Neo-Opsis #6

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"The Silver Connection" by Frank C. Gunderloy Jr.
"Puttin Off ‘Til Tomorrow" by C.L. Russo

"Survival Strategies" by Vaughan Stanger
"The World of One-Ways" by Scott Mackay
"Food For Thought" by Thomas Canfield
"All the Tea in China" by Yvonne Pronovost
In "The Silver Connection," Frank C. Gunderloy Jr. takes us to a future where artists and musicians can have their gifts frozen in their prime, and examines the impact that has on a piano coach and his pianist wife. Andrew loved Melanie Alvarada from the start, not her music, but everything else about her. When she wants to be Preserved, Alex doesn’t want to lose her, but lose her he does. That is, until he finds a clever way of being reunited with her forever.

There is an intriguing concept behind this story. People become suspended in a zombie-like state until their talents are needed. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to undergo the treatment, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. Gunderloy packs a lot of emotion into the tortured Andrew as well, so you really feel what this character is going through.

"Puttin Off ‘Til Tomorrow" by C.L. Russo is a frightening short short about the ultimate planned parenthood device. Steve and Tasha are talented attorneys climbing the corporate ladder, and staying home taking care of a baby isn’t part of their plan. The solution: putting the infant in stasis until they are ready for the responsibility. They start out just putting her in there while they are at work, but the stasis periods get longer and longer. Steve wants to take the child out of stasis and take care of her, but Tasha is too busy to think about it. Steve’s compassion doesn’t last though, because he grabs his briefcase and heads out the door, his mind on other things. This is a chilling, thought-provoking tale, and gives one a lot to think about in a small space. This is the kind of tale that SF is all about.

In "Survival Strategies," Vaughan Stanger takes us to the moon via telepresence. A convict serves out his sentence inside an egg-like structure while controlling a lunar rover as it takes soil samples and other mundane tasks. One day, the Egg mysteriously fails, and our character finds that he can control the rover without the aid of the Egg. He also finds he is unable to remove himself from the rover. Now, virtually on the moon, he meets another who is apparently in the same situation. The two communicate by scratching words on the regolith with their rovers’ manipulator arms. They reach a mining station where the rovers there dismantle them and the protagonist mentions something about an alien swarm.

This is one of those stories where the big, mysterious stuff takes place offstage. Stanger’s characters are sympathetic, and the central concept is intriguing. I just wish I knew a bit more about this swarm and what it did to the Earth, but this is a genre long overdue for some ambiguity.

In "The World of One-Ways," Scott Mackay gives us a glimpse of a telepath (called a two-way here) named Patrick who is losing his ability. He gets into a fender bender because he can’t read the minds of his fellow motorists. And what’s worse, his two-way friends are afraid of him and making themselves distant. Patrick must learn to accept that he might not ever get his telepathy back and must learn to live as a one-way, a regular person. Through one of his two-way friends, he meets a woman who lost her gift years ago, and she helps him on his way to acceptance.

The story of a telepath losing his powers is hardly new. Check out Robert Silverberg’s novel Dying Inside for what is arguably the most definitive example. But Mackay has taken a worn out trope and put some life into it.

In "Food for Thought," Thomas Canfield takes us on a field trip to an overpopulated future where dogs are largely extinct because they were used as a food source. Mr. Cromartie, an arrogant college student, takes a class taught by the somewhat eccentric Professor Lindstrom. As part of the course, Cromartie must accompany Lindstrom to the Colorado Reserve, an area of untouched greenery. There the professor introduces the student to Falstaff, a lovable golden retriever. Cromartie has never seen a dog, and the professor’s affection toward Falstaff baffle him. But after playing fetch, our student learns an important lesson about the past.

This is a sweet story with a good lesson. It makes one think about the things we could lose in our inexorable march to tame this planet. Plus, who doesn’t love a good dog story?

In "All the Tea in China," Yvonne Pronovost makes a trip to far-flung Io to sew seeds of hope. Dr. Delia Losey is the space station’s botanist. She is attempting to grow a corn that will survive in zero gravity. Norman Bennett, pilot of the ship China, shows up and asks her for some of the corn in order to fend off starvation in a failed colony where his sister lives. In return, he offers to give Delia a bag of tea seeds (she’s a tea fanatic, but can’t grow it without getting into trouble from her corn-greedy employers). Delia refuses at first, because the genes in the corn belong to a greedy corporation. But she soon has a change of heart, and in return for her goodwill, she gets all the tea in China.

This was a nice story, and a good way to end the issue’s fiction selections. Provost is good at creating deep space intrigue and ruthless corporations, and the characters were well-rounded and sympathetic.

Once again, the Neo-Opsis crew has pulled off a wonderfully entertaining issue.