“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková
2017 Publication , 4 star , short story / April 18, 2018

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková, is a very short story about a very big issue. The title is taken from Euripedes’ play, which shows two twinned but opposing sides: order and rationality versus Dionysian instinct. Without this wild instinct, this impulse, this influence of Dionysus… humans suffer. When it’s suppressed it turns dark and chaotic, destructive. Dionysus, angered, inspires his Bacchanates to run wild and attack men and cattle, to steal, to destroy what’s in their path. Bethan, drunk and leaning against a wall, begins attacking the concrete wall. She does more harm to herself than to the wall, and her equally drunk from Angharad intervenes and tries to pull her away, calls the cops to get her to safety. Bethan is wild, bleeding, but once fully parted from the wall and tucked into a police car she goes limp and compliant… although still very aware of that wall. At the hospital, they don’t find anything WRONG with her, and Bethan is released. She, Angharad, and Bethan’s mom head straight back to the wall. The wall is surrounded with wild women eager to beat that wall, to pull it down, to destroy it. I’m not familiar with London, but I live…

“From a Certain Point of View,” Anthology
2017 Publication , 3 star , anthology / April 18, 2018

“From a Certain Point of View” is a Star Wars anthology covering the experiences of characters who are predominantly minor (but also Yoda is in there, is he really a minor character?). The title, of course, riffs on Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “from a certain point of view” line, the one that tries to spackle deep meaning over George Lucas’ make-it-up-fast writing. Vader as Luke’s (and Leia’s) father, of course, was a twist ending that he didn’t think of during the first movie. Kenobi is, narratively, an unreliable witness. Most people are. “From a Certain Point of View” shows us a bunch of other witnesses, to various things, that may or may not be reliable. Like most anthologies, it’s a little uneven. The good stories were very good, though. A few standouts include: “The Sith of Datawork” by Ken Liu, which explains why the escape pod containing the Death Star Plans was jettisoned without being immediately recalled, and goes into institutional paperwork and how it can really gum up an operation. It’s a good, fun story that digs into what really makes the Empire move: data and forms and paperwork, filled out in triplicate. “Stories in the Sand,” by Griffin McElroy, which…

“Big Girl” by Meg Elison

“Big Girl,” by Meg Elison, is a short story in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The premise is simple: a teen aged girl is found, naked and enormous. Her giant bare body is exposed to the entire world; she cannot find clothing that fits; people stare at her and try to photograph her breasts and genitals to post online as porn; people write erotica about her, her personally, her the real person; people comment on the size and shape of her body; she is treated as dangerous, and a financial drain. Other than her immense size this is pretty much the teen girl experience, quite frankly. You are subject to constant scrutiny and measurement and are somehow inherently dangerous and of course it’s your fault for being so. She manages to escape the attention by, literally, escaping. This teen aged girl has to leave the entire world she knows, and her family, to sequester herself on an island where she lives nude eating raw flesh until she begins shrinking again. When she’s “normal sized” she is able to rejoin society. As she ages, of course, she starts shrinking; vanishing from view, one might…

“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…