“Auspicium Melioris Aevi,” by JY Yang

Uncanny March/April 2017; Art by Julie Dillon

“Auspicium Melioris Aevi,” by JY Yang.
Short story. Published in Uncanny, March/April 2017.

The story of a school for clones. What do they study? Ah, that depends whose clones they are…


Rocket Stack Rank praises the story as “Clever; makes you think”.

Charles Paysuer, at Quick Sip Reviews, observes:

The story really to me seems to be about the way that people are prepared to be just copies of the past. Fed the biographies and skills and ideologies of the “great men” of the past so that we can all go out into the world and contribute to industry. So that we can land good jobs and uphold the status quo. And yet as Harry shows the system is rigged. It doesn’t have the flexibility that really serves it. […]

It’s a point that the ending does a magnificent job of driving home, that rebellion in some ways is easy. That resisting a bad system is in some ways easy. What is more difficult is to imagine a better system and to try and take steps toward it. A wonderful read!

On “Pretty Terrible,” Natalie Luhrs reviews the story:

I really don’t want to spoil the ending of the story, but it went in a somewhat unexpected direction that makes total sense when looking at the overall shape of the story and the character of the fiftieth Harry Lee. I loved the care with which each Harry Lee was drawn, even those who appeared only briefly—even though they are copies, they’re also individuals.

I really found this story quite enjoyable—Yang has a crisp, clear writing style that conveys precisely the information needed. Despite the seriousness of what’s going on in the story, there are still flashes of humor and grace, both of which are often lacking in stories that tackle issues like freedom, self-determination, and the weight of history. This is the first story of Yang’s I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last.

A.C. Wise, in “Words For Thought,” writes:

Yang touches on questions of destiny and predetermination on a genetic level and an environmental level. What makes a person who and what they are, and can similar circumstances recreate that? Despite both nature and nurture trying to fit him into a template, it’s clear the fiftieth Harry Lee has free will, and a mind and personality of his own. [..]

The clones are meant to use their free will to choose to conform to their template. However, being bred for that one choice his entire life, leaves Harry to realize the possibility of freedom – when it is ultimately offered to him – can be just as terrifying as constraint. Faced with infinite possibilities, Harry is paralyzed. 


What’s your take? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments below!

 

 

“Sun, Moon, Dust,” by Ursala Vernon

Uncanny #16, May/June 017
Cover by Galen Dara

“Sun, Moon, Dust,” by Ursala Vernon.
Short Story. Published in Uncanny, May/June 2017.

Allpa received the magic sword from his grandmother, as she lay dying.

“I’m afraid I don’t really need a sword, grandma,” he said.

Rocket Star Rank calls it “sweet and refreshing”. The reviews Pros include the vividness of Allpa’s predicament, and the sweetness of the conclusions; Cons are that Allpa is too passive to be a satisfying protagonist, and the sense that he hasn’t earned his happy ending.

At Featured Futures, Jason recommends the story:

This rural encomium, while thematically in Vernon’s comfort zone, is conceptually more of a BCS-style secondary-world pure-fantasy tale than the Vernon I’ve read which tends to be fairly connected to this world regardless of its fantasy elements. It’s also not her strongest, perhaps because of this. But her strongest is extremely strong and this is still pretty good.

And here’s Charles Payseur:

 The story challenges the assumptions of a lot of epic fantasy that every farmer boy is a hero waiting to be activated, that in the heart of every young man there is a desire to be a ruthless or honorable warrior. Allpa, despite being brought up at least partly in the presence of warriors, doesn’t care to get involved. He shows that there is nobility even in farming, and indeed that it has a lot fewer ethical issues than going out and killing people or hurting people for a good cause. There is the sense that he’s supposed to be “fixed” by the sword, but the story doesn’t reinforce that. It allows Allpa to be himself, for his values to be those that can govern his actions, and it doesn’t punish him for his desires by having his farm attacked or anything so obvious. Instead, he becomes a teacher himself, showing the sword-people that there might be another way. And it’s just a touching and fun story that’s a joy to read.


