Ideomancer, April 2003

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"In Defeat of Transcendent Epiphany" by Jay Lake
"Ice" by Elizabeth Bear
"Natural Limitations" by Marissa K. Lingen

In Jay Lake's "In Defeat of Transcendent Epiphany," a savior is born, and the accommodations are even worse than they were for baby Jesus. Lake builds a rusty, dripping, dark world deep in the bowels of the "Ship" where strange things are happening. It's the lieutenant's job to sort it out, with insufficient lantern light, a wracking cough (from four years in this dreadful environment, one assumes) and his dwindling patrol. The dangers: inconsistent gravity, lurking angelwasps — beautiful but deadly, dangling power wires, and always the distant, disconcerting cry of the baby. The search takes us through many levels of revelation and a good bit of action, and the "nativity" scene is priceless. As a bonus, by the time the story is over, the title is comprehensible.

Elizabeth Bear's "Ice" is a poignant tale of redemption filled with piercing images of beauty and valor brought low. Bear's fantastic Norse imagery is vivid and tightly focused — heart-rendingly so — in the opening scene; the battle scene is bloody and painful; the redemption scene is painstaking. I felt the story was marred by warrior-woman Muire's self-pitying attitude, but she certainly pays her dues. And I definitely wanted to see more of the valraven.

"Natural Limitations," by Marissa K. Lingen, is a quaint little tale set in the late 1800s and told in the epistolary style. The letters are written by the president of the American Astronomical Society, a bastion of patronizing, masculine, scientific thought. Despite the fact that Miss Catherine offers useful, verifiable astronomical observations and provides documentation of a previously unknown celestial occurrence which results in the naming of a new comet, the president's attitude toward her remains condescending and insulting, giving recognition and praise to her father, whose "guiding hand" must be responsible for the daughter's accomplishments. As Miss Catherine's observations become increasingly alarming, the president climbs further up his high horse, and it is only the reader who understands the import of her discoveries.

Diana Blackmon homesteads on the back side of a commercial space satellite with her mutt, Huxley. They get 1500 tv stations and don't pay for cable. No wait. She pilots a charter space runner with her Hawaiian cook, Moku. It's amazing how many shrimp there are on Mars. Or maybe she lives on the Oregon coast where her favorite past time is surfing with her son. She's a writer and a poet, and she may start sculpting again any minute.