Reviewed by Clancy Weeks
Here’s something you don’t see every day—nearly three billion years of human history in a single short story. Caroline M. Yoachim, in “Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World,” offers up a nice tale of Mei (later renaming herself Prime) and her search for a new Earth. Along the way she lives, dies, is transferred into a computer, absorbs other minds on her journey to Beta Hydri, and mates with another computer mind to produce an heir. A couple of things bugged me about this story, one is easily explained away, but the other is not. First, there seem to be some timeline issues with some characters experiencing a span of thousands of years, and others millions in the same or adjoining scenes. Since one of the main characters, Achron, lives outside of time and therefore inhabits all points simultaneously along his lifespan, that gets dealt with near the end. The other problem is how easily Mei accepts Achron as a disembodied voice speaking to her across time. Most people would check themselves into a hospital.
The story, though, never really seems to go anywhere other than a romp through time and space. We end with Mei exactly as she started, human, never satisfied, and still looking for something new. Maybe that’s the point, but if so, it’s been done to death and to much better effect.
In “Werewolf Loves Mermaid” by Heather Lindsley, Dave the werewolf meets a beautiful mermaid at what is, apparently, Edward and Bella’s wedding (forgive me for knowing anything about Twilight) and spend the next fifteen years growing to love one another as any couple might. Only, you know, with magic and fantasy and stuff. Dave and Mermaid don’t hit it off, but Werewolf is her kind of guy—a partner you only have to deal with a few days a month. Is this a metaphor for something else? I don’t know, but the story is cute, and a nice diversion.
Told in the form of never-sent letters to a long-dead love, Megan Arkenberg‘s “All in a Hot and Copper Sky” is a touching story of lost loves, opportunities, and innocence. Socorro Vargas was the Joshua Tree Biosphere’s angel of death, and Delores Alvarez her friend, co-worker, lover, and eventual keeper of her memory. The Joshua Tree Biosphere in this story is an experiment gone wrong—much like people believe (incorrectly) about the very real Biosphere 2—and Socorro was faced with a number of unpleasant choices. Just like the real-life Biosphere, this one is suffering from a decrease in oxygen, leading to health problems and—unlike the real one— three deaths. As is always the case when the system falters, a scapegoat must be found, with Socorro filling that need, leaving only Delores to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. She is a survivor, after all. Recommended.
“The Ninth Seduction” by Sean McMullen is an interesting, if overwrought, fantasy full of faeries, goblins, mortal humans, seduction, and corruption. What do I mean by overwrought? Let me present exhibit A: “Every evening the castellerine would walk in one of the seven gardens, her milk white hands clasped behind her back beneath her pale hair, and the train of her robe held by iridescent beetles that hummed, gleamed, and sparkled like living jewels in the waning light.” And that’s just on the first page. There are paragraphs full of this, and it is a hard slog at first just digging simple meaning out of it. Unfamiliar terms are introduced with little or no context, adding to the confusion for the first few pages. The problem is, though, that there is a decent story (and some nice subtext) buried within the flowery language that I’m not sure was unintentional. At its most basic, the story is about a goblin jeweller, Raksar, who prizes beauty above all. Lynder, his ruler, is faerie possessing the beauty he worships. Turning the usual fairy tale on its head, it is Lynder who is seduced by a human, transforming her into something Raksar can no longer admire. A good story, but a tedious read.
Clancy Weeks is a composer by training, with over two-dozen published works for wind ensemble and orchestra—his most recent work, “Blue Ice, Warm Seas,” was premiered in Houston on March 28, 2015—and an author only in his fevered imagination. Having read SF/F for nearly fifty years, he figured “What the hell, I can do that,” and has set out to prove that, well… maybe not so much. His first short story, “Zombie Like Me,” will appear in an upcoming issue of Stupefying Stories. He currently resides in Texas, but don’t hold that against him.