Strange Horizons, Feb. & March 2011

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Strange Horizons, February 7 – March 21, 2011

“Windows in the World” parts 1 & 2 by Gavin J. Grant (2/7-2/14)
“The Yew’s Embrace” by Francesca Forrest (2/21)
“The Last Sophia” by C.S.E. Cooney (3/7)

Trouble” by David M. deLeon (3/14)
ãN ®£¨––¿Ò” (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows), by Zen Cho (3/21)

Reviewed by Dawn McKibbin

There’s a baby boom going on at Strange Horizons this spring, but don’t break out the pink and blue just yet. These aren’t just any run-of-the-mill tots. These babes are the product of kings, cyberspace and potatoes with too many eyes. Even the two stories that don’t feature actual babies have a youthful theme.

Gavin J. Grant‘s “Windows in the World” is a two part, post-apocolyptic story about trying to escape a mother’s legacy while carrying a baby that is already wired to the world outside from the womb. It’s also about being so connected, all the time and everywhere, that one becomes utterly transparent and divorced from their true self.

“The Yew’s Embrace” by Francesca Forrest is also about revealing the true nature of someone. In this case, it revolves around the murder of a young prince, and the Gods’ and his mother’s revenge. Two children are lost because of their father’s lies, but in the end, the Gods also offer hope.

“The Last Sophia” by C.S.E. Cooney at first seems a universe away from “Windows in the World,” but after some reflection, I began to see them as bookends to the month of February. “The Last Sophia,” like “Windows in the World” is also about a new mother who has been forced to grow up too soon.

Like “Windows in the World,” the children are born knowing too much for their age, though these kids are produced by fairies called the Gentry that manifest themselves in the world by various means, including multi-eyed potatoes. That aside, there are so many similar themes of striking out for freedom and authenticity, as well as loss and sacrifice in common between the two worlds, that I urge people the read them together, not in the chronological order given. Make “The Yew’s Embrace” either first or last, but make sure to read it. That story is part of this theme too.

The two young people in David M. deLeon’s “Trouble” also know too much — and too little for their age. “Trouble” is an sf tale of the awkwardness and fleetingness of young romance between a boy living on a space station who seems culturally adrift and a female refugee. The girl in question is destined to move on in this uncaring universe, but not before leaving her mark on the young man’s otherwise drab life.

ãN ®£¨––¿Ò (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows),” by Zen Cho is in many ways a story of symbolic birth and rebirth. Cho’s story is about a troupe of Chinese Lion Dancers who put on a performance at a hotel for a rich business man as a cover for their real activites, ghostbusting. The dancers face a dilemna when they find out that the spirit haunting a cabinet in room 88 is not a violent specter, but an eight-year-old boy.