Lightspeed #80, January 2017

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Lightspeed #80, January 2017

Seven Salt Tears” by Kat Howard

The Whole Crew Hates Me” by AdamTroy Castro
The West Topeka Triangle” by Jeremiah Tolbert
Nine-Tenths of the Law” by Molly Tanzer

Reviewed by Robert L Turner III

Seven Salt Tears” by Kat Howard is a clever combination of various nautical myths. In it Mara, a young woman who grew up without a father, is called to the sea and the mother who left her at 18. The language is smooth and colorful, and the fragmented narration works fairly well. At under 2500 words, the story moves quickly and is worth the read.

The Whole Crew Hates Me” by AdamTroy Castro is told in the first person by a member of a space crew on a long term colonizing flight. In it, Morgan writes about how he is mistreated without anyone ever explaining why he is hated. As the narration continues we see an increasing sense of frustration and futility from the author. Technically the story is well formed with the narrator providing enough information to draw conclusions about why he is so abused. The tale is in the form of a diary and so there is almost no action, and the hints are a little heavy at times, but overall the story is interesting and different in structure and tone.

The West Topeka Triangle” by Jeremiah Tolbert, set in 1987, is the story of a nerdy young boy who suspects that missing children in his town are being taken by a Bermuda triangle type force. In the meanwhile he needs to navigate school, an abusive stepfather and a new friendship. The story is an interesting one with elements that help it dance on the edge of being science fiction or not. The story is at its best as it details the challenges of a child’s everyday life and the limited knowledge horizon that entails. (I suspect the final scene is a nod to just that). I do wish for a more concrete sf element and a little more closure, but I am unsure if that is personal preference or a weakness in the story. This will be especially attractive to fans of Stranger Things since it shares a number of elements with the series.

Nine-Tenths of the Law” by Molly Tanzer begins as Donna’s husband is brought home on a gurney after a “minor” accident at the Denver International Airport. She quickly learns that her husband is in fact an alien who is part of an intercultural exchange. When Donna discovers that she prefers the new inhabitant of her husband’s body, things get complicated. They story is well written and the concept is interesting. With a conclusion that is both ambiguous and satisfying.

Robert Turner is a professor and longtime SF/F fan.