Galaxy’s Edge #62, May/June 2023

Galaxy’s Edge #62, May/June 2023

“Moon and Sky, Feather and Stone” by Rebecca E. Treasure

“That Sunday on the Trail With the Merest Breath of Sea” by Beth Cato

“The Land of Permutations” by Tatsiana Zamirovskaya

“The Inconstant Heart” by Kary English

“The Werewolf” by Jonathan Lenore Kastin

“Fruiting Bodies” by Xauri’EL Zwaan

“Xi Box” by T. R. Napper

“Kristin, With Caprice” by Alan Smale (reprint, not reviewed)

“The Dreadnought Agamemnon, on Course to Conquer the Peaceful Moon of Re” by Dafydd McKimm

“Pablovision” by Deborah L. Davitt

“A Feast of Memories” by R. D. Harris

“Five Stages of When the Stars Went Out” by Samantha Murray

“Planned Obsolescence” by Auston Habershaw

“Probably the Most Amazing Kiss Ever” by Robert P. Switzer

“Mercy” by Stephen Lawson

“The Bride of Frankenstein” by Mike Resnick (reprint, not reviewed)

“The Bleeding Moon” by Monte Lin

“Slow Blow Circuit” by Lisa Short

“Six Ways to Get Past the Shadow Shogun’s Goons, and One Thing to Do When You Get There” by Stewart C Baker

“Carrion” by Storm Humbert

“The Woman of the Lake” by Marissa Tian

“The Black Zone: Murder in the Locked Room” by Fu Qiang

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The last issue of Galaxy’s Edge in the form of a bimonthly online magazine offers triple the usual amount of original fiction, as a preview of the publication’s upcoming metamorphosis into a biannual print anthology. This issue also provides a final book review column from Richard Chwedyk, as well as concluding essays by Alan Smale and L. Penelope. (What form of nonfiction, if any, the future book version of Galaxy’s Edge will feature remains to be seen.)

In “Moon and Sky, Feather and Stone” by Rebecca E. Treasure, a young woman yearns to escape her dreary life as the servant of a priest and join the flying warriors who protect the populace from flaming monsters. She makes the dangerous journey to the aeries of the winged fighters and discovers what she must do to become one of their number.

This is a vivid and enjoyable, if not entirely original, fantasy adventure. It seems best suited for young adults, particularly those not overly familiar with the common tropes of the genre.

In “That Sunday on the Trail With the Merest Breath of Sea” by Beth Cato, a preteen girl is bullied by a nasty cousin at a family reunion. She encounters a supernatural being, and makes use of it to deal with her tormentor.

As may be evident, this story is also more appropriate for younger readers. Some may find the bully’s fate out of proportion to his misdeeds.

“The Land of Permutations” by Tatsiana Zamirovskaya, translated from Russian by Julia Meitov Hersey, features a quartet of girls who resurrect a pilot after his plane crashes. The procedure creates tension among the four, as well as conflict with the dead man’s widow.

I have failed to convey the fact that this is a very unusual fantasy, completely original in every way. Nearly every line creates a true sense of strangeness. Readers looking for something different will find an abundance of riches in this compelling tale.

In sharp contrast, “The Inconstant Heart” by Kary English is a fairy tale told in a very traditional style. A young man wanders about, encountering a helpful old woman, two lovers trapped in a curse, and the witch who enchanted them. The witch forces him to perform a task for her, the price of failure being death. Readers who like old-fashioned bedtime stories will enjoy this well-written example.

In “The Werewolf” by Jonathan Lenore Kastin, an adolescent girl discovers her lycanthropic nature, but nobody believes her until the truth is undeniable. There is not much else to this brief tale, which is as generic as its title. Some may read it as an allegory for parents failing to understand their children.

“Fruiting Bodies” by Xauri’EL Zwann features alien devices that appear on Earth, transforming the atmosphere in order to make it ready for colonization by extraterrestrials. Ordinary folks figure out how to communicate with the things and attempt to stop the impending disaster.

The story is told from the point of view of several different persons, and the author shows a gift for characterization. The lifecycle, so to speak, of the alien gizmos is interesting, even if the plot is predictable.

“Xi Box” by T. R. Napper takes place in an authoritarian society. Ordinary citizens whisper their feelings into devices provided by their rulers, which apparently offer a degree of solace. Some people go on to achieve what seems to be a higher state of consciousness. The protagonist deals with his wife, who has just entered this condition, as well as his superiors at his job.

This is a subtle, complex story, and I have supplied only a very simplified synopsis. The quietly dystopian setting is chillingly plausible. The main character is believably flawed (a major plot point is the fact that he steals food at work) but is sure to elicit the reader’s sympathy.

“The Dreadnought Agamemnon, on Course to Conquer the Peaceful Moon of Re” by Dafydd McKimm consists of brief sections of text describing the actions of the vessel mentioned in the title, alternating with much longer sections comparing these actions with the experiences of a traveler in an unknown land. This miniature work is best appreciated as prose poetry rather than as fiction.

In “Pablovision” by Deborah L. Davitt, an artist discovers a community in Spain where the appearance of the inhabitants has been altered by the work of Picasso. He attempts to help the people of the village recover their true forms, but only at great risk to himself.

What may seem like a whimsical or even absurd premise is made believable through the author’s serious, realistic, matter-of-fact style. The setting is vividly conveyed, and the resolution of the plot has a powerful impact.

In “A Feast of Memories” by R. D. Harris, the narrator allows his dying father to end his life in a garden, where an extraordinary transformation occurs. To say anything more about this tiny, sentimental tale would ruin its impact, which depends entirely on its final image.

