Strange Horizons, February 13th & 20th, 2017
Reviewed by Benjamin Wheeler
“Only Calculate the Motion of Heavenly Bodies” by Marcia Richards follows a handmaiden to a goddess, Alana, who just wants to die. As we follow our goddess and handler, we start wondering why they want to die, as well as horror as they go deeper into madness until our goddess nearly chokes to death. The melancholy and desperation of the various characters is palpable and really puts the reader into the shoes of the handmaiden. The solution for the suicidal nature of the goddesses is horrifying and makes this one of the few modern stories to give me chills in a long time.
On the other hand, “London Calling” by Phillip A. Suggars gave me no chills. Ingrid somehow opens up the power of the city to turn it into a gigantic dinosaur and in exchange becomes a bird of some kind. On the way, she deals with the grief of her sister’s suicide and self-harm. The story is a metaphor of her using her home city for people watching to escape her depression, visualized by becoming a bird. There is little to say about this story; interesting facts or interactions with her sister, Georgie, are smothered in favor of cityscapes or end of story weirdness, like turning into a bird. There are hidden details, like the fact that her sister dresses in Kabuki punk, which can be described as the style of future cyber-punk Tokyo, or moving statues, but again, hidden within the melancholia and general navel-gazing of the main plot. The story missed out on a sense of wonder that could have really made the grief-story satisfy the reader in the end as having been earned.