“Aground, Upon the Sand” by Jennifer R. Donohue

Aground, Upon the Sand, by Jennifer R. Donohue is a short piece that took first place in Syntax & Salt Magazine’s Fall Flash Contest. If this were a longer piece I’d consider this a spoiler, but it’s pretty short so you’ll get there soon… and if you’re a big oceanic mythology person you’ll figure it out a few sentences in. The narrator of the story is a Selkie, who lost her skin during a storm. She was cast ashore among strangers with no way home, even though losing her skin wasn’t her fault. Of course, it could be worse. Her skin could be stolen instead of simply lost. “Aground, Upon the Sand” is a melancholy piece about loss and loneliness and not fitting in and working as waitstaff at a tourist spot, and the kindness of strangers who become friends. But it’s primarily about loss and loneliness and about family. I love the concept, but then I’m a huge sucker for Selkie stories. The writing feels a little rough but the concept is excellent and I’d be interested in reading more. There’s a lot that’s left unsaid– a Selkie exploring the human world isn’t exactly unexplored terrain, but it’s still…

“Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells
2017 Publication , Novelet , Tor / January 6, 2018

“Angel of the Blockade” is a novelette by Alex Wells, published on Tor in September of 2017. The thing you need to know about Alex Wells is that they’re a huge freaking nerd. And when you have a nerd who’s immersed in nerd culture in deep, pervasive ways they can either be really entitled creeps, or they can create magic. Wells absolutely creates magic. “Angel of the Blockade” picks up a lot of really classic science fiction tropes– a hard bitten cynic with a heart of gold smuggler who also has an actual history and character beyond that; a pilot who interacts with the world in ways most people can’t (tasting solar winds, for example); pilgrim refugees persecuted because of religion and driven to find a new planet home; the idea of home in general. Wells takes this, and they turn it into something that feels new and unique, something personal. Nata, the protagonist, was raised and nurtured by her aunt after the tragic death of her parents… and their death IS tragic and is more than just emotional manipulation, and profoundly shaped who she is and how she does what she does and why. A freighter pilot and smuggler,…

“Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm

“Attachments,” by Kate Wilhelm, is the opening story in the Nov/Dec 2017 issues of “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” which is one of my favorite magazines. According to the novelet’s introduction, Wilhelm’s first story in F&SF was in 1962. She’s an established, experienced writer and it really shows in this piece. “Attachments” opens with a a young woman in a creepy/picturesque ruin in England. We soon see that she’s from the USA and that she’s there with a friend… and also that something is horrifically wrong. As the story unfolds we see that it’s a ghost story, both literally and figuratively. Drew, the protagonist, has 2 ghosts attached to her who want her to do things for them; Drew’s abusive ex boyfriend lurks in the background, a constant threat to her both mentally and physically. Drew has to figure out how to deal with the ghosts on her back, how to solve their problems, and then how to solve the problems in her own life. It’s a well written story. Drew is interesting and we get glimpses of her life, both current and past. The ghosts’ plan is flawed, but desperate plans often are. She, and they, need to be creative…