Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 125 by Neil Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Assassins” – At it’s most basic level, this is a story about people forming emotional attachments with virtual characters. What I think makes this short story so compelling is that this is already the case with much less fidelity than a Star Trek holodeck or even convincing virtual reality. People form emotional bonds with video game characters – the previous book I read (A Mind Forever Voyaging) – documents this happening back in the text adventure days. It still happens today. And it happens with book characters, anime characters, characters on TV shows… So it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to understand the emotional attachments in the more VR-capable world of the short story. Additionally, the main character has her own emotional issues and perhaps some neuro-atypical things going on. As a short story it’s masterfully told, but I think it would also be fun to explore this world some more in another short story or in a longer story.
“Prosthetic Daughter” – The story has a pretty cool philsophical setup: if our memories make us who we are and, due to cybernetic implants, they can be erased, what does that mean for our identity? Unfortunately, it has the (seemingly) uncessisary addition of a time travel element which I can’t quite figure out if it was used .Also, the narrative starts off a little vague and does little to correct the vagueness. So I’m left thinking it’s a great premise that doesn’t quite pay off for me.
“How Bees Fly” – A beautiful story with a pretty great twist halfway through. It definitely left me wanting more from that universe, even if this is the perfect length to keep from seeing the seams in the plot.
“Rain Ship” – This story does what the best mixed genre SF does. It is first and foremost a great thriller mystery. Our main character is a mercenary hired into a scenario she doesn’t fully understand. But getting on top of the situation is key to her survival on this mission. Then, layered on top of that is the SF. The mercenary is part of a species who evolved from rats and the way that affects their society is layered over this story. I was glued to my nook the whole time I was reading this story.
“Dragon’s Deep” – A combination of 1000 Nights and One and some more traditional western fairy tales, this was a well-told story with some pretty good turns that kept it slightly fresher than it might otherwise had been. Very enjoyable.
“The Dragonslayer of Merebarton” – Great first line: “I was mending my chamber pot when they came to tell me about the dragon” A few [Nook] pages pages in, and I LOVE the tone of the prose. I need need to make note of the author when I get to the end of the short story.THey actually explain what a scorpion is (in terms of a seige engine). I wish Game of Thrones had explained it so we wouldn’t have been confused. Also loved this bit “Marhouse was the only one of us in Outremer who ever volunteered for anything, and never got picked, for that exact reason. Another good one, one I never though about before: “…in all those old tales of gallantry and errantry, when the poet sings of the knight wandering in a dark wood and encourntering the evil to be fought, the wrong to be put right, “knight” in that context is just shorthand for a knight and shis squire and his armor=beraer and his three men-at-arms and the boy who leads the spare horses. The others aren’t mentioned by name…but everyone knows, if they stop to think about it, that the rest of them were there too; or who lugged around the spare lances , to replace the ones that got broken? And who got the poor bugger in and out of his full plate harness everymorning and evening?” This is now my favorite story in this magazine; love the ending.
“Frodo is Dead: Worldbuilding and The Science of Magic” – To me, the following quote makes audiobooks definitely “reading”: “Reading is not the author telling the reader a story – reading is a game in which the author makes implications and the reader uses their interpretive toolbox to create their own interpretation of the story”. This is clearly something that can happen whether using your ears or eyes to experience a story. I am not sure I completely agree with the premise of the essay, but it did give me a lot to think about vis-a-vie how designing scientific magic systems informs the stories. Also, pretty awesome that they reference Brandon Sanderson’s magic systems.
“Organic Tech and Healing Clay: A Conversatoin wiht Nnedi Okorafor” – A neat view into the mind of Nnedi Okorafor, the author of the Binti novellas. Shows how differently the greats think (like when she she mentioned as a kid thinking of what grasshoppers think and whether ants had built time machines). Very well conducted interview that made me want to read her Binti novellas.
“Another Word: A Doom of One’s Own” – the author compares what’s happening in the world to dystopia novels and, in particular, Only Lovers Left Alive.
“Editor’s Desk: The Next Chapter Begins: – It’s funny, I think the first (or one of the first) issues I supported was the one where Neil Clarke was able (thanks to subscribers) become a full-time editor.
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