Review: Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 127

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 127 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #127)Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 127 by Neil Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is, as per usual, a great issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. Once again Clarke’s affinity for bringing Chinese SF to the fore gives us a great, fun story in The Robot who liked to tell tall tales. The non-fiction section also has some really great essays that made me think while also being entertaining.

As I do with short story collections, here’s a set of per-story mini-reviews:

Conglomerate: I’ve read LOTS of interstellar colonization stories and I think is is the most unique one I’ve ever read; doesn’t rely on any of the usual tropes. Not only is the colonization done in a unique way, but the ultimate arc of the story is also unexpected and somewhat beautiful.

Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus: I heard this somewhere – perhaps it was also featured on Escapepod. It is another interesting look at how we define intelligence and whether that is true or arrogant. It ends somewhat abruptly and I would love to have a novella examine this world.

Left of Bang: Preemptive Self-Actualization for Autonomous Systems: The title sounds like some of the talks I’ve been to at various technical conventions. Most chilling quote: “It plays well to the board. They like it when it looks like the movies.” A very disturbing story about creating the perfect military/police robot.

Sunwake, in the Lands of Teeth: A world in which wolves became the sentient species. It takes a bit for the phrases and titles to make sense. But once it does, it’s pretty great. As the story continues, it all works together as a plausible society. My guess, based on the continued animalistic behaviors and phrases, is that this would be equivalent not to homo sapiens, but maybe an earlier iteration of humans where many of the primate behaviors remained important signifiers.

The Robot who liked to tell tall tales: Heh, I wonder what Chinese word translates to rapscallion! An incredibly fantastical tale that takes many twists and turns. I could never tell where it was going – all my tropes were useless. There’s definitely a Chinese/Indian (perhaps stemming from Buddhism) aspect to portions of the story which make for an interesting contrast to American Tall Tales while at the same time containing some similarities which come from the Tall Tale story-type. Also the mix of the Tall Tale ideas with a society with robots was very neat.

Thing and Sick: A great SF thriller set at an Antarctic research station right as they’re about to go into 6 months of darkness. It was pretty darned scary although the story structure does give away what happens to the protagonists at the end, chronologically.

Ancient Engines: Perfect to have first been printed in Asimov’s because it has a very old-school feel to it. There isn’t really a plot, just a lot of dialogue. Then a great twist. I love that old SF story type.


Narrative Perception: A Study in Interspecies Stimuli: I really hope some authors and screenwriters read this and come up with some awesome ideas of alien species interacting with us or each other.

Enlightenment Voices and Norse A Capella: A Conversation with Ada Palmer: “…which is why our sanitation victory of cholera resulted in a disastrous increate in polio” – wait, what?!? I want more details! An awesome discussion about the Terra Ignota series that I now want to read!

Another Word: Being James Tiptree, Jr: A fascinating essay on a female SF writer who wrote very successfully as James Tiptree Jr. It takes a few unexpected turns, making it a very worthwile essay.

Editor’s Desk: It’s Real?: Neil Clarke talks about transitioning to editing full time.

View all my reviews