The cover story this issue is “Nexus,” by Michael Flynn, with cover art by Tomislav Tikulin. A series of coincidences brings a time-traveler, an immortal, a group of aliens mostly passing as humans, a secret military android, a telepathic private-eye, and an alien invader all together. It has a lot of plates spinning, and looks a little silly packed into that last sentence, but Flynn pulls it off.
The nonfiction article this issue is “Sustainability Lab 101, Cuba as a Simulation of Possible Futures,” by Stanley Schmidt. Condense Cuba’s history, pick a couple of outlandish internet comments and go! Dr. Schmidt presents a good case, and opens up some interesting discussions. Still… for a sci-fi guy, I find his lack of imagination about the future to be a bit alarming.
“Europa’s Survivors” by Marianne Dyson. This has a great illustration by Vincent DiFate, but the story doesn’t quite measure up to it. The tale demands a bit too much of the reader — rockets landing on Europa have to actually smash through the ice (a “thin layer”) and go down the same shaft where the pumps that keep the ice from being a “thick layer” are housed; robo-stress relief pets and a convenient lack of qualified personnel. I liked the basic set-up with the cancer patient going one-way due to the radiation exposure in space and, although it was a bit much, the problems faced and the solutions found were quite good.
“Eli’s Coming,” by Catherine Wells. One of seven (eight if you count “Nexus”) time travel stories in this issue. An owner of a time-traveling business tries it out for himself, ends up at the wrong place and time, instead of the Herod’s Palace at the top of Masada in 10 BCE, he ends up at Herod’s Palace at the top of Masada as the Roman 10th Legion is just finishing up their siege ramp. This one I liked quite a bit. The rebels under Eleazar are desperate, the situation is dire, and Eli (the MC) is trying his best to keep calm and survive until his retrieval chip activates.
“Time Heals,” by James C. Glass. Another time travel story. I’m going to admit that at this point I wasn’t in much of a mood for another one, so after the first attempt to change the past and discovering one couldn’t change the past, I skipped it.
“Shakesville,” by Adam-Troy Castro and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. Time travel, again! But with a little twist this time in that a sad-sack of a guy meets with like 50 his possible future selves, all intent on getting him to NOT make the decision that ruins his/their futures. The MC has to determine which one is from the future that is really his, and/or the future that he wants. He has a choice to make (or perhaps a choice to avoid making) very little time in which to make it, and he’s not sure which of his future selves he should believe. I’m not quite sure that I “got” this one, but I liked it.
“Host,” by Eneasz Brodski. Not a time-travel story! But it does have space zombies, which made me almost skip it. I pushed on and was rewarded with a very good story that asks what would you be willing to do to spread the secret of happiness? The story goes a little round-about on the issue, but it is worth the read.
“The Snatchers,” by Edward McDermott. Back to time travel. “Snatchers” go back to rescue artists or find unclaimed intellectual works by artists. Thing is, time doesn’t like to be screwed with and it pushes back so you have to do the work without making waves. I liked the setup, It was a good idea, but since Time can do a butterfly affect with you (a small thing can lead to your death) so everything could be something, which sounds like it would be exciting, but it actually really isn’t. There just isn’t a lot of real tension, and the ending seemed a little bit …meh.
Unbearable Burden, by Gwendolyn Clare. Seven AIs recently put into robots, each with different “emotional needs” (for lack of a better term), including responding to the emotional needs of others. The AIs don’t know what their ultimate fate will be, most of them are aware enough to know that the humans who created them are somewhat distrustful of them, and their own futures may or may not be very bright. This one was short, and while not “fun”, it was a good story.
Nonfiction Science Article — Testing the Neutrino Hierarchy, by John Cramer. I read it, thought it was informative, and can barely remember a thing about it. There are neutrinos, they may have a hierarchy, and there may be a way to test it. It may just be me, but when delving into the subatomic realm I always think that some illustrations would be helpful.
“Hidden Intention,” by Mary Lowd. This one was short, cute (in a good way) and mixes adult aliens, human children, and the hypocrisies of working in a modern (or futuristic) corporate structure.
“Grandmaster,” by Jay O’Connell. Another time travel story. A female writer, her husband asleep, get a visit from an girl (who seems to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome) from the future. Time travel comes back to give the woman her SFWA grandmaster award- “You were going to get it. But then you didn’t. There was a problem. I won’t tell you about it.” I’m guessing this is a story about C.L. Moore, althought that doesn’t 100% work, as she did get a grandmaster award in like 1981. Whoever she is supposed to be, it was a nice enough story.
“Alexander’s Theory of Special Relativity,” by Shane Halbach. Time travel… A couple (a man and woman) are doing time travel experiments. The twist here is that the woman goes to 2070, and she is stuck there until 2080; but it is only ten minutes to the guy. In the future, the guy is not there at all, and the woman’s “actual” self dies in 2081. But he doesn’t exist at all, no records, no obit, nothing. They were only together two years before the experiment, and trying to pick up the pieces after she’s been living in a future that has no place for her doesn’t work. I really liked that set up, but felt the author didn’t quite do enough with it. The ending is kind of rushed.
“Concerning the Devastation Wrought by the Nefarious Gray Comma and its Ilk: A Men in Tie-Dye Adventure,” by Time McDaniel. Heh. So, you know previously where I mentioned the “butterfly effect” — that a butterfly flapping its wings can lead to a hurricane? The premise of this story is that all hurricanes are caused by butterflies, and the Men In Tie-Dye are actively trying to keep it from happening. The story is exactly as silly as it sounds, and that’s why it works.
“Ecuador Vs. the Bug-Eyed Monsters,” by Jay Werkheiser. I enjoyed this story, about an alien race that brings the final rounds of the World Cup up to their spaceship. Ecuador vs. France, then the winner plays the alien team. There is a love triangle that mostly works between Alaicia, Diego and León, some mystery about the fate of the French team, and then the actual aliens (who have kept themselves hidden from view until this match). I like how the author works in the rotation issues of the ship and the Coriolis effect.
“The Human Way,” by Tom Ballantyne. Okay, this one just filigrees it too much. Every interaction is filtered through mods and systems and nano-drugs. These creatures, the Bobobocedians come and take stuff, and have found a planet terraformed by rogue AIs and something about a kidnapped alien called an “S.” Unlike “Nexus”, this story just can’t seem to keep the plates spinning for me.
“Plaisir d’ Amour,” by John Alfred Taylor. The last story of the magazine is kind of in the “Grand Tour” tradition. A Sociologist (Ben Neihaus) getting to study the culture of a mining/generation ship GEORGIUS AGRICOLA. The majority of the Agricola’s crew are genetically engineered for living in space, Sapiens Sapiens caelestis. He goes to the ship to observe their low-g ways, manages to fall in love, and that’s really about it. One of those kinds of stories, well-written, where nothing much happens. People keep their heads and think things through and stuff works out pretty well. I kept expecting the other shoe to drop- the Ship AI vs the Prospecting and Orbital Tracking AI, or trouble with the marriage contract system, or people rebelling about their placement in the system, or that you might as well scrap the next ten years because some other mining outfit already made a big strike and yours is now worthless, but no… a few more Agorophobes than suspected, but nothing they can’t deal with.
Adrian Simmons is an editor for Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. His last article for us was Belated Movie Review #8: A Correlation of Certain Musical Contents.