REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s Short Fiction Friday looks at a subset of the September 2013 issue of Lightspeed: two works of original science fiction.
BRIEF SUMMARY: These two original science fiction stories each look at alien invasion in vastly different ways, offering entertaining, yet frightening, images of the future.
PROS: Imaginative sfnal concepts; thoughtful pacing; satisfying story structure; one story highlights actual scientific concepts.
CONS: Fans of character-driven science fiction over idea-driven science fiction may be disappointed.
BOTTOM LINE: The original works of science fiction in the latest issue of Lightspeed are very entertaining stories focused on science fictional ideas that spark the imagination. One story looks at a threat to an as-yet-unpopulated Earth while the other examines humanity in the wake of a devastating alien invasion. Both stories are work checking out and are available for your reading (or listening) pleasure. Additionally there are original works of fantasy, along with reprints and more, available in this issue.
“The Schrodinger War” by D. Thomas Minton
Samuel Hohlman has lived many lives, all but the original one in the service of the good ol’ Earth. He has died and been returned many times. You think by now he’d have gotten the hang of it.
In a future that spawns the ability for mankind to travel back into its past, a number of men and women are given the choice to join in the battle to save humanity, a battle to be waged before humanity crawled outside the primordial ooze. It seems an alien species finds the building blocks of Earth’s future inhabitants a delectable snack and are willing to fight and kill to get it. As the humans of the future try to perfect the art of past war, the casualties may not just be the aliens but also the various incarnations of the people who volunteered to fight this battle in the first place.
Minton’s story contains just enough science in its science fiction to excite fans of harder SF while at the same time building a core story with a broader appeal. This short story made for some great visuals in its world-building. The idea of multiple versions/iterations of the same person and the ensuing psychological effects was thought-provoking and entertaining.
“Dry Bite” by Will McIntosh
Author Will McIntosh takes the zombie story and turns it on its ear with this short tale of alien invasion and the effect it has on humanity. Josephine and Bella are two of a relatively small number of people who remain free of the infection spread by alien invaders, an infection that for all intents and purposes transforms humans into monsters. The effect is all the more hideous because these people generally maintain their existing facial structure. Josephine, Bella and the rest of their band of survivors protect their encampment and forage for food and supplies while trying desperately to maintain a safe distance from these creatures so as not to be infected themselves. When Josephine comes across her transformed husband and son one day and realizes that they are staying together, she begins to suspect that there may be more to these abominations than they at first suspected.
I first read Will McIntosh earlier this year via his stunning novel Love Minus Eighty. The imagination that created that novel is present in this short that looks at humanity and how we judge one another while examining the concept of what is alien. While this short could be expanded upon to produce a novel-length story, it is very satisfying in its own right.
Be sure to check out the Lightspeed website for these two entertaining science fiction stories, in written or podcast form. And while you are there feel free to partake of the original fantasy offerings in this issue as well as the science fiction and fantasy reprints, author interviews and more.