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

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Uncanny, Jan/Feb 2017,
Cover by John Picacio

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley.
Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

  • Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”
  • Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”
  • Rocket Stack Rank gives it four stars, judging it “rich, complex, rewarding to Poe fans.”
  • SF Bluestocking says: “Rather long and challenging, especially if you don’t know the works and biography of Edgar Allan Poe very well. I could see it being a great favorite for the right reader, however.”
  • Featured Futures sees pros and cons: “Would have interest to some fans of Poe (…) and to those who can get through its over-engineering to enjoy its rococo prose and sneakily involving action.”

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

“And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker

Uncanny March/April 2017;
Art by Julie Dillon

“And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker.
Novella. Published in Uncanny, March/April 2017.

Pinsker is a particular favorite of mine, clones and doubles and alternates are a particular favorite of mine, and murder mysteries are awesome! Also, it seems a bunch of other people really liked this story:

“Drop what you’re doing and read ‘And Then There Were (N-One),'” tweeted @SFBluestocking, and in her blog she writes:

Sarah Pinsker’s story of a convention–SarahCon–for Sarah’s from thousands of alternate reality might be my favorite novella of the last several years, to be honest. It’s smart and funny and thoughtful in perfect proportions. It was enchanting from page one, and it’s a story and concept that has been often on my mind ever since I read it.

Rocket Stack Rank awards a rare five stars, calling the story “Intricately plotted, Moving, and Fun.” Full review (spoilers! murder mystery spoilers) is here.


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

2017 Nebula Novelette Nominees

SFWA Nebula Awards

This week we’re shaking up our usual format, and taking on the Nebula nominees in the Novelette category — those of them available online, anyway.

So we’ll be discussing:

We’ll also discuss “Red in Tooth and Cog,” by Cat Rambo, which was nominated for a Nebula, but fell between the cracks of the wordcount categories (and ultimately judged in the short story category, at 7,070 words).

What do you think of this batch of Nebula nominees? Which make you squee, and which make you snark? Join the discussion in the comments!

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay,” by Alyssa Wong

Uncanny May/June 2016
Uncanny May/June 2016

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay,” by Alyssa Wong.
Published in Uncanny, May/June 2016.


Vanessa Fogg sums this one up:

Her latest story in Uncanny Magazine is classic Alyssa Wong: intense, visceral writing; searing imagery; building horror. An orphan in this alternate Wild West can bring dead things back to life—and perhaps put them to rest as well. Skeletons rise, dead things dance, and there’s an unforgettable scene involving a chicken. In the end, it’s also a beautiful story of loss and love.

The reviewers at OneMore dig deep into the piece:

Full disclosure: I love the desert and I love myth-making. Any story that can combine the two, bringing the desert to haunting life until you can hear the dead and smell the hot breeze is almost certain to win me over.

(…) Is it about trying to come to terms with your heritage? About not fitting in and being unsure where there’s a place for you? Possibly. It’s certainly about love and loyalty and what we’re prepared to sacrifice. And it’s definitely uncanny. Excellent stuff.

Charles Payseur observes:

This is a story that equal parts strange and bleak and beautiful to me, like the desert. Like doomed love. (…) In many ways I read the story as about how sometimes there’s no escaping a situation, a place. Sometimes who you are, who your parents are, and the machinations and plots of those with more power, are damning and inescapable. Which is not to say that those situations are hopeless.

And at Hollywood The Write Way, Melody writes:

This story is a great exploration of what it’s like living with a curse in a survival of the fittest, use everyone for personal gain society, what it means to embrace your identity. It’s a fine exploration of power and expectations, love and boundaries, fear and the limitations it brings, it allows for, it thrives in. Grief and holding on. Moving on. What an intensely rich and sobering mirror of real life.


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

“Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar

“Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar.
Short story. Published in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales , and reprinted in Uncanny Magazine, November/December 2016.

This was a #ShortFictionSunday recommendation that caught my eye:

Rocket Stack Rank sums the story up well:

Tabitha is an irresistible force who meets an immovable object, Amira. They cease to be who they were and become a couple–something entirely new. Continue reading ““Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar”