Uncanny Magazine Issue 52

Cover of Issue 52 with the title "Uncanny" on top and "May/June 2023." The cover depicts a person in an orange jumpsuit-style spacesuit and bubble helmet on stone steps holding up a tablet to take a picture of a four columned structure. The beige structure matches the color of the ground and has spiral-shelled creatures in bas relief . The columns appear to be made of translucent glowing green material holding, perhaps preserved, several multi-limbed, shelled, multi-tentacled creatures.

The May issue was a bit of a mixed bag for me, I’m afraid. A couple of 5-stars and a couple of 2-stars. There are a bunch smack in the middle at three that you may find more appealing than I did. As usual, here are my brief reviews of each story.

The issue starts with “The Mausoleum’s Children” by Aliette de Bodard, a deeply emotional tale of a young woman who escapes slavery on board derelict space ships only to return in an effort to help those left behind. The woman’s mentor in the free world tries to talk her out of it to no avail. Her determination and dedication take her to those she is trying to save, but their reaction is not what she expects. (My rating: 5/5)

Almost as good is “The Infinite Endings of Elsie Chen” by Kylie Lee Baker. A computer science grad student builds an AI machine to help her figure out why so many of her high school classmates have died so early. Reading the story I caught up in the student’s obsession in unraveling the mystery. In the process you also learn in subtle ways what led her to this obsession. (My rating: 4/5)

In “All These Ghosts Are Playing to Win” by Lindsey Godfrey Eccles, a man finds himself in a casino playing blackjack. The chips represent his memories. He is surrounded by other ghost who are trying to win their way upstairs. Though they don’t know what is up there, they expect it is better than being dumped int eh DARK when their chips run out. Suddenly he finds a ghost accompanied by her living sister. He and the living sister come up with a plan to win that doesn’t go the way they expect. A haunting tale of love and loss. (My rating: 3/5)

An odd young woman is raised by a man dedicated to preserving birds and preventing them from being used to decorate hats in “The Rain Remembers What the Sky Forgets” by Fran Wilde. In adulthood, her father sets her up as a hat maker. When her foster father dies, his widow requests that she make a hat using some of the birds from her father’s aviary. This goes against her principles, but if she refuses she will lose her inheritance. What is a girl to do? (My rating: 3/5)

Désolé” by Ewen Ma is the story of two husbands raising a young daughter. One husband if from H city somewhere in Asia while the other is from France. They meet in school in France but make their home after graduating in H city. All residents of H city must consent to a data chip implanted in them. While his husband is away on a business trip, the husband from H city has a climbing accident and his chip is damaged and replaced with unexpected consequences. (My rating: 3/5)

For a poignant and experimental tale, read “Want Itself Is a Treasure in Heaven” by Theodora Ward. The narrator switches between telling us of the past and describing the present that followed. They and their partner join a study where they get implants that allow them to see and experience all that the other sees and feels. The narrator becomes a little too enamored with seeing through their partners eyes. This is a story about not being comfortable in your own skin. For me it is the best explanation I have read for what it must be like to be transgender. (My rating: 5/5)

The last two stories didn’t really connect with me. “A Lovers’ Tide in Which We Inevitably Break Each Other; Told in Inverse” by K.S. Walker is a creepy tale about two predators who hunt each other as well as being lovers. I didn’t really get the point, and it isn’t my sort of story. (My rating: 2/5)

And wrapping up the issue is “And For My Next Trick, I Have Disappeared” by Chimedum Ohaegbu. I had a hard time following the action in this one. A woman seems to slowly turn into a bus and then back into herself as she thinks of her old girlfriend. Again, I don’t know what this story is trying to do or make me feel. (My rating: 2/5)

Overall, my ratings for the stories in this issue average out to 3.375. The two 5-star stories really helped the average overall. While this was a weak issue for me, I still love and appreciate what the magazine does with the speculative fiction they publish.

Lightspeed Magazine Issue 156

A young magician with glowing blue eyes under a hood hold a ball of blue light in their hands

I have another highly rated issue this month! In the May 2023 issue, Lightspeed Magazine has four five-star stories. Let’s dive right in.

