Today I'm looking at Lightspeed #56. Four new stories, two of them science fiction and two of them fantasy. The science fiction are both near-future (nearly present, in fact), and the fantasies range from contemporary fantasy to sci-fantasy. An interesting mix. So onward!
|Art by Zelda Devon|
"Headwater LLC" by Sequoia Nagamatsu (3431 words)
This was my favorite story in the issue. About a woman, Yoko, who inadvertently betrayed her friend, Masa, a Kappa, so that now he and all the Kappa are held prisoner and exploited for their delicious and drug-like head water. There's something just very human in it all, in the way that Yoko wishes to do soemthing but can't bring herself to. She can feel bad about it, and can wish for change, can fantasize about doing something, but in the end the most she does to fight is to feel bad. It really is a great way of looking how people in a privileged class can think that they should do something for people who are being oppressed and exploited, but when it comes time to actually do something they balk, they fantasize, they make it about their own pain. The story does a great job of exploring the pain but also the failure of Yoko to help her friend.
"He Came From a Place of Openness and Truth" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (5882 words)
This story conflicted me by far the most out of any in this issue. About a boy who falls in love with an alien who at first is only using him for his genetic material but then falls in love with him. On the one hand, it has a homosexual relationship that is intense and shown without shame and that is great. I generally like the main character even as he's trying to deny that being with a man makes him gay. Which, hey, he could be bi, so it's not a terrible thing to think. He still likes looking at porn with women in it. But then, there are some serious issues I had with the relationship, not least of which is that there doesn't seem to be much consent. The main character is much, much younger than the alien who he falls in love with. And there's just the feeling that this might be coercive, because the alien doesn't begin as seeing the main character as valuing choice. It's...well, I'm conflicted. The idea that love can conquer all is a good message, and especially in a queer narrative, but I was very uncomfortable with what the story implied. Very. Not because the M/M stuff. I write M/M erotica and when I do, like with all erotica, I think there's a fine line that must be walked. And I'm not sure I felt this completely succeeded for me. It's kind of like vampires. Really old vampire who just looks the same as an actual young person doesn't really set up an even level of power in the relationship, and while the alien here is sure to ask for consent, it still seemed a little...well, sketchy to me. Maybe on purpose. And again, I liked some elements of the story. They just didn't come together for me.
"Men of Unborrowed Vision" by Jeremiah Tolbert (7127 words)
On the surface I think this story has a lot to say. About activists who have to face an attack that threatens the very collaborative and collective cohesion of humanity, it's about overcoming the barriers that corporate capitalism places between mutual beneficial cooperation. The characters are well done and the plot moves along nicely as long as you ignore the fact that the attack makes almost no sense. It even mentions this, because this attack on collectivity, which comes in the form of a virus that makes people anti-social, is a collaborative effort. Moreover, it's coming from corporate executives. Who depend on collectivity to exploit in order to make money. Perhaps if the movement posed enough of a threat to corporate interests I could see this, but in the story it's not put forth that the activists are really "winning." People are still super rich. So I just don't get how someone could be so crazy to actually pull off this attack. I like the message. It does seem at times that corporations want to see people alone and easy to prey on, but they want herds, not loners. It's a nice humans coming together story, but not one that I could completely believe.
"Archon" by Matthew Hughes (5508 words)
Another chapter in the Kaslo Chronicles, of which I have read the last few but not all of them. Basically science is replaced by magic as the guiding force of the universe and Kaslo joins forces with a mage, Obron, to do what he can to survive and...I'm not precisely sure. Part of not having read the whole thing is that the motivation for the characters is a little hazy to me. They're reacting to being attacked and trying to counter some threat from an unknown enemy. It reads fairly entertainingly but this installment is a little dull. Lots of talking heads and not much action. Even when a demon shows up it's dispatched with ease and it just seemed much more a housekeeping part of the story. People need to meet, pieces need to be moved around the board, but nothing all that new or interesting happens. I still thought it was a fine story, just not one of the most interesting in the ongoing narrative.