In this, the first in a series of ‘contemporary retellings of classical Greek myths’, the relationship between the swan and the human woman, Leda, is not consensual. She and her partner struggle with the aftermath of the sexual assault (the story is taken forward through several viewpoints). Can she truly be pregnant from the swan? And what of the offspring?
Michael Libling. The Fourth Kiss.
Young Paula weaves her insidious spell amongst the boys of her town, encouraging them to dark acts. During his adolescence Scott struggles to resist her wiles, having had her tell him that she was the cause of her mother’s death.
He finally succumbs, however, and begins his destructive acts. But he has one chance to redeem himself.
Richard Chwedyk. Bronte’s Egg.
The second story about ‘toy’ dinosaurs who are living in a refuge, safe from the cruel acts of their previous owners. The main protagonist is a ‘cute’ young Dino, who dreams of the stars, and wants to build a robot. In building said robot, he inadvertently stumbles upon a way of bringing an egg from a fellow resident to hatch.
A little too ‘cutesy’ for me, to be honest, as the story veered towards a somewhat saccharin Disneyesque feel.
Robert Thurston. Who wants to live forever?
A think piece which grew out of a class discussion on Gilgamesh, which pretty much stays at the level of musings on the pros and cons of immortality and some of the practicalities.
Harvey Jacobs. The Synchronous Swimmer.
A socially inadequate man takes up synchronous swimming as a hobby. Doing it by himself is of course a bit of a problem. His solution: an imaginary partner.
The story works well on this basis, and becomes more enjoyable as the sfnal element at the end is introduced: the imaginary partner is (evidently) more than simply a figment of his imagination, but rather an extra-terrestrial.
Charles Coleman Finaly. We Come Not to Praise Washington.
The introduction comments that ‘in the early days of science fiction, alternate history was something of a rarity, nowadays, it’s one of the most popular forms of science fiction’.
I’ve never been a fan of this form of speculative fiction (it for the most part is clearly not science fiction). One of the reasons why in the early days of SF it was rare was because people were concentrating on writing SF which looked to the future, rather than to the past.
I’m really not clear in this case as to what this story is trying to say which is better told through AH as opposed to SF. Partly for me the problem is that my knowledge of this historic period of American history is as sketchy as most American’s knowledge of the English Civil War. I can spot that Washington’s death is a departure from the norm, and that the name Washington is being taken forward by another. The story element about a slave and his quest for freedom for himself and his people doesn’t appear to be particularly ‘speculative’.
For me the Libling and the Jacobs stories are the better stories in this issue, and the enjoyment of the issue is going to hang on whether you find the the dinos in Chwedyk’s story ‘aah-cute’ or ‘bleagh-cute’.