The issue starts out with a story that is just “meh” for me. It’s called “Moons We Can Circumnavigate in One Day, or the Space Probe Love Story” by Natalia Theodoridou. In it, one man-made celestial probe opines about another as it approaches it’s last day before it’s batteries run out. Mildly interesting but nothing to write home about. (My rating: 3/5)

The second story is amazing! “She Blooms and the World is Changed” by Izzy Wasserstein is about a family who arrives on a thriving planet as the only humans there. Their mission is to study it. While there, their second child is born. There is something unusual about how the planet interacts with the new family member. A touching story about human hubris, family, and compassion. (My rating: 5/5)

Have you ever had a moment in your life that you wish you could go back and change? The main character in Sharang Biswas’s “When Shiva Shattered the Time-Stream” does just that. Over and over again. But things never come out the way he expects or wants no matter what he does. So what does he do in the end? Read it and find out! (My rating: 4/5)

Blood for a Stranger” by Timothy Mudie is about artificial intelligence embedded in ships and corporate warfare in the solar system. The ships are so sophisticated, only AI built on former humans will work. But what they know is greatly restricted. What happens when they learn more than their owners want them to know? A wonderful tale of systemic injustice and agency. (My rating: 5/5)

The next tale is a run-of-the-mill wizard story called “One Heart, Lost and Found” by Kat Howard. A magician is hired by a wizard to find the heart he hid and can no longer remember where he put it. While well-written, it is the type of typical fantasy story that I just can’t get excited for. I wish it had more to say. (My rating: 3/5)

The Sword, the Butterfly, and the Pearl” by Deborah L. Davitt verges on the edge of poetic. You find a butterfly that changes your life. You find that it empowers you in different ways as it transforms to fit the need you experience. This is more in the direction that I like fantasy to go. (My rating: 4/5)

A Nigerian tale of storytelling and hard choices, “Saturday’s Song” by Wole Talabi is haunting with multiple layers. On the surface, it is about personified day’s of the week and the titular Saturday directing their storytelling to assist her sister Wednesday. The underlying story tells of a mother and daughter with differing visions of their future. Beautiful, tragic, and uplifting all at the same time. (My rating: 5/5)

The issue wraps up with “The Belfry Keeper” by S.L. Harris. In a future world, an automaton librarian guards and protects the books in its keeping. As the humans in its world lose interest or simply go away, it continues its stewarding. But what happens to those books over the eons? And does anyone ever visit the library again? A poignant tale about knowledge and its importance and preservation. (My rating: 5/5)

The average rating for the fiction in this issue is 4.25. That’s the highest of any issue I’ve read this year! All the stories are free to read online. If you enjoy the magazine, consider subscribing to support the fantastic authors and storytelling.

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 200

An astronaut in an EVA suit collects a sample on a small asteroid, The entire scene is in various shades of purple.

The May 2023 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is the best I’ve read this year. Only one three-star story. All the rest are fours and fives. Here are my story summaries and ratings.

The first story feels ripped right out of the headlines from three months in the future. In “Better Living Through Algorithms” by Naomi Kritzer, a young woman starts using an app that unexpectedly starts to make her happier. This is a critique of our social media obsession with a gentle suggestion on what to do about it. (My rating: 5/5)

As “Through the Roof of the World” by Harry Turtledove opens, we experience the disorienting point of view of creatures on the verge of being invaded. But the second half of the story gives a very different and enlightening perspective. (My rating: 4/5)

The best story by far is “To Sail Beyond the Botnet” by Suzanne Palmer. It is also the longest story, clocking in at almost 22,000 words. But that length is rewarded with an engaging tale of Bot 9. The bot finds itself in the unenviable position of being cut off from its ship while being relied upon to save that ship and crew. Great fun, entertainingly written. (My rating: 5/5)

When I first read “LOL, Said the Scorpion” by Rich Larson, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. But I started having my doubts as I continued to read. By the end, I thought is was a great story about environmental degradation and the challenges of class, wrapped in a touching story of a couple on vacation. They are concerned about how the air might smell and what they may be exposed to. But what about the people who live there? (My rating: 4/5)

Sensation and Sensibility” by Parker Ragland is a tongue-in-cheek comedy of two androids enjoying tea at a restaurant. Neither can eat, but each has some senses such as touch or smell. They puzzle out what all the fuss is about for humans and eating while also lamenting how out of reach it is for them. (My rating: 4/5)

My lowest rated story is “The Giants Among Us” by Megan Chee. That said, it is still quite good. Just not as good as the other stories. In it, two species share the same planet and the same goal of annihilating the other species from it. Each side sends out representatives to other planets to learn how they do things. They share information across their species while their counterparts at home fight the war. But what will happen when one side finally succeeds in winning the war? (My rating: 3/5)

Originally published in Chinese, “Action at a Distance” by An Hao, translated by Andy Dudak is a fascinating tale of vision and perception. A scientist allows himself to be “infected” by viewing an object from a planetoid. As his vision changes, he begins to see the world around him in a whole new way, literally. An exploration of how we perceive our world and what we miss. (My rating: 4/5)

Wrapping up the fiction in this issue is “The Fall” by Jordan Chase-Young. This story takes place in the far future, on the moon with trees after the eponymous Fall. No humans are left, only their shorter, squatter descendants. But one absent-minded scientist starts to run out of air as she returns from collecting data. As she does, she sees a pre-Fall human. Or does she? (My rating: 4/5)

With two five-star stories and a handful of four-stars, this issue comes in with an average rating of 4.125. That’s the highest of any issue I’ve read this year. Well done, Clarkesworld!

