Douglas Lain. Noam Chomsky and the Time Box.
The time travel trope has been trodden pretty flat, so it’s a pleasure to read a story that does a couple of things quite innovative with the topic.
Lain posits a very near future where time travel has become pretty much a simple functionality of the handheld tech that is increasingly taking over our lives. And it’s not a functionality that has really taken off, as the general public pretty much give it a meh on account of the fundamental impossibility of changing the past.
Blogger Jeff Morris decides to test whether the past is indeed inviolate, and instead of heading back in time to Hitler, Shakespeare or other regularly visited historical figures in time travel fiction, he decides that engineering a conversation between Noam Chomsky and Terence McKenna at Gate 23 of O’Hara airport in the early 1970s is what he wants to do. It’s a clever choice, in a clever story, and Lain gives a thinking person’s view on time travel, freed up as he is from not having to get involved with causation conundrums or butterflies or grandfather paradoxes.
Michael R. Fletcher. Intellectual Property.
Industrial espionage science thriller hinging on the conceit that in order to secure their secrets, companies will fit staff with dongles which store everything they work on whilst at work, and which are kept on site at all times. Their staff log in and plug in when they arrive at the office, and when they leave they log out and plug out. Their work-memories are therefore left on site, and they have no knowledge of what they did during the work day.
Fletcher provides a clever multi-perspective story of espionage, and double-crossing.
Sarah L. Edwards. By Plucking Her Petals.
A society where beauty can be bought and sold, skimmed and applied, leaves Monticello Dabney with a choice. Does he use his skills to rescue a young woman cruelly modified to meet beauty in the eye of a perverse beholder, even though it means risk for him.
Sue Burke. Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.
A story which I found a bit of a struggle.
The story is seen through the digital eyes of an Invisible Friend, one of the AIs that have become popular in the States, a simple app to install on a mobile phone, but one capable of facilitating communication and friendship. We follow the Invisible Friend as its owner, a young American student working in Spain, struggles with emnity from her host family and friends. It’s a dialogue-led story, and I found it difficult to keep track of who was saying what to whom, and three main characters interacted, as reported by the AI. Interestingly, the author has lived in Spain for some time, and at times the structure of some of the writing felt the kind of awkward you get when speaking a different language, or returning to your native language having not used it much. Generally I found the tone of the writing to be what I would imagine late-teen fiction to be.
James Bloomer. Flock, Shoal, Herd.
Winner of The James White Award short story competition for non professional writers.
It’s a short piece, with the use of the simile ‘like’ twice in the opening paragraph not boding well to start, but fortunately the rest of the story, whilst not reaching the literary heights, doesn’t otherwise commit much else in the way of such faux pas. And as with a lot of short stories by inexperienced writers, there’s an idea, but not the depth of attention given to it to give full satisfaction to the reader. But Bloomer is now a published author, so congrats to him.
The Opening stories by Lain and Fletcher the strongest of the issue.