Today I'm looking at the latest issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Four stories as always, two science fiction and two fantasy. And this month the stories range a bit more in length, from under 2k to over 11k. So that's a little unusual, but the quality is still up to par. So here I go!
"Red Planet" by Caroline M. Yoachim (1926 words)
This story shows a blind biologist struggling with the restrictions to immigrating to Mars. Perfectly capable of doing lab work and living and doing everything she needs to, she's still prevented from going to Mars and participating in the xenobiology program there. Only then the opportunity comes to get an experimental treatment to become sighted so that she can pass the test and immigrate. It's something she's never really wanted, sight, and the experience leaves her depressed, not wanting to give up what she's worked for. Only she still wants to go to Mars. So she goes through with it, and learns to see, and gets accepted. And then, along the way to Mars, she decides to take her sight away using a magnetic device that would cause her implants to fail. It's an ending that I can understand. I can understand her wanting to meet this challenge on her own terms, and without having to give into her principles. She doesn't want to have to deal with sight. She doesn't want people expecting her to use her sight. And though she's interested in color, interested in certain things, she decides it's better to be in darkness, to return to what she was. That part of me asks why she didn't just keep her eyes closed reinforces the idea that she never would have been free of the expectation of using her sight if she didn't physically remove it. So well done, story.
"And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" by Brooke Bolander (11123 words)
This is a fast and furious story about a female cyborg named Rhye killing a bunch of things. Well, not really. Really it's more about a female cyborg named Rhye who's really, really good at killing a bunch of things finding herself in a situation where she has to trust someone else, where she's confronted by the totality of her life and realizes that she's not the kill-everything-and-fuck-the-world machine she thought she was. Because her partner in crime, Rack, has gotten his head blown off. Which doesn't really kill him, as his mind is engaged in trying to deal with a particularly nasty security system, but which makes things...complicated, and makes Rhye face herself and how she feels about Rack. Kind of literally with the facing herself bit, as the security system is based off a younger version of her, one that has nothing to lose and doesn't care if she lives or dies. It's a fun story, as Rhye is a fun narrator, all action and violence and it's fun to watch the carnage. With it, though, there is also a gooey center of her growing a bit and realizing that she's growing, realizing that she doesn't want to be alone anymore. Not that she can't still kill everything. But with someone with her. It's a fun blast of a story, and makes it's longer length pass quite quickly. Indeed.
"And the Winners Will Be Swept Out to Sea" by Maria Dahvana Headley (5718 words)
Stories like this normally make me wonder if I'm missing some reference. Probably it doesn't matter, but I do wonder if there is some particular story behind the monsters here or if the rituals and the characteristics are all original. Whatever the case, this is a story about a water creature who falls in love with a man and then loses him. Only she doesn't really lose him in the ways she thinks, and they rediscover each other in a different form and decide to try again, to keep going. The story is melancholy, told to the man that she has lost. It's a strange, poetic style, and not one that I would have looked for at Lightspeed. But here it is, and it works fairly well, diving through the depths of loss and grief and time. There is a weariness that is conveyed quite strongly, with the water creature not wanting to keep going. She is old and doesn't know if living is worth it anymore, but she manages to keep going. Parts of this are a little hard to figure out, or were for me, but overall it's a lovely, lonely story that I enjoyed.
"Things You Can Buy for a Penny" by Will Kaufman (4198 words)
This story is more a series of stories, of people visiting the wet gentlemen at a magic well and making wishes in hopes that their lives will improve. And for most of them, it does. Not all, but th wet gentleman is certainly more considerate than a monkey's paw. The wishes he grants are perhaps edged but they are honest, at least in my mind. And the stories go deeper, echoing Tim's journey to the well, sinking down layer by layer. The voice and the imagery all is well done, evoking an older time without really setting a time or place. There is just a sense that this is an old story, that it goes back and back, a cycle. Which is why it's a little difficult to see too much horror in the story. It reads mostly like a horror but being the wet gentleman doesn't seem like a terrible thing. Once freed, he doesn't seem evil. And there's the sense that Tim will escape the same way, so to me it's more just a fairy tale-esque fantasy, one with some grim elements but ultimately one that just shows that some things never change, that people always seek creatures granting wishes.
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