Compelling SF #7, June/July 2017

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Compelling Science Fiction #7, June/July 2017

“What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” by R. R. Angell

“Thinking Inside the Box” by Michèle Laframboise
“Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson
“Integration” by John Eckelkamp
“Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Many of these stories deal with themes involving thinking and consciousness, whether human, alien, or artificial. From Muscle Beach to deep space, the nature of what makes us human is explored in imaginative ways.

R. R. Angell leads off the issue with “What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” A professional body builder down on his luck gets an intriguing offer. If he will agree to undergo a head transplant, exchanging his young, healthy torso for that of an aging billionaire, he will be rewarded with great luxury, even if it means shortening his expected lifespan. Although this sounds like the plot of an old-fashioned science fiction movie, the author works hard to make it plausible. The protagonist figures out how to turn the situation to his advantage.

“Thinking Inside the Box” by Michèle Laframboise takes the reader into an alien spaceship. Human visitors find the place difficult to understand, because it always changes in unpredictable ways. The aliens, in turn, find it impossible to imagine living without constant change. When a crisis forces the aliens to deal with a static environment, a simple human invention helps them cope. The author does a good job narrating from the point of view of an alien who thinks in very different ways from a human.

The protagonist of “Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson is an android who was married to the man who designed her programming. After his death, she is brought in for questioning by police detectives who are unsure of her legal status and the danger she might pose. What follows is more of a philosophical discussion of the nature of humanity than a story, but it’s an interesting one.

“Integration” by John Eckelkamp is a brief tale about an artificial intelligence which inhabits a synthetic body so it can be educated like a human child. The simple process of planting a bean in a pot and watching it sprout serves as a powerful lesson. This story is dense with futuristic concepts and must be read carefully to be fully appreciated.

A semi-biological undersea ship the size of a city serves as the setting for “Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns. After it fails to rescue a surface ship of the same size from a gigantic hurricane, the ship is infested by an unknown form of life. The emergency continues as the infestation cripples the ship’s artificial intelligence, as well as other vital systems. A child’s imaginary friend serves as a clue to the solution of the problem. This is a tense adventure story which reads something like an underwater version of Star Trek. Unfortunately, it ends very suddenly, with many of the reader’s questions unanswered.

Victoria Silverwolf is not an artificial intelligence.