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science fiction, new weird, old weird, very weird - and everything else

not always save for work. never nice.

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Samuel R. Delany
Progress: 201/801 pages

Short Story Round-Up January - April 2018


Erm... yeah. About that...




Peter Watts: The Things - ****/* (read by Kate Baker)

Imagine your spaceship crash-lands on a foreign planet. Everything's so strange, so utterly alien, so hostile. On meeting the natives, they try everything to destroy you. All you can do is to hide, and observe, and wait for your chance to get back at them. In other words, The Things is John Carpenters The Thing told from the Things point of view. Poor Thing.




Brooke Bolander: And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead - ****

Fast & dirty cyperpunk.

Sam J. Miller: Things with Beards (again read by Kate Baker) - ***

Another The Thing-fanfiction, a quasi-sequel to Carpenter's film. MacReady is back from the ice, but MacReady's not really MacReady any more. Miller uses the popular SF horror film as a starting point to deal with discrimination, homophobia, the advent of the AIDS-crisis, and the fight against authorities. Miller's prose is as awesome as usual, but somehow the story failed to grab me. Maybe it deserves a second read.

John Wyndham: The Stare - ***

A very short, very pointy story.


C.C. Finlay: Time Bomb Time - ****
A palindrome! Clever.




Peter Watts: The Colonel - ***

Short story set in the Firefall universe, between Blindsight and Echopraxia, introducing the concept of hive minds and a character who becomes more important in the second book. Works better as a prologue to Echopraxia than as a standalone story.


Samuel R. Delany: The Atheist in the Attic - ***

This novella, published for the first time in book format by PM Press' Outspoken Authors line, tells about a meeting between the two philosophers Leibniz and Spinoza in Amsterdam. For his atheist, deterministic views Spinoza has become a persona non grata with his fellow Jews, so Leibniz has to keep the meeting secret. I found the story a bit unfocused, but appreciated the introduction to Spinoza. The book also contains Delany's essay „Racism in Science Fiction“ and a recent interview and is alltogether a 4 star read.




Peter Watts: ZeroS - ****

What qualifies the perfect soldier? Unquestioning obedience. How do you earn unquestioning obedience? By turning your soldiers into zombies. Hey, it's better for them too: They won't be present in their head, won't have to make the decision to kill or not to kill, won't be bothered by such things like conscience. Instead, the will perform. You have to beta-test such soldiers, of course. Find some hapless SOB and make him an offer he can't refuse. - In ZeroS, Watts expands the concept of military zombies used in the Firefall universe. Unlike The Colonel, this short story works well as standalone. Although I think having read Blindsight and Echopraxia lends it a bit more emotional punch, e.g. because it features a cameo of a certain guy who's somehow turning into one of my favourite fictional characters – quite against my consent, actually (I really don't want to like him). It also makes one appreciate how much thought has gone into the backstory of this universe.


Sam J. Miller: Calved - ****

Short story is set in Qaanaaq, eponymous floating city of Miller's recent novel Blackfish City, following Dom, an ice boat worker, at his desperate attempt to mend his relationship with his estranged teenage son Thede. It's well imagined cli-fi – science fiction dealing with the consequences of climate change – as well as a gut-punching tragedy. “Crushing” is probably the most fitting expression to describe it. That I anticipated the ending quite early on just made it worse. (In case it isn't clear: That's a compliment.)


Samuel R. Delany: The Hermit of Houston - *****

See detailed review.