Sandra McDonald. Beach Blanket Spaceship. Clarkesworld Magazine Issue #46, July 2010.

Another 45 minute slow moving queue on the London Orbital motorway, another chance to
listen to a podcasted story on the iPhone via the i35.

‘The Monsters of Morgan Island’ from Asimvos June 2009 is the only story I’ve read of McDonald’s to date.
That was ‘a subtle piece of world-building’, and this story is equally impressive. Read by the very listenable-to Kate Baker you should of course either listen to or else read this story before reading my thoughts on it.

It’s got an opening that gets the reader/listener intrigued straight away : a 1960s west coast beach, with a group of teenagers doing what they used to do in those days. Incongruous amongst them is the spacesuited Merullo. We quickly find why he believes himself to be there – it’s a VR sim, one of several set up to help the crew on a mission to Titan. The crux of the story revolves around his coming to terms with his presence here, his inability to extricate himself from the sim, and just what is going on.

Is it just a glitch in the VR software, or something else. Can he let go of his past to embrace whatever the future may be. There’s a satisfactory ending, revealing more about him, and it gives an emotional impact (perhaps the more so through listening to it than reading it, as Baker imbues emotion so effectively in her story telling).

Note to self : take iPhone out of car and plug into iTunes to get the more recent Clarkesworld podcasts.

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