Webzine Story Recommendations: July 2015

"Elegy for the Green Earthrise" * Joanne Rixon * Crossed Genres * 2015-07, #31 * 8869 * sf * 2015-07-09

This is another mention so honorable I list it as recommended. At first, I was thinking that this couldn't be a successful story because you just can't do it any more. You can write stories about uploaded minds but only as part of the furniture. Trying to take us through the details of this "new" idea is kind of like detailing how a giant bullet can be shot to the moon or something - like mainstream writers painfully reinventing wheels we've been cruising around on for awhile now. And, indeed, it is a weakness of the story. Further, I'm tired of ecological disaster stories. Finally, despite (or because of) everything the story apocalyptically details, I was somehow underwhelmed by the ending. Nevertheless, after initial apathy, going through the process once again became intriguing and it's certainly done well. While it may not be a masterpiece, after I read it and decided to recommend it (or extremely honorably mention it), I saw that the author blurb says this is the author's first story. I'm not grading on a curve here, but this is a really good first story. Masterpieces are not to be expected. Yet. (But I have hopes.)

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, with entire species dying off at a shocking pace. And the protagonist is dying. Fortunately(?), her girlfriend gets her to sign up for a new brain-scanning program. So far, so ordinary. But starting with the main person in charge of the experiment and going on down to the guy she becomes friends with who interacts with her the most, and moving through the further stages of the experiment, the story just grew on me. I'm tempted to detail further steps to try to be more convincing, especially as one later stage was perhaps the best part, but I don't want to spoil things. I'm not sure how much the story really says in the end - if it has any didactic message, I may not be on board with it. But what I think I like is that it doesn't really pass judgment on much but merely raises it for our examination. What we think of it is up to us and, while I don't know that I thought about much I haven't thought about before, it's stuff that does bear thinking about more than once.

"It Brought Us All Together" * Marissa Lingen * Strange Horizons * 2015-07-13 * 3982 * sf * 2015-07-28

This recommendation comes with one strong reservation: the speculative element is a contagious disease but we really have contagious diseases and, if you substitute one of those for this speculative one, you have the exact same story except it's not SF. So this isn't really SF.

Leaving that aside, the protagonist is a high school student who has lost her parents to this plague and is resolved to become a mycologist and handle her genuine personal grief her own genuine way. This is made difficult when a student at the school dies from the same disease and the story centers on how people react to grief, both personally and, um, socially.

I loved the narrative voice and the simple, direct way everything was handled. My favorite scene was the first with the guidance counselor, which was flawless.

"A Mild Case of Death" * David Gerrold * Galaxy's Edge * 2015-07, #15 * 3454 * f * 2015-07-11

I'm an easy mark when it comes to a decent afterlife fantasy for some reason and that's what this is - with a deep level in the twist which I appreciated. This twist also has a side-effect (or retroactive effect) which some might delight in, some might be horrified by, and which I just found really cleverly done.

"Sacred Cows: Death and Squalor on the Rio Grande" * A.S. Diev * GigaNotoSaurus * 2015-05 * 11220 * sf * 2015-07-12

I call this science fiction but be warned that it's not unless you think genetically engineered flying cows are doable. But it's certainly not fantasy as, otherwise, it's pretty realistic and even that element is handled as realistically as it can be. In fact, an arguable weakness of the story is that it purports to be an example of "New Gonzo Journalism" of 2027 when it's not particularly gonzo, but more like New New Journalism.

The humorously billed "fashion editor" of a rock magazine is sent south of the border to get a story about a man who's been charged with murder when he drunkenly fired into a herd of flying cattle with tragic results. She interviews him, the billionaire who got the cattle modified, and the girlfriend of the accused. In addition to the mighty cows, we meet the girlfriend's little bees which are similarly modified after the extinction of our natural bees. All the parts of this story seem necessary and seem to me to convey a little-big "On Your Way Down" message while being nuanced and fully cognizant of the tragedy to all. However, while I appreciate a longer story* and no large part seems like it should be excised, perhaps some tightening of words or lines throughout the story might have helped. There are several clever lines but one thing I'd have wanted from the story was a higher percentage of (as Bruce Sterling might put it) "buzzing copper wire" lines vs. insulation in the story and a slightly faster pace. Still, much of this story is quite memorable and effective and I enjoyed it.

* Indeed, as GigaNotoSaurus is, at the time of writing, one of the few webzine markets open to 8-12 Kwd stories, one of two to 12-16, and the only one open to 16-25, that is its attraction.

"Saul's Diary" * Lawrence Person * Galaxy's Edge * 2015-07, #15 * 1873 * sf * 2015-07-11

In a way, I shouldn't give this a recommendation because it could have been so much more. I'm not saying it should have shot for "Flowers for Algernon" territory but who knows? Instead, it plays the story light (and arguably stories shouldn't play Alzheimer's light but I really think that was adding its own kind of poignancy to that particular aspect rather than using it cruelly for "laughing at" the issue) and this tale of a man with Alzheimer's and a problem with his "amigawhatsit" is funny and sad and, in a way, delightful. I don't want to say exactly what it is that our hero does in this story because a big part of the fun was the reveal of what was going on, so I'll just leave that behind the veil.