Jess Hislop. Triolet
Plants that recite poems are the fantastical element to a story about a couple who see a gift of a plant/poem about them as a good portent for the future, but alas and alack love never runs true…
Steven J. Dines. The Machinehouse Worker’s Song.
A huge machinehouse has been home to many workers, cut off from the outside world since they were put in service as children. Of the world outside they know little, just having their childhood memories (and the reader knows less). A mysterious illness is reducing their numbers, until gradually just a pair are left. The story focusses on the conversations between the two, about what might be out there (if anything) or whether they have been left behind. The answer isn’t revealed!
Nigel Brown. Sentry Duty.
Ssthra is on guard duty, having to resist her hunger pangs caused by the eggs she is carrying, tasked with guarding the alien ship. To Ssthra’s surprise, the alien approaches her and engages her in conversation, and Ssthra is able to find out something through that conversation that is to her advantage
Aliette de Bodard. The Angel at the Heart of the Rain.
Well-written short-short in which a young refugee realises that in embracing her new life she must leave behind the ways of the past. Albeit with only a nominal speculative element.
Priya Sharma. Thesea and Astaurius.
Beautiful re-telling of the Greek myth of the minotaur, told through a re-telling of the myth, which varies slightly from the myth.
Sharma delicately skips over the nature of the conception (ahem) (wikipedia) but paints a bleak picture of the works of King Minos, and his brutality. Young Thesea, virginal beauty, is raised to be a sacrifice to the minotaur, but all is not as it seems, as her fate is fated to be worse than that. However, she escapes that fate and Sharma creates a new myth with sfnal elements that pleases.
Lavie Tidhar. The Core.
Another short installment in the ‘Central Station’ sequence, with Achimwene tracking his Strigoi lover Carmel. He does find her, and observes her – and I’m just a bit worried that some of the implications of what happens are lost on me as I can’t remember the detail from previous stories! I think that rather than having the story stretched out over a couple of years in short chunks, I’d prefer more of a traditional novel serialisation!
Georgina Bruce. Cat World.
It often strikes me that a disproportionate number of SF writers in the short bios mention that they are cat owners. Georgina Bruce gets as far away as that cosy image as can be possible, in a dark, very dark story, a long way from the ballad of lost c’mell.
The story starts with a pair of young sisters eking out a living in a post-something society in a very near future. As the story progresses it slowly dawns on the reader exactly what is going on, it gets into very dark territory indeed. A great read.
Shannon Fay. You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete.
Winner of the James White Award – which is open to non-professional writers.
Fay takes a look at the (short) life of Stuart Sutcliffe, the ‘fifth Beatle’, following the story of his life and death at the age of 21. There’s one fictional character in the story, but that’s spelled out in the title, so no surprise there, and subsequently no further surprises in a story that’s nicely handled, but nothing more.