Webzine Story Recommendations: June 2015

"Beyond the Visible Spectrum" * Axel Taiari * Fantasy Scroll Mag * 2015-06, #7 * 4694 * sf * 2015-07-23

This tale of an alien invader being awakened by humans will never be mistaken for Campbell's "The Thing" or, more pertinently, Peter Watts' "The Things" despite some extreme commonalities and I was even wondering if English was the author's native language (it appears not) and I generally don't like "There Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know" stories but, when it comes to METI, I think everyone involved is crazy and should be required to read this story. I've always thought METI akin to Aztecs and Incas and such standing on the beach and waving at the Conquistadors' ships and telling themselves idiocies such as "any race advanced enough to construct ships that cross the oceans could never be violent."

So much is just didacticism, though. I shouldn't recommend a story just on that basis and when a story has odd phraseology (most noticeable in the opening moments) and some questionable science, it really shouldn't be recommended, right? But, unlike 99.9% of the stories I've read in these webzines, once this got going, it was exciting: fast-acting, violent, viscerally exhilarating (and disgusting and scary) and just a blast (literally: it has a grenade). And this achieves one of the wonders of SF: the altered perspective. The story is no more "disgusting and scary" than a good steak dinner... unless you're the cow. Go. Read. Enjoy. And never message unknown aliens!

"I Found Solace in a Great Moving Shadow" * Bronte Christopher Wieland * Flash Fiction Online * 2015-06, #21 * 987 * sf * 2015-06-10

My Tangent review has details.

"Like a Sea Cucumber" * Rudy Rucker * Terraform * 2015-06-29 * 2478 * sf * 2015-07-23

Rudy Rucker gets transreal in the piece which stars himself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) twice. Clonomics is testing AI duplicate personalities for tablets. Klompie wants the protagonist to fill in for a speaker who's canceled. The AI talks them into letting him do it remotely - which means the AI can give the whole talk.

This was starting to amuse me. I'd get paid, I'd get publicity, and we'd be sticking it to Klompie. At some deep Dada level, it would be disruptive media art.

And it goes on from there. Very funny but also not necessarily implausible and interesting to think about. And there are some things AIs just can't do. Like going full sea cucumber.

"Skins" * Rjurik Davidson * Cosmos * 2015-06-15 * 3553 * sf * 2015-06-21

I recommend this story but only if you don't mind some futuristic kink. This tale begins with a guy seeming to stalk a woman but it turns out he's, well, still stalking - in a non-threatening way - a remote-controlled robot. The rich can safely tour the world or, in this case, France with "concrete VR," so to speak, while the French-born son of Senegalese refugees deals with invasive future tech, anti-refugee feelings, criminal cops, and his own sociosexual issues. This story skillfully handles a judicious degree of cognitive estrangement, oscillating between opacity and clarity as new things are introduced and others explained. And it doesn't fumble the ending.

It's a human and literary story which doesn't lose sight of the tech and the story-telling (or is a tech story and accessible but doesn't lose sight of the human element and theme, if you'd rather).