"About It" by Terry Bisson looks at the temptation to take your work home with you. In this case, the work is a laboratory constructed Sasquatch who isn’t quite up to the specs of the museum that first ordered the project.
The story unfolds in a lighthearted, off the cuff manner. The first person narrator is a chatty sort of fellow. His demeanor brings the reader right in.
There’s no time wasted on world building. He states his facts and gets on with his experiences of living with It.
It’s a quick read. Although it’s humorous, it does make one think once the story is finished.
"Literomancer" by Ken Liu is one of my favorite stories published in the September / October issue of FSF. When looking for reviews of it, I’m surprised that there are no English reviews of it. It’s like it was completely overlooked by reviewers who posted about the issue as a whole.
A young girl from Texas is living with her family now in Taiwan. She feels out of place. Neither American nor Chinese. She’s somewhere in the middle. In her desire to find herself she meets a man who can tell fortunes through names and words.
As she doesn’t read Chinese, she asks about English words but through a gentle dialog he takes her English words and translates them. In doing so he teachers her about the power of words, her place in the world and the history of the Chinese written language.
As my children are currently enrolled in a Mandarin / English program I felt an extra connection to the story that perhaps other readers didn’t feel. The included language lessons were fascinating and jive with what my kids have told me.
"Dead Man’s Run" by Robert Reed was first published in the November / December 2010 issue of FSF. It was later included in The Year’s Best Science Fiction for 2010.
The story’s basically a who done it with a science fiction twist. A group of friends regularly run together but one of them dies. Everyone assumes his death was an accident.
Except (and there’s always an except) the dead man was a hoarder — a hoarder of memories and communication. And all of it has been stored to his very own AI. That AI knows what really happened.
For cross country runners there’s lots of detail on the characters’ routes and routines. I’ve done some running in my past but here the details began to feel like filler.
"Plinth without Figure" by Alexander Jablokov mixes urban design with a ghost story. An urban planner who specializes in traffic flow has been using GPS (or something like it) to track where people naturally go through urban spaces.
In his work he’s noticed “dead” spots that while the logical place for people to go, they avoid. He wonders if these dead spots are places that are haunted. To improve efficiency of his designs he begins to purposely plan around these dead spots. Everything goes perfectly until one project receives lots of complaints of ghost sitings.
From there they story goes on a tangent to explore how such a scheme could be manipulated and to tell of a tragic death decades earlier. The two are related but how exactly they relate is up in air.
As the story is long and somewhat open ended there’s plenty of room for interpretation. I tend to take the Fantasy & Science Fiction stories literally as that’s what makes them either fantasy or science fiction. The same story presented in a literature collection could be read very differently.
Suffice it to say, I loved the story. The idea of being able to track hauntings by GPS trails (through phones and other enabled devices) just tickles my fancy.
I love the silliest of the short stories published in Fantasy and Science Fiction. A fine example is “F&SF Mailbag” by David Gerrold.
David Gerrold chides editor, Gordon Van Gelder, about his editing choices. Rather than hiring new, living authors, Van Gelder is using clones, AIs, extra terrestrials and other forms of cheep science fiction writing labor.
Of course none of this is possible if it’s not science fiction. It’s metafiction humor at its silliest and best.
"The Door in the Earth" by Alexandra Duncan is on the Locus and Tangent 2010 Recommended reading lists. It was published in the Sept / October 2010 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
A pair of brothers go in search of their estranged mother and find them living in a cave turned dug-out home. The mother may have romantic visions of living so close to nature but the cave seems off to the siblings. There’s an ancient presence to it.
Duncan’s story is fantasy at the edge of horror. It sits comfortably with H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King. It’s creepy, wonderful, nightmare fuel.
"Planning Ahead" by Jerry Oltion in the November / December 2010 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction is a delightful character driven romance. Nathan’s got a date but he runs out of toilet paper, scotch and condoms. It’s not a good start to a relationship.
Wanting to never be left in a lurch again, he starts stocking up. First on toilet paper, scotch and condoms. Then things get out of hand. If you’ve watched Horders you know just how out of hand they get.
But it has a happy ending with a science fiction twist. I’m not going to give it away.
"Eating at the End-of-the-World Café" by Dale Bailey from the September / October 2010 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Eleanor is a single mother struggling to provide for herself and her terminally ill daughter, Anna. She works in a café that sits on the border with the afterworld. The city has officers who patrol for damned souls. Eleanor has a series of run in with these officers and is forced to make the ultimate decision.
I wanted to like this story but it seemed overly atmospheric at the cost of characterization and plot. For me, the story was a struggle to read. I ended up having to re-read pieces a couple of times.
After all that re-reading I decided that the story felt like an episode of Hell Girl, especially when she has her colleagues working on site to gather information. Here though, there’s an urban fantasy or perhaps dystopian setting. Other reviews have compared the story to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
"Orfy" by Richard Chwedyk has the honor of being the longest story in the September / October FSF issue. It’s the fourth in his "Saur" series and the first one I’ve read. The last one published was back in 2004, well before I had started subscribing.
In “Orfy” one of the little sentient dinosaurs unexpectedly dies. The others (with the help of a robot) try to come to terms with the death and find a solution to the problem. The story ends up playing out like a long winded retelling of the Orpheus myth.
I think I might have liked this story better if I had read any of the previous stories in the series. By itself it was long, overly sentimental and at times downright dull to read.
Other posts and reviews:
The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley