“Here is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All” by Rahul Kanakia
Reviewed by Eric Kimminau
John Joseph Adams, editor of Lightspeed, wants his readers to know that in Lightspeed you will “find science fiction: from near-future, sociological soft SF, to far-future, star-spanning hard SF—and fantasy: from epic fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, and contemporary urban tales, to magical realism, science-fantasy, and folktales. No subject is off-limits, and we encourage our writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.” I intend to take this message to heart and determine if each story truly takes chances and pushes the envelope or fails in that endeavor.
The opening story for this month’s Lightspeed, “Here is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All” by Rahul Kanakia is told from the perspective of a spaceship that lay dormant within the Earth’s core for billions of years, only to finally break free of the core and begin to build the apparatus that will allow it to harvest the hydrogen from the gas giants within our solar system and store them in its fuel cells and, eventually, conduct the complex series of slingshot operations that will send its “body” back towards its creators. All to grant them an additional hundred years or so of life. It is an interesting story based on an artificial intelligence that thinks of human existence as meaningless—within its construct of reality being to serve the creators—based on the premise that a ship smaller than the Earth’s core was created and spent billions of years lying dormant to then result in 100 years of sustenance. An interesting comment on what the “gods” hold most dear (their bliss) in comparison to that of meaningless humanity. A rather weak stab at the Christian moral compass.
“Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death” by Caroline M. Yoachim is the typical complex mess of dealing with crisscrossing timelines when time travel is involved. Andrew and Nicole are lovers across time who strive to save each other from death. It all hinges on a single bit of technology that is never really explained, so it is all but impossible to believe that they are the key piece of technology that results in being able to build a time machine. But love conquers death in the predictable end.
“When We Were Giants” by Helena Bell is the story of young girls at Primes all-girls religious (Catholic?) school. It starts simply enough in what appears to be a grade school melodrama of “who likes who” and “who stole who’s boyfriend” when the girls suddenly start running through the forest next to their playground and morphing into giants. It’s never really clear whether the girls are human, some mythical beings or some unknown hidden race capable of the transformation or whether it is strictly the magical forest that makes this possible. At one point you think that the magic has run out for all but one girl, Samantha, but then the girls are all right back at stripping off all their clothing and playing giant in the woods again, until a power struggle between Abbey and Samantha over whether they should limit their forays to limit the risk of raising suspicion with the teachers results in Samantha going into the woods to play giant by herself, possibly forever. The story really maintained the petty childishness throughout, which seemed to limit the flow and feel and the repeated little girl petty squabbles seemed to drag down the story rather than build suspense. I felt more needed to be developed as to how and why the transformation was possible and by failing to do so, it never really broke the story out of the box of make believe. I can suspend disbelief but only when there is something that compels me to do so.
“The Plausibility of Dragons” by Kenneth Schneyer is a legendary tale of Malik ibn Ali of Cordova, the Moor teacher/scholar who meets the beautiful, blonde she-warrior Fara of Hallstatt in the middle of a torrential rain. Fara is seeking her warrior sister Basina who was tasked with hunting a dragon said to have been terrorizing the area. They choose to travel together to a common destination where they find the townspeople exhibiting uncommon fear of both a black man, and a woman in armor, calling them “demon” and “witch” respectively. Eventually the two find the dragon and only through preparation and will are they able to resurrect their memory of self and break the dragon‘s spell, seemingly destroying the dragon. This felt more like a retelling of Orwell’s 1984 with the memory hole, that is, a convenient mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or unnecessary documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, or in this case, the elimination of historic memory across entire villages of people, rather than a fresh take on a dragon tale with the evil dragon disappearing as soon as the veil of its deception has been exposed.
Although I did enjoy the stories in this month’s issue, I feel that the stories failed to push the envelope. Each truly seemed to be a retelling of an existing tale, albeit with a twist, but no new ground was broken. I don’t feel the bounds were even stretched and most followed a predictable path. I will look forward to reading future issues to see if they come closer to fulfilling the editor’s promise.
Eric Kimminau is a BBS geek turned IT professional seeking those of like mind and character with whom I may share in wit and wisdom.