REVIEW SUMMARY: Today’s Short Fiction spotlight focuses on the four works of original fiction presented in Issue 91 of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: These four short fiction offerings look at the presence of the truly alien on Earth, the child-rearing of an A.I. spaceship, a young woman with no magic of her own who suddenly finds herself possessed of an unusual way to travel her world, and the April Fool’s Day pranks of a future genius involving the then-common way that matter is transferred.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A refreshing presentation of aliens who are truly alien; elements of “science” woven into the science fiction; plot lines which urge the reader to delve further into the stories.
CONS: All four stories share the trait of ending with questions unanswered (a “pro” for those who enjoy that type of storytelling).
BOTTOM LINE: I often speculate what percentage of one’s enjoyment of, or disappointment with, short genre fiction is based on the frame of mind/desires/expectations going in vs. the skill and story choices of the author. I have noticed within myself a preference for short stories that share a structure with novels–a tight beginning, middle and definitive end–as opposed to those that end with more questions, or simply a new beginning. Then there are times, like with this issue of Clarkesworld, in which the stories end in thought-provoking, questioning ways as opposed to wrapping up the vignette with a nice and tidy bow, and I find myself having an equally enjoyable reading experience. That is a long-winded way to posit the belief that the skill of these writers and the interesting variety of storytelling will be a rewarding experience for most readers who take advantage of what Clarkesworld Issue 91 has to offer.

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The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s Short Fiction Friday looks at the three works of original fiction in the March 2014 issue of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Space travel, war, and the variable nature of ghosts are examined in the original shorts in the latest issue of Clarkesworld.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fans of space-faring science fiction will find much to like in two of the featured short stories; intriguing look at humanity from the point of view of an advanced alien race; one story provides the opportunity for examining folklore/mythological aspects of the Japanese culture.
CONS: One story ends slightly more abruptly than it should have; restrictions of short story format inhibits the effectiveness of one offering.
BOTTOM LINE: One of the greatest things about a foray into current offerings in the short fiction worlds of science fiction and fantasy is that you truly have no idea what you are going to get. Forrest Gump’s “box of chocolates” reference is so apt here. Whether that chocolate contains a surprisingly delightful filling…or coconut (no offense to you coconut lovers out there)…you always get a little bit of chocolate in the mix. So it is with the original works in this issue of Clarkesworld. They may or may not turn out to be to your taste, but they all have something going for them that makes them worth reading. For those who lean towards science fiction, two of the three featured stories are far into the science fictional spectrum. The other story uses fantastical elements of the Japanese culture to examine the stress and pressure of growing up. Links are provided. Give them a taste.

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The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A deeper look at a new work of short fiction by Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy award winning author Ken Liu. This story is featured in Clarkesworld Issue 88, January 2014.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A bounty hunter who has successfully nabbed her quarry inadvertently learns more about him during their journey through hyperspace as she kills time with a text-based computer game of his creation.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Clever execution of the story-within-a-story device; unconventional story structure fuels the fires of discovery; enjoyable blend of science fiction and fantasy devices.
CONS: Readers may be left with the desire for further resolution between Alex and Ryder.
BOTTOM LINE: Ken Liu has won several awards for stories that are out-of-the-ordinary and explore complex topics and emotions.  Those talents allow him to excel at telling a more straight-forward story as well, albeit one with signature Ken Liu flourishes.

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Here’s the the table of contents for the anthology Clarkesworld: Year Five:

Here’s the book description:

Since 2006, Clarkesworld Magazine has been entertaining science fiction and fantasy fans with their brand of unique science fiction and fantasy stories. Collected here are all of the original stories this Hugo Award-winning magazine published during their fifth year. Included in this volume are twenty-four stories by visionary writers of short fiction, including Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Robert Reed, N.K. Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, E. Lily Yu, and more!

Here’s the table of contents…
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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, January 2014

The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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Table of Contents: Clarkesworld, December 2013

The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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TOC: Clarkesworld, November 2013

The new issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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Short Fiction Friday: “The Symphony of Ice and Dust” by Julie Novakova

REVIEW SUMMARY: A discussion/review of the longer of the three original works of fiction featured in the October 2013 issue of Clarkesworld. This issue also contains two works of classic reprint short fiction as well as nonfiction articles.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In humanity’s far-distant future an exploratory mission to the planet Sedna reveals the presence of a human visitation some 11,000 years earlier along with an even more surprising discovery.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Plausible science layered in accessible prose; world-building sans the info-dump; ideas that spark the imagination.
CONS: One abrupt moment that could have been teased out a little further.
BOTTOM LINE: My first experience with the work of Julie Novakova results in a story worth singling out for a solo review.  Novakova presents a plausible view of future space travel and exploration that abandons the standard space adventure tropes (of which I am admittedly a fan) while generating a level of daydream-inducing fiction that will remind some readers of the science fictional stories that made them a fan of the genre in the first place.

