Cover by Wayne Haag.
Malcolm Devlin. Must Supply Own Work Boots.
Only the second published story from Devlin, not that you’d have any idea from reading it.
The title refers to building sites, and Devlin evokes (for me at least, with my British North East roots) folk memories of skilled labour heading off to the shipbuilding yards, with the ships towering above the terraced houses of the town.
His protagonist though is heading to a massive spaceship, and he is envious of the men and women swarming over the ship’s hull, their Mark IV exo-rigs a quantum leap beyond the Mark III that his clunky and far less discreet bodymods equip him for. The pace of progress is leaving him behind, and he has to decide what to do – upgrade to Mark IV at a great cost, or head off to the junkyards where there is still a demand for Mark III reg-equipped workers.
Devlin handles the story well, with only conversation and inner thoughts to progress the narrative, which is never easy, and captures the characters well.
R.M. Graves. Bullman and the Wiredling Mutha.
A teensy morsel that quickly melts in the mouth, leaving just a passing remembrance.
Set in a near-future London, with gang warfare the norm, alien invasion, it’s an inventive setting, told through the eyes of Bullman, tweaked for violence, and with a vocabulary only just one or two steps beyond ‘Hulk will Smash!’
It covers four pages, but only by dint of humongous top and bottom margins on each page! So an appetizer, leaving the reader wanting more about this distopyian setting.
Thana Niveau. The Calling of Night’s Ocean.
Having just had a very short, but quite inventive SF story in the issue more space by a factor of 10 or so is given to a story, which whilst it’s well written, doesn’t have that much fantastical about it.
Niveau, une auteur nouvelle to moi, looks at human/dolphin interaction, through the eyes of both a scientist, and a dolphin. It’s set in the past, linking directly to ‘real world’ use of LSD with dolphins.
I’m not entirely sure that dolphin’s worldview and narrative really works for me, not really being sufficiently ‘different’ to human thought processes. And there’s only that teensy bit of what the use of LSD reveals deep in the dolphin psyche to turn it into genre fiction.
Tim Major. Finding Waltzer-Three.
A second ultra short (fractionally over two-pages) story in the issue. I’d personally rather have seen each story resubmitted at great length, and have had each story in a different issue.
Here a husband/wife combo explore an old spaceship wreck. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been publishing length novellas in her ‘Diving’ sequence about wreck exploration, and in contrast this story just doesn’t really have enough in it – there’s no backstory, background, depth or richness, etc, just a husband/wife dialogue.
E. Catherine Tobler. Oubliette.Jennifer Dornan-Fish. Mind the Gap.
A story from an author new to me, and at three pages in length, not too much by way of an introduction!
There’s a tight focus – an AI is the protagonist, a new one, in a basement. And through conversations with a human, we find out a little about what is going on beyond the walls of the basement (hint : it’s not good), and about the nature of intelligence, and when true consciousness is attained.
Tom Greene. Monoculture.
Intriguing multi-perspective story, in a post-flu epidemic ravaged society. One set of survivors are clones, all inheriting their progenitor’s immunity, living in a city, physically identical, and numbered to differentiate between each other. Coming into the town are a couple whose immunity enabled them to survive out in the countryside, but who have headed into town.
We follow them experiencing the lives of the (to them) rich clones, and the response of the clones to them, and the alienation, but with an uplifting final paragraph.
Some shorter stories, with Devlin the pick of the punch for me.