The Next to the Last of the Mohegans by Joseph Bruchac

“The Next to the Last of the Mohegans,” by Joseph Bruchac, is an Own Voices story about a young Mohegan man named Billy and his trouble-making mad scientist best friend. Just about every culture has stories about little people, or fairies, or spirits, or small gods, or beings that aren’t quite human. Although a lot of modern culture has spun stories of these beings to be light and cute and benevolent they generally have darker roots. They are the things in the dark that we should be afraid of, should be afraid of crossing. In “The Next to the Last of the Mohegans,” Arlin Sweetwater gets into trouble- again- and Billy has to get him out of trouble – again. It’s a well worn pattern of behavior. If there’s one thing Arlin’s good at, it’s getting himself and Billy into trouble. (Another thing he’s good at, apparently, is exploding labs and also making a working time machine.) Arlin specifically got into trouble this time by spying on the Makiawisug, the Little People. Despite being told not to. Numerous times. Over the course of his life. They closed him up in a tree, and also put his feet on backwards just…

A Dog of Wu by Ted Rabinowitz

“A Dog of Wu,” by Ted Rabinowitz, is a novelet set in the future following the collapse of the society we know and the formation of another… a society shaped by eugenics and absolute control over everyone beneath The Wu, control by both training and by chemical influence. In the story there are two groups of humans: “feral humans” who haven’t engaged in strict gene manipulation and genetic lines (cloning?), and Followers Of The Way who are constrained in pretty much every aspect of their lives, including whether they are even allowed to live or not. The protagonist, who serves The Wu, is sent on a mission to track down and retrieve an item, but finds himself in embroiled in a much larger and more difficult situation. “A Dog of Wu” is very well written, and a protagonist who seems distant at first soon becomes extremely familiar and human as he grapples with new knowledge of the world and his place in it. Forced into realizations he doesn’t want and never asked for, by the end of the story his life is profoundly changed… and yet isn’t. He faces choices, yet doesn’t take them. In a story about the inevitable…

Deep Sea Fish by Chi Hui

“Deep Sea Fish,” by Chi Hui (translated by Brian Bies) is a novelet from the March/April 2018 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. At its core, it’s a story about what it means to be human, and what it means to reach for the stars. Many of us SFF nerds grew up familiar with “The Martian Chronicles;” stories about the inhabitants of other planets interacting with, or being discovered long dead by, humans are a staple of SFF. “Deep Sea Fish” features a galaxy spanning civilization (not carbon based!) that has flourished on other planets and then vanished. Human archeologists studying ancient alien artifacts and remains are absolutely a strongly present theme in this genre, and in “Deep Sea Fish” there’s a group that’s moving quickly to study an area of interest on Titan before a company comes in to terraform the area, and melt it all… as opposed to coming in to build a new high way or condo and bulldozing it all.. The science in this novelet is a little bit shaky, one of the things where you just have to nod and enjoy the substance of the story and the themes it contains. What…

“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…

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart, is a speculative fantasy near-future/alternate present novella about a young woman who goes somewhere she shouldn’t and learns something she shouldn’t… just as she did as a child. Set in Pripyat, Ukraine, the story follows Sonya as she travels into the Forbidden Zone in search of a mural that is rumored to change on repeat viewings, slowly revealing the story of what happened and the children who were abandoned there. Like the abandoned children, Sonya was adopted. She feels some kind of link with them. And as she studies the mural the link feels ever more real. “Likho” is a great story, well told. Sonya is an interesting character who is fleshed out fully yet subtly. Although Stewart doesn’t have the space of a novel to introduce us to her, it’s still easy to get a feel for who she is and what motivates her. As bits of her past are unfolded, it makes sense why someone who seems so grounded and full of common sense would trapise into a radiation zone and then take a drug that allows one to see the future (or maybe the past). (the drug is called yaga and it turns…

“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…