Uncanny #20, January/February 2018

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Uncanny #20, January/February 2018

She Still Loves the Dragon” by Elizabeth Bear

Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse” by S. B. Divya
The Hydraulic Emperor” by Arkady Martine
Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage” by Marissa Lingen
Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” by Sunny Moraine
The Utmost Bound” by Vivian Shaw
The Date” by R. K. Kalaw

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

There were eight stories in this issue, including two novelettes and one flash. One of the novelettes was previously published and not reviewed.

She Still Loves the Dragon” by Elizabeth Bear

Seeking adventure, a knight climbs a mountain to visit the last dragon in this short fantasy. When she sees the dragon resting in its nest, she accepts its invitation to join it. After all, she isn’t there to kill it but to be with it.

In time the knight flies with the dragon and sees the world from high up. And to protect the knight, the dragon sets her on fire. Despite the flames, the knight still loves the last dragon.

This was not a conventional story. Rather, it was a story that spurred the mind with its messages hidden in the prose.

Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse” by S. B. Divya

This action-packed SF short takes place in the future, in a US state that uses deadly force against anyone breaking its laws. A doctor and her wife help women in need, which is illegal in this state. Now the authorities are closing in on them and their two children.

Without warning or mercy, the police open fire intending to destroy their home, but the wife manages to escape with the children. Can she get away and convince others to risk their lives to get the remains of her family to a safe-haven?

This was a gripping story from the start. The author allowed the reader to revel in trying to resolve many mysteries. Overall a fast paced and entertaining read.

The Hydraulic Emperor” by Arkady Martine

In Martine’s SF novelette, Mallory is a collector of immersive films. An interplanetary conglomerate persuades her to represent them in bidding for an alien Qath box. The only rub is that the bidding involves offering things that are most important to her.

The conglomerate offers her the only known copy of an immersive film if she wins the auction. She wants that film badly and is willing to give almost everything to win the bidding. But then, so do all the other bidders.

This story was slow to develop, as the author has relied too much on describing rather than showing.

Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage” by Marissa Lingen

A wizard, Shuang, suddenly finds herself encased in a cherry tree in this intriguing short fantasy. She had been negotiating a contract to defeat the iron giants to the north. Now, unsure which rival cast the spell, Shuang waits for her apprentice, Verloc, to free her. When no help comes she finds her own way out, only to discover it was Verloc who entombed her, so he could win the contract.

Shuang seeks out another leader wanting to defeat the iron giants, leaving Verloc stranded in a contract he cannot fulfill. Can Shuang take advantage of her recent imprisonment to craft a new way to deal with the unstoppable iron giants?

This was a nicely crafted story, full of mysteries, that was easy to read.

Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” by Sunny Moraine

When a woman feels strong emotions of anger or ecstasy she destroys the things around her in this short fantasy. Blessed, or cursed, with a special power that she cannot control, she tries to stay even keeled.

But when she discovers a woman with the same power they come unraveled together. Their love-making explodes things around them, but their disagreements are even more destructive. Can they find a way out of their downward spiral?

Told from the internal perspective of the main character, this story contained mostly her introspection with a story threaded through her views. Overall the story was interesting and a pleasure to read.

The Utmost Bound” by Vivian Shaw

In Shaw’s short science fiction story, McBride and Artanian orbit Venus, controlling a rover exploring the surface. The planet’s atmosphere is corrosive and ninety times Earth’s pressure. HQ orders the distant crew to send the rover to check out an anomaly detected to the north.

At the anomaly, they discover a metal object. A closer look reveals a spacecraft. But, no records exist of any US or Russian probe sent to this area. And so, it is with trepidation that Artanian manually controls the rover to peek inside a port hole.

This story started slowly and dragged throughout. It did little to add new ideas to the SF genre.

The Date” by R. K. Kalaw

An odd couple go out on a first date in this flash SF. One tends to eat its dates; the other is a strange multi-character. Over dinner they size each other up to decide just how this date will end.

This was a well-paced story with enough beguiling little mysteries to keep the reader engaged.