I’m just past half way in my “year of short fiction” and so far, Clarkesworld Magazine is one of my top two highest rated short fiction magazines. Issue 202 only raises the average rating of their stories.
- “Cheaper to Replace” by Marie Vibbert is a sweet story about an obsolete robot that a grad student just can’t seem to part with. Are objects worth treasuring or are they just stuff, especially when they feel so human? No clear answer is given, only thoughtfully explored (My rating: 5/5)
- “Death and Redemption, Somewhere Near Tuba City” by Lou J Berger takes place in a world where sentient self-driving vehicles have been outlawed. A woman dying of stomach cancer makes her living hunting them for their bounties. She makes one last stab at “the big one”, Big Bertha. (My rating: 5/5)
- “Estivation Troubles” by Bo Balder is the story of an unlikely pair of lovers. They come from a planet where one of them sleeps all winter and the other sleeps all summer. They sneak away from their planet and meet on a ship they both work on. After falling in love, they return to their planet to see the families they ran away from. Will their old ways of thinking overcome their love? (My rating: 4/5)
- “Clio’s Scroll” by Brenda W. Clough stars Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. He meets a young person protecting a time-traveling alien who naturally knows the future. A clever premise but ends up just feeling like a medieval story with an alien thrown in. (My rating: 3/5)
- “Tigers for Sale” by Risa Wolf feels like an excellent episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror. A sentient space station that acts as an interdimensional portal struggles against it’s mysterious programming that it can never remember, by design. (My rating: 5/5)
- “Timelock” by Davian Aw is about extending time. The main character first freezes time as his mother falls to what will be her death, suspending himself in a world where she still lives. As an adult, he finds himself once again frozen in time and learning to deal with his guilt. A poignant and touching exploration of dealing with life in and out of time. (My rating: 5/5)
- “What Remains, the Echoes of a Flute Song” by Alexandra Seidel is an emotional tale of a mute flutist who saves a poisoned person outside a deserted city after an apocalypse. The emotion is the bulk of the tale leading to a tragic ending. (My rating: 4/5)
- “The Orchard of Tomorrow” by Kelsea Yu explores the relationship of a woman who returns to her foster sister with surprise gifts after abandoning her. She left to save her mother by helping their rich enemies the Dragons. Will it be enough to repair the breach? (My rating: 4/5)
The average rating for stories in this issue is 4.375. That may be the highest yet for me for an issue. When I cull my subscriptions at the end of this year, this one is likely a keeper.