Jason Sanford. Into the Depths of Illuminated Seas.
Sanford has provided a string of strong stories in Interzone (nb you can click on his name above to locate these). Here he provides some vivid imagery that lingers in the mind – in a coastal fishing village, a young woman orphaned some years back, finds the names of sailors appearing on her skin, those names burning white when they are soon to die. When a sailor is washed ashore with a daguerrotype of a scene featuring the pair of them, a scene not yet happened, she is drawn into a conflict that will see one of them dead.
Tyler Keevil. Hibakusha.
London has been laid waste by a nuclear bomb, and we follow one survivor as he volunteers yet again on a clear-up taskforce, desperate to get to Ground Zero, and closer to his lover. The bleak landscape is a disturbing one if you are familiar with London, and we follow the protagonist as he finally makes it, seeking desperately for some token of the existence of his lover, and whether he is willing to stay behind, or fight to make a new life.
Mercurio D. Rivera. In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty.
Set in the same world as ‘Longing for Langalana’ from Interzone, which won the readers poll for 2006, and which got my approval. This is slightly less successful – featuring a human relationship, rather than an intra-species one. There’s a tug of love over a woman, who has fled her husband for the moon Titan, with her husband’s ex-colleage. The wronged husband is the protagonist, with two alien Wegen in tow (the race is far advanced than we are, but they struggle to understand our concept of marriage, and this pair have to have explained what the stubble on his face is). He believes his wife to have been drugged by his ex-colleague, who has used the research they were involved in together to get her to fall in love with him. There’s an overly simple confrontation, and some of the writing jars at times ( ‘I searched for Miranda’s visage amongst them, to no avail’), and whilst the twist in the tale makes up for some of that, I’m guessing this won’t top the readers poll for 2010.
Jay Lake. Human Error.
Gritty, sweaty, emotional drama, with the focus on the human relationships rather than the science or the technology, as is Lake’s trademark. A miner on an asteroid finds something anomalous – an alien artifact. The company reward for finding such a thing is immense, but she has two man back at base camp who are part of a complex equation, as is whether they can realistically expect to claim their prize.
Rachel Swirsky. Again and again and again.
Clever little piece looking at the consequences of each generation taking things just one step further than the previous one. Just where will it end?
Stephen Gaskell. Aquestria.
A woman on one side of a civil war between interplanetary settlers, grieving for the murder of her husband at the death of their enemies, decides to help to survive a mutilated victim of those enemies. Except that he isn’t one of the enemy – he is very much part of the planet on which they have settled. The central conceit is not entirely convincing – the planet has a massive, subterranean tree which grows identical replicas of the races who settle on the planet over the millennia, and how those settlers treat that replica determines how the planet responds to the settlers. It’s also a big one that is sprung on the reader right at the end, and not explaining anything that has been proferred as something needing explaing : more than that – especially after the reader has been told that victim can write the language of the enemy. And with a human/alien planet interface, you would really not want to refer to the replica as an ‘avatar’ as that just highlights a nod to the central issue of the film of that name.
Couple of good ‘uns.