Clarkesworld Issue 160 – The Perfect Sail by I-Hyeong Yun, translated by Elisa Sinn and Justin Howe
The what: Chang of the Roo tribe lives in an alien (rather fantasy) world, where her kind is dying… but she is dying, too, and someone is hunting for her soul. Herself, from a different (rather scifi) world. Could there be a way out from both death and her own, much stronger version?
The who: I-Hyeong Yun is a Korean writer. She debuted in 2005 with a short story, „The Black Starfish,” which won her the Joong Ang New Writer Award. Since then, she’s won multiple awards for „The Big Wolf, Blue” (2007), „Koon’s Journey” (2014), and „Luka” (2015). Most recently, she won the 2019 Yi Sang Literary Award for „Their First and Second Cats.” In 2015, her story „Danny” was translated into English as part of the series.
The why: “She couldn’t bear the idea that there were worlds unknown to her, things outside the scope of her logic.” – says one sentence in this story, and I could totally empathize with that. I am sure most of scifi readers would, and could understand the melancholy of constantly yearning for more… and for a re-enchanting of the world.
Well, the main character, a rich woman almost 50 years old, tries to do something about, and the author manages to create two very different perspectives from two very different worlds, both united by the same psychological burden: dealing with impending death and the realization that even having everything does not remove the horrible fact that we are transient. The story, very visual and sensory, is written quite differently than Western standards, more related to Chinese scifi: in a more impersonal, distant style, which adds a dose of (good) bizarreness.
The main idea is even more strange and rich in possibilities: what if one could incorporate other versions of herself, from alternative worlds, in order to enrich her own creativity and experience? Virtually “hunting yourself” … a concept each reader will decide how (un)ethical, poetic or horrible it is. And, if you decide it IS a horrifying idea, but you had the money and means to do it… would you do it?
Lightspeed Issue 116 – All Together, Now by Jason Hough and Ramez Naam
The what: A soldier (or an army, in the “we are Legion” sense) fights in what could be our last (and hopeless) battle against an enemy determined to make some changes for a better future… which does not include humans (as we know them).
The who: Jason M. Hough is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World. He lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife, two young sons, and a dog named Missbuster. When not writing, reading, or playing with his kids, he spends his time exploring virtual reality, which he calls “research.”
Ramez Naam is a computer scientist and the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of four books: the near future science-fiction brain-hacking thrillers Nexus and Crux and the non-fiction books More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement and The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet. He’s a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and serves as Adjunct Faculty at Singularity University, where he lectures on energy, environment, and innovation. Follow Ramez on Twitter: @ramez or visit him at rameznaam.com.
The why: The first line in this story is one of the best openings ever for a scifi story: “Open your mind to me, human.” It doesn’t even matter who utters it (aliens, AIs, gods, whatever), one cannot help but being completely hooked after this one. And the entire story is filled with perfect impact such punch lines – without ever becoming pompous. This is an action-packed military scifi with plenty of shooting, but that’s not the reason I loved it (well, actually I did, so not the main reason).
I really liked some of the technological concepts (the one-man army idea is very well-done, and I definitely was enchanted by the main characters connection to… his talking rifle); but I was even more impressed by the philosophical impact of the questions raised behind the action: are humans obsolete? If so, what could, and should replace them, and how? Would it be apocalyptic or just… something else? And, if both the humans and their enemy use “attitude adjustment” … who is human anymore? What is the greater good between self-destruction and forced (I won’t spoil what)?
Tor.com – How Quini the Squid Misplaced His Klobučar by Rich Larson
The what: A hacker, a whore and an African from a poor neighborhood get together… no, not to walk into a bar, but to steal from a very, very nasty Andalusian mob boss. How the heist goes… well, you can expect a few unpleasant twists – and they include a dose of horror.
The who: Rich Larson was born in Galmi, Niger, has lived in Canada, USA, and Spain, and is now based in Prague, Czech Republic. He is the author of the novel ANNEX and the collection TOMORROW FACTORY, which contains some of the best of his +150 published stories. His work appears in numerous Year’s Best anthologies and has been translated into Polish, Czech, French, Italian, Vietnamese and Chinese. Besides writing, he enjoys travelling, learning languages, playing soccer, watching basketball, shooting pool, and dancing kizomba.
The why: This is definitely the most cyberpunk think I have read in a (too long) while – and it’s classic CP 100%. That may be seen as bad (in its core the story not that original, actually), or very good, since it recreates perfectly that feeling I had in the 90s, reading Gibson’s masterwork (or, a few years ago, Morgan’s Black Man). So I thoroughly enjoyed the deep, dark background of the story, with its carefully crafted details (which really are original, I loved the babelware and the fleischgeist ideas) and really, really bad-ass characters (some quite evil).
I also appreciated the wink-wink towards Neal Stephenson with the dog (you’ll get it) and the good balance between the typical over-criminalized CP and the (almost) parody of the genre. And, in good CP tradition, the tension and adrenalin are constantly very, very high (and the antagonist is, of course very, very evil…). What did strike me as the best feature of the story, though, was how confusing the border between reality and simulation becomes for the main character… and the reader.
Well. I’ve never heard of Rich Larson before… but now I want to read everything he has ever written. Maybe even in Romanian eventually, who knows?
What’s this column about? I love short fiction, but I also know that not many of us actually have the time to browse through the all the monthly issued stories, or go buy a physical magazine. Yet, you can easily go online while you wait for something, and must only click these links – here’s 3 scifi (or fantasy) pieces hand-picked as worthy of your limited time, each with 3 vital qualities: readily available online, great literary value, and also 3 to read. Free for the reader, I mean. Scifi 3.