“Winner” by Kyri Freeman
Issue 3 of Volume 6 of Ideomancer is a diverse showcase of fiction, with two of the three stories well worth reading.
“What Happens Next” by Jude-Marie Green is a short, peculiar tale about tales. May works at a café, waiting tables, saying nothing while the hired tellers perch on their dais and spin tales for the paying customers. May listens to them, snatching glimpses of their imagined worlds, and envisions a time when she can take to the dais and tell stories—specifically the story of the night she saw lights in the sky, the night after which she hasn’t spoken.
May’s voice is distinct in the dialectal language Green uses, and it paints the scene strongly. Though the piece is brief, it flares quickly to life and holds onto the reader until its end. I enjoyed it very much.
In most science fiction, cryogenic sleep is a simple matter. Enter the capsule, switch off, and wake up at the other end. In “Deadnauts,” Ted Kosmatka shows that it is anything but simple.
“I didn’t start out the sharpest on the mission. It only ended up that way. Because the cryo hurts you. It affects your kidneys and your liver and your brain. It affects every organ and system in your body. And it affects everybody differently. You’re never really the same person you were before the skip.”
Ola is part of The Pilgrimage’s crew on its return journey to Earth. Except the skips are more numerous than they should have been, and each time Ola is woken from cryo they are no closer to Earth. Slowly but surely the crew members have been slipping away, their minds destroyed, becoming fewer and fewer with each skip.
This is an excellent story. Kosmatka succeeds in writing a haunting, terrifying account of what something going wrong in space means for those “lucky” enough to outlast their fellows. The terrors of watching her intelligence slip away, of watching her crew-mates degenerate faster, of dying over and over, of traveling too far from home—all are vividly realized with no melodrama, only bare, powerful emotion. It is far too easy to imagine myself in Ola’s position—such is the strength of skilled first-person—and it is not an enviable position at all.
Highly, highly recommended.
“Winner” by Kyri Freeman was, for me, quite bland in comparison to the other two. Steve Verdin, a horse trainer, comes up against Jim Sarsey, another trainer with a similar but stronger gift for wards and other small magics. Jim will stop at nothing to have his horses win, but Steve is not willing to let his life’s dream be shattered without a fight.
I have absolutely no interest in horses or horse racing. This probably contributes to my indifference to “Winner.” Interesting characters might have saved it for me, but I found both men too flat. Jim Sarsey is out-and-out bad, well shown as sadistic and merciless, but I prefer my villains with shades of grey. Steve is more sympathetic—it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for a man so cruelly treated—but I felt there was no more to him than being beaten down and crawling back up; I wanted a more individual flare. While his determination is admirable, I couldn’t connect with him enough to really care—perhaps because I couldn’t relate to his dream of being a successful horse trainer. While certainly not a bad story, and I’m sure plenty of people will find it to be a pleasurable yarn, regretfully, I’m not one of them.