I previously subscribed to Lightspeed Magazine a few years ago. I resubscribed as part of my “year of short fiction”. Here are my brief reviews for the fiction in Issue 152 for January 2023, my first since I started reading it again.
The first story in the issue is The Last Serving by Lincoln Michel, about a vegetarian cook who conquers the culinary world and looks for her next challenge. She settles on learning to cook meat, but with a unique approach. As a vegan, I really connected with this. I really felt the motivation for the chef’s vegetarianism, and it ends with a humdinger of a twist. (My rating: 5/5)
This is followed by A Guide to Alien Terms Useful in the Human Diaspora by Deborah L. Davitt, a short glossary of alien linguistic terms. It is an interesting look at culture and language. It ends with a paragraph that uses all the words in the glossary. I found the format to be unique but the piece itself was just okay for me. (My rating: 3/5)
Imagine Survivor or The Amazing Race on a planetoid where if you die as a fan favorite, they simply bring you back to life and re-insert you into the program. Oh, and you are indentured to the production company. Two of the characters conspire to find a way out in The Narrative Implications of You Untimely Death by Isabel J. Kim. This is a well-written and entertaining exploration of facing hopelessness. It really grabbed me. (My rating: 5/5)
From the Largest Crater by Jendayi Brooks-Flemister is story of separation anxiety told as audio diary entries. A woman goes on an expedition from the moon to earth in an attempt to save her climate ravaged birthplace. Her wife stays home alone missing her. The telling felt overly long and didn’t feel like a particularly new take on this theme. (My rating: 2/5)
This is followed by one of the longest titled short stories I’ve ever seen–A Man Walks Into a Bar; or, In Which More Than Four Decades After My Father’s Reluctant Night of Darts on West 54th Street, I Finally Understand What Needs to Be Done by Scott Edelman. In it a son tells us of his dad who played darts in a league in the seventies and his run in with a particular famous New Yorker. The love and connection to his father really come out on the page. And what he decides to do in the end is an unexpected turn. (My rating: 5/5)
In Braid Me a Howling Tongue, Maria Dong tells of young enslaved girls living and working together. Once every five days they are put outside to fend for themselves as they are hunted by a large creature. One of those girls is an outsider with no tongue. She connects with another of the girls as they learn to cope with their circumstances and seek to better them. A very touching and haunting story of love and care for others told from a place filled with despair. (My rating: 5/5)
In Between the Stones and the Stars by A. L. Goldfuss a hunter and a warrior arrive at a temple to claim the same prize–a chalice. But rather than fight, they decide to camp together and share their food and enjoy each other’s company. But what about the chalice? I enjoyed how this trope was humanized through the individual experiences of each character. A short read worth your time. (My rating: 4/5)
The focus is on light in In the Deep Woods; The Light is Different There by Seanen Mc Guire. A young woman recently divorced spends a night in her family’s old house in the country. The parts of this story (the light, the protagonist, the neighbors) didn’t come together well for me despite the excellent writing. (My rating: 3/5)
I love stories that deal with deep human issues. The final story, The Ministry of Saturn by Benjamin Peek, explores the nature of creativity, freedom, power over others, and what we owe others. This is the tale of a magician, a homunculus, and his creator. (My rating: 4/5)
My average rating for the fiction in this issue comes out to an even 4. An excellent issue with a mix of great stories well told. I look forward to reading the next issue.