Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 6, March 2007

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"Clockmaker’s Requiem" by Barth Anderson

Barth Anderson’s story, “Clockmaker’s Requiem,” starts off with an intriguing premise, the notion of a world which can be remade at will by any person at any time. In this world, navigation and meeting with people become great challenges. The story’s protagonist, Krina, meets a young apprentice clockmaker determined to overcome these challenges by unifying time through the creation of less personal, more universal clocks. This ambition is met with some unhappiness.

The distinction between unified time and its reflection only works to some extent. I found it hard to get an impression, beyond fragments of sensation, of how the city functions from this short piece, and as such, I found myself siding with the young clockmaker rather than his opponents. This was compounded by the fact that Krina is a protagonist who lacks compassion and is thus somewhat hard to care about.
Ultimately, I found this an imaginative story which conjured up some interesting images, but I think it needed some deeper exploration for the rather simplistic binary at its heart to work.
“Something in the Mermaid Way” by Carrie Laben is a simple story of a family on an island who make a living by “making” mermaids from monkey skins and salmon. Exactly what purpose these mermaids serve is unclear, but it’s an interesting notion. The protagonist’s family has survived when other families have not due to the mother’s secret method of shrinking monkey skins to fit the fish bodies. And now it seems one of the daughters has a novel idea to improve production.
Laben conjures a believable society, although perhaps lacking in some of the specifics which would have made it seem more real. Ultimately, it is a slight story; the ending is morbidly effective, but the story lacks a real focus.
This issue is the first I have read of Clarkesworld Magazine. I thought both stories were stronger in their worldbuilding and imagination than in structure or emotion. Both were enjoyable, though, and I look forward to the next.