“Floaters Can’t Float” by Pip Coen
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
The sixth issue of Compelling Science Fiction has expanded to six stories, their most ever. As usual, they concentrate on hard(ish) science fiction.
“Floaters Can’t Float” by Pip Coen is set in a post-apocalyptic New York City, where Brix is on the lookout for tourists—time tourists who come from the past to visit the ruins. The travelers, though, can be off just slightly in location, landing underground, or in the air, or in walls and not only dying, but killing those nearby. Brix helps to clean up the mess and to rescue the “clovers”—those who manage to beat the odds. Much of the story reveals hints of Brix’s background and why he chose this work. The mechanics of the time travel seem a bit problematic to me, but the story does draw a different type of story and reveals Brix’s motivations.
Deborah L. Davitt contributes “Demeter’s Regard.” Set aboard a generation ship, Demeter, its AI, has tended the ship and its crew since the beginning. A few of the younger members question having to take the roles given to them in order to keep the ship functioning, and Demeter tells the story of William Kemp, the last captain of the ship, in order to help them understand. Unfortunately, Kemp is just a Mary Sue, someone who is flawless and completely idealized and he ends up like all too many of the Mary Sues. Though meant to be heroic, he is just too good to be true and the story is set up with the idea that the reader should fall in love with him, but little else..
In “Quantum Coursework,” Anton, a college student, creates a holographic simulation that seems to exactly match reality. Marcus Holm‘s story takes the concept and unveils it much too slowly, and then doesn’t do a lot with it, all in service to a “twist” ending. There were many roads the story could have gone down, but the one chosen is not particularly interesting.
Karl K. Gallagher‘s “Samaritan” is set on the moon, where there are various self-sufficient colonies. Thomas Schmidt is part of an austere religious sect and has been sent out to find ore that might prove his worth after he has been passed over for marriage. While there, he sees a nearby colony go dark, and a ship crash near him. Its pilot, Roic, survives, but is badly injured and Thomas has to take care of him. I did like the lunar societies, and the breakthrough that Thomas has as he realizes that his beliefs are not necessarily right for him.
“Aspiration Value” by Mike Reeves-McMillan is the story of Aspasia, who is an aspiration model—someone who wears fancy clothes and eats at top restaurants and whose actions are followed, as a way to promote products. At a gym, she runs into Keith, an artist who is somewhat skeptical of her occupation and Aspasia finds his subtle disapproval disturbing. The story holds no surprises as the situation unfolds just the way you expect it to. I would have preferred a more nuanced—or even more unexpected—playing out of the story.
Matt Raviner‘s “The Meta Traveler” is a wild time travel story where the time traveler is caught by various time enforcement agencies and lies through his teeth in order to confuse them and try to change everything to his liking. The story also ends with a twist. It’s interesting in concept, and the various ways he discusses the alternate histories he’s inventing are amusing to a degree, but the story doesn’t add up to much.