Lightspeed #88, September 2017

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Lightspeed #88, September 2017

“An Ever-Expanding Flash of Light” by Timothy Mudie

“Ugo” by Giovanni De Feo
“The Last Cheng Beng Gift” by Jaymee Goh
“A Pound of Darkness, a Quarter of Dreams” by Tony Ballantyne

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Each story in this issue deals with the relationship between two characters. Both science fiction stories involve lovers, while one fantasy story concerns parent and child, and the other a pair of enemies.

In “An Ever-Expanding Flash of Light” by Timothy Mudie, a husband leaves his wife on Earth while he journeys among the stars. Due to time dilation effects, centuries pass back home, but he ages only a few years. His wife goes into cryogenic suspension, not only to await his return, but for another reason, which is not revealed at first. The theme is a familiar one and the author’s style could use a little polishing, but the story is likely to appeal to romantics.

The title character in “Ugo” by Giovanni De Feo claims to have knowledge of the future. As a child, he meets a girl for the first time and tells her they will be married in ten years and one month. He is willing to reveal some details about their coming life together, but refuses to predict certain others. The narration changes from third person to first person midway through the story, possibly to convey the feeling of disorientation caused by the shift in time perception. In any case, this is an interesting love story, if not completely logical.

Chinese traditions and mythology provide the background for “The Last Cheng Beng Gift” by Jaymee Goh. A dead woman dwells in the Underworld, a place for those who have not yet chosen to undergo reincarnation. Her living daughter provides her with gifts to enjoy in the afterlife in the form of paper models, which become real in the Underworld when burnt. The ghost goes to visit her daughter on the one day of the year when this is possible, and learns to accept the fact that she does not live the life her mother planned for her. This is a simple, quiet story about knowing when to move on.

Set in a fantastic version of the early Twentieth Century, “A Pound of Darkness, a Quarter of Dreams” by Tony Ballantyne features a shopkeeper as its heroine. She confronts a new representative from her wholesaler, who offers her items of evil magic. Knowing that she faces financial ruin if she refuses to carry such things, she engages in a dangerous battle of wits with the sinister figure in order to save her soul and those of her customers. This story has the flavor of a folk tale, with a touch of alternate history. Some of the background details, although intriguing, are not necessary for the straightforward plot.

Victoria Silverwolf has a few relationships with other people.