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What I Read in February

February was a good month for short stories or at least I managed to luck into a great patch of excellent stories.


Sketch by Morgan Crooks (2015)

Under a Blood Red Sky by Edward Ashton, published in Fiction Vortex: I have a couple of reasons to like this story: appealing characters, effective sense of time scale and far-future existence, and the interesting (if familiar) look at the uses of virtual reality. Close to the end of Earth, as the sun swells into its red giant phase, a survivor of Earth’s civilization spends eons enjoying one single afternoon in-between marshaling the dwindling resources of Earth to fend off vultures in the closing eons of the solar system. This is big scale science fiction, all the more impressive to me appearing in a short story. It reminded me a little bit of why I love Asimov, Stapleton, Bear, and a little short story from last year called “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel.

Meshed by Rich Larson, published in Clarkesworld. Loved this story. The concept of the memory implant is an old one, mined effectively in a recent Black Mirror episode, but this one has something powerful to say about the ownership we have of our memories, and how capitalism will ultimately find a way to commoditize all human behavior, all personal choice. An understated sly nightmare and all the more powerful because of it. 

Schrödinger’s Gun by Ray Wood, published in Tor.com. A fun story about a cop investigating a crime with an implant allowing her to sift through all of the multiverse possibilities of interviews and events. I found it mostly enjoyable for the way the sifting through infinite possibilities is handled, not as arty metaphor, more as an outgrowth of noir fatalism. The ending was predictable and inevitable in a very satisfying way. 

Foreknowledge by Mary E. Lowd, published in Apex. I do like heart-breakers and Apex excels in weird, personalized catastrophes like this story. We are not told why in this particular world an expectant parent learns not only the sex of a baby but also its life expectancy and cause of death, but that doesn’t matter. What this story is about is coming to terms with knowledge, of knowing too much, of over-understanding. Lowd strikes, however, a hopeful note towards the end, an interesting thing to say about a story where a parent learns their child will die in her cradle before her first birthday. 

There were a half dozen other stories that I read that I really enjoyed as well - “When a Bunch of People, including Raymond, got Superpowers” has got to be one of the wisest and funniest things I’ve read under 1000 words in a while. I also recommend “Acrobatic Duality” by Tamara Vardomskaya which appeared on Tor.com - one gymnast exists simultaneously into two bodies and wrestles with the demands of fame, greatness, and love. 

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