Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, and Fusion Fragment

Analog 9-10/21
Interzone #290-291
Galaxy’s Edge 7/21
Fusion Fragment 7/21

Analog’s latest issue features ‘‘The Silence Before I Sleep’’, a novella in Adam-Troy Castro’s AISource future that introduces Rage Larkin, a contract killer by profession, though she emphasizes that she avoids (or voids) contracts that violate her principles and also tries to come up with alternate solutions. Rage’s latest assignment is on an artificial planet created by a very rich woman who has hired Rage to kill her ex-lover, who is ensconced elsewhere on this planet. Castro’s interest here is in the motivations of the two enemies. There is a degree of artificial­ity to the setup – it’s clearly constructed to make its point, but the point is a worthwhile one and the story built around it is full of interesting color and involving action, though ultimately it’s quite sad. Rage Larkin is a character I suspect we’ll see again – and I have no objection to that.

‘‘Extrasolar Redundancy in the Nova Tortuga Model of Preservation Dermochelys coriacea’’ by Bianca Sayan is yet another failed attempt to match D.G. Compton for longest title, but it succeeds at what it’s really trying to do! Dessy is a grad student, researching ways to preserve threatened species (in this case, sea turtles) in constructed ecologies. ‘‘Constructed,’’ in this case, implying a constructed planetoid around another sun. Sih will have to go the new planetoid to conduct the research, and to keep hir sane sih will need a therapeutic AI node. The story, nicely built around extracts from hir thesis, tells of Dessy’s struggles, Bitsy the AI’s help, and the sea turtles’ problems, and it is involving and affecting, even when nothing happens (though as Bitsy says, ‘‘Something happened!’’) ‘‘The Hunger’’ by Marco Frassetto is in Peter Watts’s level of scary territory as it tells of 83-year-old Professor Zielinski, summoned to help with a disaster in space… caused, she soon learns, by self-replicating machines – or, perhaps, living things? The story is both speculation about the true nature of these ‘‘invaders,’’ carried out in a running debate between the Professor and a protégé, and an examination of the desperate human response.

Interzone is back with a generous double issue after a hiatus. I liked Alexander Glass’s novel­ette ‘‘A Hollow in the Sky’’, in which Mateo, who had escaped the Gathering, a sort of human hive-mind that took over the Earth, is summoned to help investigate a crisis back on Earth caused by the appearance of aliens called the Borers (because they can bore through spacetime)…. A friend of Mateo’s who had also left the Gathering comes as well, and the two of them, along with a Gathering envoy, try to connect with the Borers. There aren’t real answers here, but there are some intriguing questions.

Lavie Tidhar’s ‘‘The Egg Collectors’’, set on Titan, is about an ex-soldier and her sister who end up needing to find shelter after a balloon crash, and encountering strange egglike constructs (not to mention a lonely AI) as they work through some family issues. It’s ultimately a quiet story, but interesting and another nice look at Tidhar’s oft-visited future Solar System. John Possedente has another Humboldt Station story, ‘‘The Mischief that is Past’’, entertaining as ever, in which our now-fugitive protagonist tells a wild story about a trip to Earth where he learns that Sacagawea is still alive and receiving messages from aliens – and now he’s back on Humboldt with the chance at a real big story… next installment!

Galaxy’s Edge opens with a fine fantastical-historical story from Carolyn Ives Gilman, ‘‘Nanabojou and the Wise Men’’, as the title character, a Native American trickster figure, has some fun at the expense of a couple of scientists investigating the Walam Olum (mysterious geo­metric earthworks) in 1820s Ohio. All the char­acters, we are told, are actual historical people, and one is immediately recognizable. The cool setting and the sly view taken of the scientists’ (the ‘‘Wise Men’s’’) speculations are fun, as are Nanobojou’s voice and his description of the real history of his people. The magazine also has a program of sharing translations with their Chi­nese sister magazine, and this issue they feature ‘‘Hyperspace Partner’’ by Bao Shu (translated by S. Qiouyi Lu). The protagonist has come to the US for graduate study, but his girlfriend had to stay in China for her job. They connect via a new technology: a ‘‘hyperspace’’ link, that over time is extended to include VR interactions, and then, dangerously, AI simulations of their personalities, and even an android…. Naturally, this leads to severe complications…. The resolution is perhaps a bit pat and predictable, but it’s a nice piece.

Fusion Fragment’s seventh issue has fine work from Ranylt Richildis and Brandon Crilly. Richildis’s ‘‘Sainte-Noyale’’ is set in the epony­mous Western Quebec village, a village known for its jam, which attracts hordes of visitors. Not everyone likes the tourists, especially not cranky old Lucien Croteau, and it falls to Matt Gagnon and his French girlfriend Virginie to intervene when they overhear Lucien’s plans. This is one of those stories built on atmosphere (strawberry-scented atmosphere in this case) and on place – I liked inhabiting it, is all I can say. Crilly’s ‘‘Soulmark’’ is told by Vicky, who runs security for the Matchsticks, a rock band led by Lee Gar­rison. Vicky’s biggest concern is obsessed fans – and when a woman with wings that can only have been attained by a Deal appears, she is wor­ried – especially when Lee starts crowdsurfing. Things complexify – we learn what a Deal is and that Vicky made a Deal to get special strength to help with her job, and that Lee had never needed one – his talent is enough. Add Vicky’s fraught family life, and then rumors that Lee possibly has made a Deal, and things add up to a heartrending story (with room for more).

Recommended Reading

“The Silence Before I Sleep”, Adam-Troy Castro (Analog 9-10/21)

“Sainte-Noyale”, Brandon Crilly (Fusion Fragment 6/21)

“The Hunger”, Marco Frassetto (Analog 9-10/21)

“Nanobojou and the Wise Men”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Galaxy’s Edge 6/21)

“A Hollow in the Sky”, Alexander Glass (Interzone #290-291)

“Sainte-Noyale”, Ranylt Richildis (Fusion Fragment 6/21)

“Extrasolar Redundancy in the Nova Tortuga Model of Preservation Dermochelys coriacea”, Bianca Sayan (Analog 9-10/21)

“The Egg Collectors”, Lavie Tidhar (Interzone #290-291)

Rich Horton works for a major aerospace company in St. Louis MO. He has published over a dozen anthologies, including the yearly series The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy from Prime Books, and he is the Reprint Editor for Lightspeed Magazine. He contributes articles and reviews on SF and SF history to numerous publications.

This review and more like it in the October 2021 issue of Locus.

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