For me this issue of Clarkesworld fell a little short of the high bar they have set for their fiction. Still an entertaining issue, just not as good as I have come to expect. And sadly, no stand-out, five-star tales. Let’s dive into the story reviews.
In “Re/Union” by L Chan, a young woman prepares an annual family dinner at her home. The unusual thing about it is that most of her guests are ghosts. More specifically, they are based on artificial intelligence (AI) derived from the personalities of the deceased. It seems like a good and comforting simulation until you realize that they can never change from what they were. (My rating: 3/5)
The world of “There Are the Art-Makers, Dreamers of Dreams, and There Are Ais” by Andrea Kriz doesn’t feel that far away. The main character is an artist in a world where generative AI has been outlawed from participating in creative endeavors. In fact it used to test all published art for its influences so those influencer artists can be properly compensated. This has the unintended consequence of making those influencers gatekeepers who help determine what it means to be original. The main character attempts to break into the art world by working with a master to find his own original style. (My rating: 4/5)
Something odd is going on in an alternate universe in “Rake the Leaves” by R.T. Ester. A professor repeatedly logs onto a server where he finds music and product references that are just a little different than he remembers them. As he reaches out to others to try to discover what is different and why, things eventually go off the rails. (My rating: 3/5)
The title character in “Keeper of the Code” by Nick Thomas finds something out of place deep in the Code that protects his planet. He immediately deletes it but then wonders if he did the right thing. A tale of self-doubt and revisiting decisions. (My rating: 3/5)
“Happiness” by Octavia Cade is a choose your own adventure story with a big claim right up front—you will always die happy. Each of the choices involves how you die. And the story for each part shows how you come to your end in a world suffering from climate change. An interesting exploration of all the ways climate change can affect you. (My rating: 3/5)
The strong stories buoy the weaker ones in this issue, resulting in an overall rating of 3.25. The non-fiction is strong and lifts the issue as well.