“Five Stages of When the Stars Went Out” by Samantha Murray relates the reactions of a student when the stars disappear. The author uses two trendy narrative tricks; namely, second person present tense and lists. Both techniques run the risk of seeming gimmicky, without adding much to a brief, almost plotless story.

“Planned Obsolescence” by Auston Habershaw is one of a series of stories narrated by a shapeshifting entity in a universe full of a wide variety of aliens. In this adventure, it and its more human partner-in-crime murder someone at the request of spider-like beings. The arachnoids refuse to pay the entire fee, insisting that the victim isn’t really dead, despite overwhelming evidence. The dilemma boils down to a lack of clear communication.

Like others in the series, this story has the cynical, violent mood of hardboiled crime fiction. So much so, in fact, that the casual attitude about assassination shown by the characters is likely to disturb the reader. The exotic background and aliens are more interesting than the plot.

In “Probably the Most Amazing Kiss Ever” by Robert P. Switzer, a woman discovers that everyone around her is actually an alien disguised as a human. The full truth turns out to be even wilder than that.

As the title may suggest, the story is really concerned with the protagonist’s burgeoning romance. The contrast between the premise, which is of truly cosmic proportions, and the rather adolescent love story may be intended to produce a comic effect. It is likely to result in bathos instead.

In “Mercy” by Stephen Lawson, an astronaut stranded in space is rescued by tiny humanoids. He winds up stuck on his back, barely able to fit inside their miniscule spaceship. Despite the benign intentions of the aliens, things go from bad to worse.

The resemblance to the famous scene of Gulliver tied down by Lilliputians appears to be intentional. The story seems to be aiming for very dark comedy, but readers are likely to find the situation too grim to be amusing.

In “The Bleeding Moon” by Monte Lin, the phenomenon mentioned in the title causes monsters to appear on Earth. The protagonist learns that one such creature is mournful rather than malicious. She rides the large beast on a quest to return it to its home on the Moon. The journey takes the unlikely pair to the half-ruined castle of a legendary hero, where she learns the true nature of the monsters. The discovery promises to end an age-old conflict.

The author creates a complicated and wholly original mythos, not dependent on familiar fantasy themes. This requires a fair amount of exposition, provided by the inhabitant of the old castle. The reader may wonder how he knows things that the protagonist does not. One major revelation, in particular, is so extraordinary and so important that it seems likely it should either be general knowledge or so vital a secret that he would not casually reveal it to the woman.

In “Slow Blow Circuit” by Lisa Short, a schoolgirl uses her technological skills to exact revenge on the abusive stepfather of a friend. The plot is straightforward and predictable, but the setting is an interesting one, depicting the lives of lower-class individuals in a high-tech society.

Two women invade a stronghold in “Six Ways to Get Past the Shadow Shogun’s Goons, and One Thing to Do When You Get There” by Stewart C Baker. They use their martial skills and advanced equipment to easily defeat a series of guards, only to have an unexpected encounter with the leader.

The title suggests a video game, and the story’s battle scenes seem just as trivial and meaningless. The only suspense is whether the two flirting women are ever going to kiss. Fans of comic books may admire the frenetic pace.

The narrator of “Carrion” by Storm Humbert is an evil undead spirit, currently inhabiting a small piece of bone. He entices a little girl into bringing a dead buzzard back to life, but only at the price of killing one of the bird’s chicks. As she grows up, she continues to use the spirit’s power to save lives, but only by causing others to die. The spirit’s motive is to corrupt her, so it can inhabit her body. When she adopts a baby with a terminal illness, the spirit demands an enormous price to save it, hoping to completely blacken her soul.

This is a grim, gruesome horror story. (Surprisingly, the editor describes it as having a dash of humor, but I didn’t find anything amusing in it. Perhaps the reference was to the spirit’s sardonic style of narration.) Animal lovers in particular will find it disturbing. Readers of very dark fantasy are likely to appreciate the logical but surprising climax.

“The Woman of the Lake” by Marissa Tian has the feeling of a folktale. A farmer encounters the title character, who appears to be trapped by vines. As he tries to free her, she tells him stories. It soon becomes obvious that her tales relate to his own life, and that the woman has deadly intentions. Only the man’s love of his family offers the possibility of escaping her malice.

This is a moody, melancholy ghost story in which horrible crimes of the past continue to haunt the present. The ghost is an intriguing character, full of hate caused by almost unimaginable sorrow during her life. The man is a heroic figure, willing to sacrifice his life, if necessary, for those he loves.

“The Black Zone: Murder in the Locked Room” by Fu Qiang, translated from Chinese by Roy Gilham, ends the issue with an interstellar detective story. A drone breaks through a highly advanced barrier that hides a planet from the rest of the universe. It records the fact that all the inhabitants died suddenly, except for one young boy. A man consults two private detectives to solve the mystery of the mass deaths.

In the tradition of armchair detectives such as Nero Wolfe, the wiser of the pair explains things from the comfort of her room. (The other detective serves mostly to offer hypotheses that she quickly dismisses.) She also uncovers the man’s secret motive for consulting them.

The story is primarily an intellectual exercise, so that millions of deaths become nothing more than an interesting puzzle. Fans of classic whodunits may find the science involved difficult to follow, and readers of hard science fiction may not be interested in the conundrum. Those who enjoy both make the best audience for this brainy tale, as long as they do not expect emotional involvement.

Victoria Silverwolf wishes the publication the best of luck in its new format.