Charles Payseur Reviews Short Fiction: GigaNotoSaurus, Cast of Wonders, and Escape Pod

GigaNotoSaurus 3/22
Cast of Wonders 2-3/22
Escape Pod 3/22

The March story from GigaNotoSaurus is a wonderful take on space opera in “The Law of Take” by Isabel Cañas. Vis has risen from a childhood of poverty all the way to empress, all on the idea that she needs to take what she wants. Money, power, influence – and yet when it comes to love, taking what she wants might jeopardize everything else she’s fought to build. The law of take, though, isn’t something that can be fol­lowed halfway, and the story does a great job of following Vis through the ambition, drama, and action that follows in the wake of not conceding the things that matter most. Set against a com­plex political situation and the acute dangers of explosions in space, it’s a rollercoaster ride of a tale that does not disappoint.

Cast of Wonders continues 2022 with three new stories, including two very short ones well-paired together in a single episode. “Interview with a Sixth Grade Science Fiction Food Stylist” by B Meyers is a delightful interview between a child creator of strange food-based art and an interviewer who treats the creations with the same seriousness one might expect from a much more prestigious art publication. Both satirical and ear­nest, the story embraces the random and juvenile “vision” of the artist while making a more subtle commentary on how art is discussed and critically engaged with. It’s paired with Graham Robert Scott’s “Ninja Robot Clowns (in Space)”, which is another that looks at the creativity of children and finds something powerful and worth explor­ing. Finally, Sydney Rivers casts a sentient sword as narrator of “My Hilt Itches” in her fiction debut. Mourning being wielded by a braggart and fool, the fake Excalibur still manages to influence its situation and reach for meaningful connection and a more equal partnership… with a little help from a witch. It’s fun and well imagined.

March’s Escape Pod opens with Kristen Koop­man’s “This Is Our Get-Along Brainship”, a warm and interesting take on sentient spaceships. Coraje is the new AI on a ship that used to be the Duende, but despite being in charge, Coraje finds that they might also be a bit… haunted. The story explores what that means, and the ways that both AIs relate to and care for the human crew onboard. It’s not an easy relationship they find themselves in, but the story follows their path to, if not exactly friendship, a kind of deep and vital understanding that is a joy to behold. From AI to aliens, Raymond Roach shifts focus to a distant world in “The Wrong Side of the Sky”, where an old woman native to the desert there is confronted by her brother, who has left that home and partnered with aliens she does not approve of. The piece looks at balance and change, prejudice and identity, in a way that doesn’t villain­ize the reluctant older character but does leave her room to grow her experiences and perspective about her home. It’s a careful and sharp work by Roach.

Recommended Stories:
“The Law of Take”, Isabel Cañas (GigaNotoSaurus 3/22)
“This Is Our Get-Along Brainship”, Kristen Koopman (Escape Pod 3/22)

Charles Payseur is an avid reader, writer, and reviewer of speculative fiction. His works have appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and many are included in his debut collection, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories (Lethe Press 2021). He is the series editor of We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction (Neon Hemlock Press) and a multiple-time Hugo and Ignyte Award finalist for his work at Quick Sip Reviews. When not drunkenly discussing Goosebumps, X-Men comic books, and his cats on his Patreon (/quicksipreviews) and Twitter (@ClowderofTwo), he can probably found raising a beer with his husband, Matt, in their home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

This review and more like it in the May 2022 issue of Locus.

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