Strange Horizons, May 5 & 12, and 19, 2014

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Strange Horizons, May 5 & 12, and 19, 2014

Saltwater Economics” by Jack Mierzwa (2 Parts, May 5 & 12, 2014)
Sarah’s Child” by Susan Jane Bigelow (May 19, 2014)

Reviewed by Kris Rudin

These two stories remind me why I read science fiction: they are intensely human stories, in the guise of the weird and fantastic. Woe to those who would dismiss them as childish or simple because of their settings. These are very deep stories.

In “Saltwater Economics,” Jack Mierzwa brings us a riff on the Creature from the Black Lagoon – in this case it is the Salton Sea Monster. Anna is a marine biologist, and if anyone is not going to believe in said monster, it is she. Yet she keeps seeing something rippling the water, and then sees something rifling through her backpack, and the evidence of its muddy fingerprints on her things. What transpires after that involves Anna’s relationship with her daughter, cancer, and the repercussions thereof. While I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and Mierzwa could have gone a bit deeper into the analogy between Anna’s relationship between Anna and her daughter and Anna and Felix, the story unfolded well, and Anna rang true as a character.

“Sarah’s Child” by Susan Jane Bigelow deals with relationships, longings and multiple dimensions. One night, Sarah has a dream that she has a child named Sheldon. But Sarah is a transgender female, so cannot bear children, and this dream causes nearly unbearable grief. She has more dreams about Sheldon, and then, inexplicably, gets a text from someone saying he cannot pick up Sheldon for the weekend. As Sarah and her partner try to discover what is going on, the story explores many issues around family, love, parenthood and acceptance. While there is no explanation of how the dimensional rift happened, or what it even is, in the end, this is really unimportant. Ultimately, what is important is what it means to be a human being. And that is what this story is about. Recommended.