“We Who Live in the Heart,” by Kelly Robson

“We Who Live in the Heart,” by Kelly Robson.
Novelette. Published in Clarkesworld, May 2017.

Humans have taken to living in giant floating whales. I don’t know about you, but I’m curious…. particularly when reviews seem to be pegging this as a story with plenty of meat to it.

Rocket Stack Rank does not recommend:

Pro: The account of what it’s like to belong to (and join) a tight-knit group of “whalers” is entertaining.
Narration and dialogue are spot on, and the plot is pretty much about how Doc learned to love someone again.

Con: I found it hard to sustain suspension of disbelief, and that spoiled the story for me. (…) The ending didn’t work for me either.

On the other hand, Charles Payseur is enthusiastic:

We as humans are all different and the story does a lovely job of showing what that can mean, how people can still find value in each other and in their relative seclusion, forming loose bonds that perhaps don’t offer as much cohesion but don’t bind, either. That exist to be supportive and caring without suffocating. And I like how the story establishes that with the crew of Mama, how the main character comes to stand for this voice of freedom even as they do yearn for relationships and company. And I just love how the piece builds up the bond between the main character and Ricci, how it reveals the potential that people have to build each other up, even as it never loses sight of how people can also tear each other down and apart. It’s a story with a great sense of wonder and fun, and it’s an amazing read!


What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!

“Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home,” by Genevieve Valentine

Clarkesworld, Issue 121, October 2016
Clarkesworld, Issue 121, October 2016

“Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home,” by Genevieve Valentine.
Published in Clarkesworld, October 2016.


Lots of reviews for this one — most of them full of spoilers! So go, read — or take this pull quote as incentive:

This is the single best warning and commentary on modern humanity I have ever read. Not only is it beautifully written, but insightful and deep. (…) It is a commentary made all the more potent by recent events. Do not miss this story. Read it until it sinks in.

Here’s all the reviews, in all their spoilerific glory:
[spoiler]
Seraph, at Tangent Online, is enthusiastic:

This is the single best warning and commentary on modern humanity I have ever read. Not only is it beautifully written, but insightful and deep. It not only categorizes the dangers of fully-immersive VR, and by extension those of excessive gaming, but of the abuses that can occur where there is little prison oversight, and unchecked corporate greed. Between getting lost in the digitally constructed world, which is so immersive as to even create false memories, and the medications given to involuntary test subjects to manipulate their minds into believing the game’s input, it’s not hard to see how Marie could no longer distinguish between reality, how she became so hopelessly addicted to the world of the game that she was willing to do anything to get back. It’s equally not difficult to see how Benjamina would become so disillusioned with the victimization for profit that she had been a part of. Even less surprising is the half-hearted media coverage, or should we say, cover-up. Most striking is the apathy of so many people who make the game break sales records, in spite of the controversy. It is a commentary made all the more potent by recent events. Do not miss this story. Read it until it sinks in.

Charles Paysuer calls the story “heartbreaking” and “wrenching,” and I particularly liked this observation he makes:

But for Marie I feel like it was a second chance. It was a chance to recreate herself, to be someone at peace with what she was doing. Not always at risk, afraid, and exploited.

Rocket Stack Rank has mixed feelings:

Pro: Nice twist that it’s all a simulation. The story told in letters is a nice device. The conclusion, that Marie got to go back into Themis after all, is amusing and yet also a little sad.

Con: There’s no protagonist and really no plot to speak of, other than Benjamina’s struggle to somehow do something to make herself feel better about what she did.

And A.C. Wise writes:

Bits of the story that feel like sly winks to our own reality (…) However, the bigger themes of the story are about truth and the nature of reality. Is it a lie if it feels real, if people don’t know they’re being lied to, if they can’t remember the lies they’re told? (…) ”Everybody from Themis Sends Letters Home” also touches on the idea of who has rights, who gets silenced, and who gets used as a tool by the system for “the greater good.”
[/spoiler]


What did you think of “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home”? What’s your take on it? Join the discussion in the comments!

“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices,” by Margaret Ronald

Another one from Clarkesworld: “And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices,” by Margaret Ronald.

Recommended by BestSF, who writes:
“Because of it’s structure, mix of human and societal analysis, and an altogether different type of First Contact, I’m putting this forward for consideration for the Best SF Short Story Award 2016.”

Read the story:

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/ronald_06_16

“Toward the Luminous Towers,” by Bogi Takács

“Toward the Luminous Towers,” by Bogi Takács.

Clarkesworld, Short story.

Takács is fantastic and intriguing on Twitter, and I’ve been looking forward to reading something of theirs and bringing it to the group. 🙂

Content notes: warfare and combat injuries described in detail, medical abuse specifically directed at a disabled person, oppressive political regimes, detailed discussion of suicide.

Read the story:

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/takacs_09_16/

“Touring With The Alien,” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

“Touring With The Alien,” by Carolyn Ives Gilman.

Last year I read Gilman’s “Dark Orbit,” which had a fantastic High Concept (though execution was more debatable). Jumped at the chance to read a new short piece by Gilman. This, too, is a story of an encounter with a fundamentally alien form of being.

Also recommended by Rocket Stack Rank.

Read the story:

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/gilman_04_16/

“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies,” by Matthew Kressel

“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies,” by Matthew Kressel.

This is one of several recommendations I swiped from BestSF.net, called this “an excellent story and piece of world-building.”

BestSF keyed onto my two very favorite F&SF stories this year – so I like his taste 🙂 I’ve also been really impressed with Clarkesworld, so that’s a plus too.

The story’s also available as a free podcast.

Read the story:

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kressel_05_15/