Margo Lanagan. The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross. (Lightspeed #79 December 2016)

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A dark, disturbing near future story, originally in the Jack Dann edited ‘Dreaming’ (2008).

Set in Australia (hence the southern hemisphere zodiacal title), people of a nervous/sensitive disposition may wish to skip the story and the following sentences!

The story starts with Jonah feeling frustrated at the coitus interruptus halfway through the half hour sex he has paid for with Malka. She isn’t ‘quite’ human, although we don’t find out the exact details, but for her giving birth halfway through sex is a minor inconvenience, wheres for Jonah it is a complete turnoff.

Heading back home through his neighbourhood (he is grateful the ‘fudge-packers’ have been run out of town) Jason is met on his doorstep by a girl who he had a liaison with not long back – one which he didn’t have to pay out for. And he finds that, in this world of damaged DNA, he himself has the goods that might elevate him out of his current situation…

As I said, a dark, disturbing story and I hope that Lanagan feels better for getting it out of her system. They say that a problem shared is a problem halved so that probably works for her, although I’m struggling to find a positive for me in having this story in my mind….

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