“The Nu-Thai Screwjob” by Gav Thorpe
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
This quarterly issue first offers a science fiction tale set in a somewhat distant future where sophisticated neural implants capable of stealing information directly from the data storage implants from others leads to corporate espionage and skullduggery. Gav Thorpe‘s “The Nu-Thai Screwjob” is the story of one such female who seduces fat cat corporate types into sleeping with her for a price (prostitution is legal on Nu-Thai) where she then—through her sophisticated augmentations—steals the requested information from their minds when their guard is down (at point of orgasm).
During one such encounter she is enlisted at gunpoint to work for some nasty types who are fighting against evil corporations. Her mission, which she believes she has no recourse but to accept, involves stealing implanted data from a powerful lesbian corporate queen pin. Being hetero, she nevertheless accomplishes her mission but vows revenge for being forced to do so (under what amounts to false pretenses). So while she screws for a living she now feels screwed herself, hence the play on the word screwjob in the title.
Passably told, there is nothing new here on any level that we haven’t run across many times before in stories, tv, or film.
Victor Milan gives us a new story set in the world of his ongoing novel series from Tor titled The Dinosaur Lords. “Red Sails, Red Seas” is really naught but a pirate tale at sea, where the female war-galley captain is tasked with making sure a dignitary (war-general) is brought safely home for an important engagement. On the way the ship is attacked by pirates and much blood-letting, hacking, bloody swaths being cut through the enemy, and a cameo appearance by an undersea monster takes place. Victor Milan is a fine writer, but being forced to drop in bits of background information for those not familiar with the world of the series of which this is but a snippet, while trying valiantly to at least move the storyline forward (such as it is), must have been daunting. This is little more than a battle scene we’ve seen thousands of times before, but with nothing new here to set it apart, unless we are to count as something “new” the sketched interplay between two gay lovers and shipmates as they help fight off the pirates, where at the end one of them…but I shan’t reveal a spoiler.
Frankly, and I hate to say so, “Red Sails, Red Sea” reads as fan fiction told for an unsophisticated audience who is perhaps in the ten year-old age range, where it is enough to have an action scene with plenty of blood and guts where the good guys kill the bad guys, and where in this alternate (or far future) timeline there are pterosaurs and other dinosaurs lurking about.
Grimdark‘s intentions are noble, paying writers a solid 7 cents per word. But with a firm limit of 4,000 words for original fiction it takes the most seasoned professional to pull off a truly effective—much less original— story. Seven cents a word is a professional pay rate and the magazine’s readers should expect a professional product for their money, not merely warmed over storylines with a high-tech SF veneer (done many times before in this instance) or fan fiction. One’s intentions may be honorable but it is results that ultimately matter.