Robert Reed’s wHole is an engrossing little thought piece. Initially it is told from the point of view of a car that is lost in the woods beneath unfamiliar stars, and trying to understand its passengers, and more importantly, how many people there are in the back seat. The story slowly opens up into a tale of engineers space travel and the power of thought. A quiet and engrossing story, that like all good science fiction, makes you think. Indeed, I may need to read it a few more times before I fully connect all the concepts introduced.
Tang Fei has crafted a lyrical melancholy story about two “story-telling machine kids” with springs and gears, built to only ever tell stories. It unfolds like a twisted fairy tale with windup children. The relationship between the narrator and Pepe is a twisted knot of hate, shared experience, and unspoken love. Fei slowly gives the reader glimpses into the larger world, but maintains a sense of mystery and implied depth. My favorite of the issue.
Mary Anne Mohanraj’s Communion is a character piece set against the backdrop of an intergalactic war. Chaurin, an alien, has come to reclaim his brother’s body from a human colony. There are only three characters in the story, four counting the deceased who casts a long shadow, but Mohanraj uses them to explore a variety of topics including burial traditions, body image, genetic engineering, and racial purity in a way that never feels forced and stems directly from the characters and their experiences. A very well crafted, thought provoking story.
Molly Gloss’ Lambing season is a sci-fi western that focuses on one woman, a sheepherder, alone with the sheep, the dogs, the coyotes, and something else. It is full of lived in detail and comfortable solitude. This is an atmospheric, slow building story–quite, thoughtful, and almost real.
Geoff Ryman’s Have Not Have is a story of fashion, of the city and the town, of the haves and have-nots. Ryman takes the reader into the world of Mae, the village’s fashion expert, and shows the world through her eyes, her struggles. A charming, bittersweet story with bite.