Webzine Story Recommendations: August 2015

"Adult Children of Alien Beings" * Dennis Danvers * tor.com * 2015-08-19 * 9192 * sf * 2015-08-28

A man in his sixties has decided to find out more about his family's roots only to discover that they have none, ending with his parents who seem to have materialized in the ballpark of WWII and who have since died. More effort leads him to a strange conversation with a professor who informs that he's the child of aliens.

"And that makes me and my brother?"

"Aliens."

What to say to a totally tenured nutjob?

The more the protagonist thinks about it, the more he begins to accept the idea (it explains so much) and he joins the titular group. He learns about the apparent mass exodus of the aliens corresponding to when his parents died (disappeared) and he meets a woman half his age who explains that she's a child of a couple of the few who stayed behind. Their relationship forms a large part of the story, along with the character's difficult relationship with his brother.

None of that conveys just how naturally and (seemingly) effortlessly this is written and how lightly and delightfully funny it is. It may trouble some that the plot is not extremely exciting or that there is never any actual incontrovertible evidence that this is science fiction rather than a shared delusion but I actually appreciated the former in this case and didn't mind the latter too much. Highly recommended.

"The Grace of Turning Back" * Therese Arkenberg * Beneath Ceaseless Skies * 2015-08-06, #179 * 7745 * f * 2015-08-10

I'm not sure how well this would stand alone, being a sequel to "For Lost Time" but that, itself, comes in the midst of the Across the Curse-Strewn World sequence and worked well for me, so perhaps this would as well. As a companion piece to the other, they are both firmly recommended.

Having had a preliminary meeting with the Goddess of Death in the previous story, the wizard Aniver and his friend Semira venture to her realm for a face-to-face. There, they work out how to attempt to restore Aniver's beloved cities, prematurely aged into ruin and frozen there. There will, of course, be a price. In a remarkably "romance"-free way, this is an interesting meditation on a couple of varieties of love, a bit of death, and a lot of Story. While I wasn't as arrested by key phrases and perceptions in this as I was in "For Lost Time," the larger structure - things said by implication - was even more interesting and I still like the way the milieu has nothing too bizarre or cliched but attains a nice mix of the individual and familiar and I like the reserved way the deeply felt aspects of the story are told, being neither cold nor overwrought.

"Today I Am Paul" * Martin L. Shoemaker * Clarkesworld * 2015-08, #107 * 4922 * sf * 2015-08-08

A robot is taking care of an elderly woman and it is state of the art, being able to change hair and eye color and voice modulation to mimic various loved ones when they are not able to be there for her. But no emulation would be complete without the personality which is modeled in an empathy mode and which is used when the patient needs more than simple "mechanical" care. Such are the basics of the setup which sound good but not particularly extraordinary. The plot simply follows the robot's care and a variety of emulations and an emergency situation. The brilliance of this story is in the details, the tone of the robot's first person narration, and the conclusion.