Review: Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 126

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 126 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #126)Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 126 by Neil Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Two Ways of Living” – A world in which humans can essentially hibernate by eating a ton of calories and then a chemical cocktail to go unconcious. Additionally, the person does not age. The short story essentially serves as a meditation on what kind of person would do such a thing and what their reasons might be. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending.

“Real Ghosts” – Every culture speaks with the dead, but there’s a special emphasis on it among Asian cultures and that’s where the world is richer for everyone of every culture writing SF. The story concerns a future where you can be imaged and then your family, descendants, etc can call you up and interact with you as if you were alive. The main character struggles with some of the philosophical questions, but it’s not one of those twist ending stories – just a look at life near the end and what it means to live forever after a fashion.

“Waiting out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe” – Lots of storys about the end of the world, but I love the tone this one took. If I’d known ahead of time, it was the author of “Cat Picutres Please” I would have known I’d love it.

“Crown of Thorns” – Another apocalypse story. This one is a great look at the moments just after apocalypse. It’s not like a pre-apocalypse story where there’s hope you might win or a post-apocalypse where the new generation is trying to reclaim what they lost. Instead, it’s the slow realization that civilization is over and one man’s story of how he deals with the grief.

“Goodnight, Melancholy” – Although this story takes place in the future, I think the following quote applies now that we even have app-based food delivery at the airport: “In this age, everyone relied on others to live, even something as simple as calling for take-out required the services of thousands of workers from around the globe: taking the order by phone, playing electronically, maintaining various systems, processing the data, farming and manufacturing the raw ingredients, procuring and transporting, inspecting for food safety, cooking, scheduling, and finally dispatching the food by courier…But most of the time , we never saw any of these people, giving each of us the illusion of living like Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island.” A beautiful use of SF to explore depression in a world that is not too far in the future from our own.

“The Discovered Country” – A masterfully told story that makes me wonder (having only just begun to tear into my back catalog of Clarkesworld issues from the past 4 years) how much Neil Clarke looks for themes when putting together an issue. The story contains both post-apocalyptic and virtual consciousnesses, uniting the themes of the previous short stories in this issue. It works very well and has a very satisfying narrative. So far this is another masterful issue of Clarkesworld. Also, interesting to read this story in the same month that Neal Stephenson’s “Fall: Or Dodge in Hell” comes out.

“At the Cross-Time Jaunter’s Ball” – Continues the theme of virtual worlds, but this time more of a science fantasy story rather than a science fiction story. A neat tale of gods who have virtual worlds created for them and of one of the critics who reviews them. I think this would have been more meta if created today, but works well as a piece from the 80s.

“A review of Chinese SF in 2016” – Somewhat paradoxically the amount of SF published in China continues to grow even as circulation of SF magazines continues to fall.

“Howling at the Lunar Landscape: A Conversation with Ian McDonald” – A discussion of his Luna trilogy. Made me add it to my list.

“Another Word: Reading for pleasure” – Cat Rambo and I agree (that’s a cool statement) that reading is fun, even if you can see the tropes and other cogs behind the story. And, as a writer (she is the president of SFWA) you can use this to learn how to make better stories.

“Editor’s Desk: Recognizing 2016” – a look at the awards and compilations that Clarkesworld stories appeared in during the previous year.

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