Short story “Rocket Surgery” by Effie Seiberg was originally published in n Analog, 2016. Its audio edition can be found now on Escape Pod’s episode 588 on the 10th of August 2017. Summary: A military team trains an A.I. rocket how to eliminate the enemy by choosing the best path through a series of simulations. But something goes wrong and the narrator ends up in prison. Analysis: The narrator is a member of the military team, now locked up in prison. The reader wants to know why the narrator is in prison and what happened to the A.I.. The names of either the country of the dictator or the names of the rockets add an extra quirkiness to the story. This fact helped us understand that this story is more about the interaction of the A.I. with its teacher than about the hardware / software mechanics behind the A.I. The plot is revealed slowly by showing how the AI is trained until it has an existential crisis. The story uses also a repetitive set of questions and answers which are used for the final spin successfully.
“The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle is published in Diabolical Plots Fiction Issue 29B on 17th of July 2017 Synopsis: Barry Lovecraft, a food blogger, visits Eastern Europe and writes his critiques online for the Dracula castle and sea food restaurants or hotels he tries out. People start disappearing and he finds himself in a pickle. Analysis: A mix of Dracula and Cthulhu mythos with a dash of comedy. The blogger could have been a real blogger – oblivious to what’s happening around him. It’s always fun to see how reality can be disturbed by horrific elements that the character doesn’t acknowledge. It can be seen also as a criticism on the current trend of our use of social networks and blogging, specially when we are too focused to get a photograph of our soon to be gone meal. There are enough points and puns in the story that can cause laughs or smirks.
The short story “Barrette Girls” by Sara Saab was published on the 3rd issue of liminal stories on spring / summer 2017. Synopsis: In “Barrette Girls”, Sunday with the help of Andrew guides a group of girls to a secret destination. Andrew has second thoughts about what they are doing while Sunday is remembering her past relationships. Analysis: Sara Saab reveals gradually the nature of the characters’ lives. We enter a future world which would be described as a utopia by the oblivious observer. But what happens behind the curtains of this world paints a grim picture of our future civilization. How long will the staff reason with their consciousness? Sunday learns to get used to it. As people are used to it nowadays but that doesn’t mean that the process wouldn’t have an impact in an unconscious psychological level. Or in a level that we don’t want to acknowledge and maybe see only in our nightmares. That’s how the author tricks us and take us by the hand as Sunday takes the girls by their hand and we can only be suspicious of what’s going on until it’s too late. A sense of unfamiliarity and uneasiness underlines the story…
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” is the HUGO 2017 winner for best short story and was published on Uncanny Magazine Issue 13: November/December 2016 and originally published in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales. Summary: Tabitha has to wear seven pairs of painful iron magical shoes in a row until they wear out. In her journey she meets Amira: A princess that has placed herself on the top of a glass hill. Analysis: Two fairy-tales collide into one so to find solace to each other. A story that is allegorical about patriarchic societies and women facing oppressive men and rules set by men. These two women feel that it’s only natural to endure these ordeals until each gets to know the other’s and understand that they don’t deserve it. The only way to go forward and remove their bonds is by solidarity and love. Also the numbers which are used as magical are one and seven. There can be multiple meanings behind these numbers such as their biblical meaning which are unity (1) and completeness (7). The writing is in a ways lyrical which is to be expected due to Amal El-Mohtar’s previous work. Most of the story seems to…
“If a Bird Can Be a Ghost” was published on on Aug 1, 2017 , Apex Magazine Issue 99. Summary: Allison Mills writes about a family of ghost busters. But they are not like in the movies. It’s only a grandma, with her daughter and her grand-daughter who is full of questions. They visit houses and help other people to exorcise ghosts that are haunting them. Also birds can be ghosts as well. Analysis: This short story is about grief and letting go. It has interesting themes such as: passing a skill from a generation to another. discovery of oneself and growing up how to treat ghosts face death of a close family member We follow the grand-daughter’s point of view as she grows up around ghosts. Another interesting idea is that you can catch a ghost on your hair!
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong was published on March 2, 2016 by Tor.com and is nominated for the Hugo 2017 award. Summary: Hannah, the one of the two witch sisters that can control weather and bend time, tries to change the outcome of her sister’s suicidal attempt by creating alternate timelines. Analysis: The two main subjects discussed in this story is transgenderism and grief. Alyssa Wong writes about a transgender woman that was never accepted by her parents. The only thing that Melanie has is her sister but after a while she decides to end her life. However, Hannah cannot give up on her and creates new timelines where tries to save her (even sometimes by sacrificing herself) fruitlessly. In these new timelines we learn more about their relationship and their abusive parents. Although these timelines provoke a lot of strong emotions they feel at some points repetitive and make the readers raise some questions by themselves on how this could be avoided.
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn originally appeared on Tor.com in March 2016. It is narrated by Amy H. Sturgis in EscapePod ‘s podcast EP581 22nd June of 2017 Summary: Calla of Enith, a nurse, has feelings of affection for the Gaantish prisoner, officer Valk. Officer Valk with the power of telepathy (a common characteristic for Gaantish people) wants to learn to play chess while she becomes his prisoner. Analysis: The idea of a chess player having the power of telepathy adds an interesting and challenging note to chess. Admiringly, it is followed through successfully, reminding me how the big chess masters won the AI. (Although as a chess player I know random moves are not usually lead to a winning position) In addition with the war set as a background makes it a story that satisfies the reader. Also I never expected that telepathy can be a bad thing in the war, which as I see in prisoners camps it must be. Pros: the characters are very well depicted more than one ideas are described around telepathy very good flow that leads to a sort of climax Cons: maybe a slow start?
A review for “The Heart’s Cartography by Susan Jane Bigelow”, which is published in Lightspeed’s magazine May 2017 (Issue 84) Summary: A girl in a boy’s body meets a family of time-travelers. She is in a small town and it’s the first time that she feels accepted when she meets the family’s young girl. Soon they become best friends, but she learns that they would need to leave again for a different time-line. Analysis: This is a story that looks from a point of view of a girl that was born with a boy’s body. She doesn’t face major issues with the people around her as she would have in an older era but still she feels that they not see her as normal. The time-travelers’ daughter comes as a big a relief and solace for how she feels. She can now see things with more optimism. Have some handkerchiefs near you because you will need them!
This is the review of “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych” by Kathleen Kayembe, published in Nightmare Magazine’s March 2017 Issue. Summary: Isobelle is visiting her Uncle for the summer break. An Uncle who is consumed by superstition and fear. That’s why Isobelle doesn’t believe him when he says that the strange noises that come from her cousin’s bedroom belong to a pet dog. Pros: + The supernatural horror here plays a secondary role to the reason that cause it. The real horror is what people can do when they give in to superstition. + The well-drawn characters. +The emotional ending. Cons: – The shift between three different perspectives might reduce the tension of the story for some readers. You can read the story here.
This is the review for the short story “Remote Presence” by Susan Palwick published at the Lightspeed magazine’s April 2017 issue. Synopsis: Chaplin Win’s job in the hospital is to help ghosts leave our world. However, he finds trouble when he stalls the exorcism of a kind elderly ghost. Pros: + Heart-warming emotions. + The kind ghost + Very close to real life, human beings working in tiring real jobs