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TOC: Clarkesworld, October 2013

The October 2013 issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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TOC: Clarkesworld, September 2013

The September 2013 issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s short fiction selections are the three original works of fiction in the latest issue of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SUMMARY: Non-Western culture and a blending of genre elements infuse the three works of original fiction with thought-provoking ideas and creativity.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Familiar tropes form a foundation upon which various genre elements are added to tell largely satisfying stories; focus on non-Western cultures; interesting ideas are examined within accessible stories.
CONS: One story stumbles at times due to inclusion of an idea that feels forced.
BOTTOM LINE: The three works of new fiction in this month’s Clarkesworld strive for a sense of originality and in some measure each achieves that by first building upon the foundation of familiar tropes then adding a variety of genre and non-genre elements.  Each story satisfies in its ending, leaving the reader feeling as if he/she has experienced a complete story.  This issue also contains two reprint stories and worthwhile non-fiction that can be accessed through the Clarkesworld website.

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TOC: Clarkesworld, August 2013

The August 2013 issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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Short Fiction Friday: Clarkesworld Issue 82, July 2013

REVIEW SUMMARY: The latest issue of Clarkesworld features three original works of science fiction (reviewed), two reprints (not-reviewed), two author interviews, an essay on B-movies and an exploration of the way in which scientists aided the Allies in World War II.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A plausible near-future look at scientific exploration on the moon, messages from a generation ship that contain more than the relay station bargained for, and relationships with drones! Issue #82 of Clarkesworld mixes the scientific with the scary and adds a dash of sex with its three original stories.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Variety is the spice of life, and the feel of each of the original stories is decidedly different; one offering unveils a vision of what living on a moon-based research station might be like that does not feel fictional; nonfiction articles are well worth reading.
CONS: The three original stories all seemed to lack a specific “something” that prevented them from being memorable.  One story reads like the start of a bigger tale.
BOTTOM LINE: It is difficult to avoid comparing the latest issue of a SFF magazine to the previous one, a task that was made more difficult with this issue of Clarkesworld because of similarities of the first story in this issue and the outstanding “The Urashima Effect” by E. Lily Yu in last month’s magazine.  While I did not actively dislike any of the original stories in this issue, they each ultimately fell flat for me in a different way.  There is no lack of talent in the three authors reviewed, however the stories did not engender a deep emotional connection.  The nonfiction articles, on the other hand, are outstanding and it is recommended that you read the stories and form your own opinions (I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, and why) and that you stick around for the author interviews and the essays.  Finally, if you normally skip over the Editor’s Desk, this is not the time to do so.  Neil Clarke is about to celebrate the year anniversary of his brush with death and his thoughts on that experience, and how he has used it to motivate his work over the past year, is a must-read.

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TOC: Clarkesworld, July 2013

The July 2013 issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:
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Short Fiction Friday: Clarkesworld Issue 81, June 2013

REVIEW SUMMARY: The latest issue of Clarkesworld features three original works of science fiction, two reprints and four non-fiction articles.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  Five solid science fictional stories examine cloning, life on the moons of Uranus, parallel-universe pest control, failing technology and one unenviable conundrum.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:  No disappointments here; exciting storytelling; imaginative visions of the future; strong works of original fiction; high degree of accessibility.
CONS: While opinions will no doubt very, I find nothing of note to list as a con for this issue.
BOTTOM LINE: The June issue of Clarkesworld is full of enjoyment.  Each work of original fiction features a different perspective with characters that are accessible to the reader and plots that will leave the reader contemplating the options presented to the various protagonists.  The reprints are both strong choices which leave little question as to why editor Gardner Dozois chose them for the issue.  It was nice to read and compare five stories that are very clearly science fictional in nature.  While each story has interesting science fictional concepts, it is apparent in each case that the author set out to do more than just examine ideas by putting an emphasis on story.  Each story is available right now on the Clarkesworld website and the first two original fiction offerings have accompanying audio podcast versions which are linked to in the post that follows.

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TOC: Clarkesworld, June 2013

The June 2013 issue of Clarkesworld is now posted:

FICTION

NON-FICTION

PODCASTS

ART

Short Fiction Friday: Clarkesworld Issue 80, May 2013

REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s Short Fiction Friday looks at the three original works of fiction featured in the May 2013 issue of Clarkesworld.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The first two works of original fiction in this issue explore vengeance, a dish best served after long and meticulous planning. The third story looks at mankind’s colonization attempts on Mars and eventual discovery of sentient life through the eyes of the beings that are in turn discovering humanity.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Two stories with a similar theme act as an interesting comparison study; story of mankind discovering life on Mars has an engaging viewpoint; all three stories handle plot tension with skill.
CONS: One story is far too short to be satisfying; another tries too hard to be clever and perhaps falls short due to cultural barriers.
BOTTOM LINE: The three stories in the May 2013 issue of Clarkesworld were quick reads, a description that can be either complementary or critical depending on the value the reader feels he/she has gained from the experience.  One satisfying, well-written story shines above the rest and another has great potential for being a much longer, richer story but is slightly marred by its abrupt, mysterious ending.

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