edited by Juliana Rew
(Third Flatiron Publishing, pb, Winter 2013, $8.99)
Reviewed by Cyd Athens
In case the title does not give it away, this issue has Mars as its theme.
“Eurydice in Capricorn” by Neil James Hudson
Jasper Brett is a colonist on Mars who came over on the ship, Orpheus. Eurydice, the ship that was supposed to help the first group of colonists turn Mars into a proper place for human civilization, followed. Jasper’s betrothed is on Eurydice. To help while away the time as the colonists wait for Eurydice to land, Jasper creates not only Martian astrology, but also an astrology that includes Eurydice. The ship goes into orbit, but breaks off all communication with both Mars and Earth. In an effort to move things along, Jasper invents an astrological prophecy that is interpreted as a deadline for Eurydice. Since the colonists are depending on Eurydice’s supplies, it is disappointing that none of them seem concerned about why the ship does not land.
“Make Carrots, Not War” by Maureen Bowden
This is a somewhat humorous story about the god, not the planet. We begin with Mars having a tryst with a human woman, Rhea Silvia, who used to be one of the Vestal Virgins. Mars would much rather have been a farmer than the god of war, but things being what they were, he was stuck with the job. Much of the story is a recitation of what Mars does between the initial tryst and his reunion with Rhea. It is a decent enough story that might have been in better company in a different anthology. Here, it seems out of place.
“Colorblind on the Red Planet” by Vince Liberato
A colorblind mission member is the only one able to see alien spores that infest the ship he shares with three other people. The spores are like biological land mines. Step on one, and you’re d-e-d, dead. As a precaution against a repeat of dangerous actions taken by a previous mission’s crew, there is only one spacesuit on the ship. Naturally, the colorblind man who can see the danger manages to be the only one to escape it by sealing himself in the suit which, for some unexplained reason, the spores avoid. Future missions to Mars depend on the outcome of this second one. However, there is too much that makes no sense here. For example, accidents do happen, so why, after spending countless dollars sending the mission in the first place, would mission control send only one suit to be shared among four people? If the spores take over everything but the suit, how does the man eat since he has to survive for six months or longer? It is impossible to suspend disbelief and go along with this story.
“The Journal of Miss Emily Carlton” by Lela E. Buis
Miss Emily Carlton suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. When her father decides to finance an expedition to Mars, Emily makes the acquaintance of the applicant’s son. Edward is a mechanical man who had been a young man with consumption. To save him, Edward’s father had Edward’s consciousness transferred into a machine. Edward is to be the expedition’s pilot. Emily and Edward develop a relationship through correspondence. When it is time for the spacecraft to leave on its journey to Mars, Edward and Emily conspire to have Emily join Edward for the voyage. This story is written in a style reminiscent of Burroughs’ works.
“The Canary and the Roach” by Ian Rose
On Mars, there is a mining facility. Using Earth customs and hierarchies, there are company men. Below them are humans who serve as canaries and genetically modified insects called roaches that do the actual mining. This story covers the aftermath of a mining accident. One of the canaries is required to debrief with a company man about the incident. The story itself is tepid and lax copy editing works to the tale’s detriment.
“For Sale: One Red Planet” by Jeff Hewitt
ECDTrimmond has inherited, and now wants to sell, Mars. This humorous romp shows how difficult it can be to part with a commodity that comes with stipulations and emotional attachments.
“Cadaver” by Robina Williams
An expedition is sent to Mars. A ground crew finds, and disposes of, an extraterrestrial cadaver. In the process, one of the workers is scratched by the dead alien’s carapace. The scratch becomes infected and… if you’ve read stories, or seen movies, like this before, you know what happens next.
“No Ravens on Mars” by Martin Clark
Here, E.A. Poe has dual and parallel meanings. A group of humans arrives on Mars and cannot remember their pasts. This, they presume, is one of the side effects of the nineteen months of cryosleep their trip from Earth took. Once they’ve been in-processed, they wait to learn what they will be doing. One man, wanting nothing more than a little privacy, finds unexpected answers that change everything.
“The FALCON” by Jaimie M. Engle
A man is stuck on Mars with a malfunctioning piece of mining equipment, so he calls his local android for assistance. After the help, in the form of a nanobot repair team, arrives, so does a storm with winds in the hundreds of miles per hour. The android warns the man that he needs to leave the site, but the man is plagued by memories of his daughter. She died from cancer despite the man’s best efforts, so now he refuses to leave the nanobots who carry a portion of his daughter’s DNA. Though short, this story is somewhat convoluted because of the subplot about the daughter.
“First Step” by Jason Lairamore
was a bullfrog … travels around Mars fixing things for the human settlers there. What they think they know is that he’s a Martian. What they don’t know is what this story is about. The only thing off-putting here was the bit about the cat. Presumably, mega time and resources are required to travel from Earth to Mars. Since the colonists were only now testing ways to create Earth soil on Mars, I found it hard to believe that a) resources would have been made available to allow a feline to make the trip, or b) that if said resources had been allocated, one would have killed the cat unless it could not have been helped.
“MarsMail” by Michael McGlade
This is not a story. It can best be described as a humorous brochure for a fictional product that would have been better named AdMailTM since all of the features begin with the letters Ad. However, while that name might have been more accurate, it would not have been in keeping with the Mars theme here.
“And a Pebble in Her Shoe” by Kara Race-Moore
This lovely sentence, “Navya cursed the Vera Wang designers for putting so much useless ornamentation on the outfit and neglecting something as basic as a radio,” suits the mood this human bride finds herself in when she is lost outside on Mars on her wedding day. Here we have a fun story that shows us how simple things come to have meanings that transform them from events into traditions.
“The Read Planet” by Chuck Rothman
Enthralled by the science fiction stories he had read in his youth, Giovanni gave up his name and went by John, after one of his fictional heroes. His life’s dream—to go to Mars—is within reach. The ship is almost there when John has a heart attack. The ship’s doctor tells John that setting foot on the planet will kill him. John is a determined man. This is a story about the passions that drive our dreams.
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W.