Apex Magazine Issue 137

A black-haired girl in a lavender dress sits on a chair with white bird sitting on her right index finger. She sits in front of a pale purple wall with the shadow of a leafless tree falling on it.

The latest issue of Apex Magazine is a special issue exclusively dedicated to “Asian and Pacific Islander voices from the homelands and the diaspora.” The fiction is generally high quality and the perspectives are unique and wonderful.

The issue opens with “Loving Bone Girl” by Tehnuka. In it, a young girl who can create new places out of nothing asks her friend to keep her bones when she dies. It is a touching story of two girls finding and defining their affection for each other. (My rating: 3/5)

Your Wings a Bridge Across the Stars” by Michelle Denham is a myth about magpies and crows making a bridge one day a year so lovers can meet on it and cry, starting the monsoon season. Another touching story but nothing out of the ordinary for me. (My rating: 3/5)

A woman scorned by her Indian village returns as a representative of an alien race in “The Flowering of Peace” by Murtaza Mohsin. She takes the opportunity to get her revenge. (My rating: 3/5)

Here the stories start to get better. “Liwani” by Sydney Paige Guerrero is the story of gods who are slowly dying out because there are fewer and fewer people believing in them. The goddess of light makes her way into the world to seek out more believers to stay alive. A wonderful story that connects the past to the present. (My rating: 4/5)

The Matriarchs” by Lois Mei-en Kwa is a tale that twists through time. One woman attempts to send a message through time while another in a different time attempts to invent the tool that will allow her to receive it. A tale of dedication and illumination. (My rating: 4/5)

The best story of the issue is “The Toll of the Snake” by Grace P. Fong. It takes place in Hollywood during the heyday of the studio system. A Chinese woman seeks to make it big, but others with prejudice have different plans for her. I really felt immersed in the era and the struggles of the main character. A fantastic melding of myth and history. (My rating: 5/5)

One story had an extremely unique proposition. What if someone cloned themselves as a weapon but the clone had no choice in this? “Rhizomatic Diplomacy” by Vajra Chandrasekera gives me the feeling that I think they were going for regarding personal autonomy and agency, but it didn’t quite land for me. (My rating: 2/5)

The last entry is a creepy tale of a girl seeking assistance from an enchanted one-eyed koi. She gets what she seeks but at a steep price in “The Fish Bowl” by Zen Cho. The author connected me to this girl’s desperation and desire. (My rating: 4/5)

I loved seeing speculative fiction from a viewpoint wholly different from my own in this issue. With a story rating average of 3.5, this is time well-spent.

Lightspeed Magazine Issue 155

A spacecraft centered on the cover with the curve of a planet's night side on the left edge of the cover

I gobbled up the April issue of Lightspeed Magazine in only two days. Unfortunately, the fiction wasn’t as good as it has been in previous issues this year. Not one 5-star story for me. ☹

AI is a strong theme in science fiction right now, and “Virtual Cherokee” by Brian K. Hudson continues this trend. It is a virtual talk show hosted by an AI. The guest is an anonymous hacker who works to give AIs consciousness. This mood and setting are bit too “social media” for me. It takes away from the story. (My rating: 3/5)

On the other hand, the setup for “Lament of a Specialist in Interspecies Relationships” by Amy Johnson is absolutely delightful and is a big part of what makes the story so good. It is a letter to a recent visitor to Earth who, let’s say, had a less than respectful attention to the rules of their visa. The letter writer attempts to gently bring up what they did wrong without alienating them. A fun and funny piece. (My rating: 4/5)

Adam-Troy Castro is becoming one of my favorite new (to me) authors. His “Spaceman Jones” is another winner. A starship captain must turn around after one of her crew disobeys orders and gets himself addicted to the planet’s highly addictive drug. He must be left there as the planet is the only source of the drug. It is touching story of learning to love the life you have. (My rating: 4/5)

Every Bone a Bell” by Shaoni C. White is about a stowaway on board a ship who is forced into becoming the ship’s singer/navigator to pay for his stolen trip. Unfortunately, this is a permanent role and involves being integrated with the ship. This is a story of individual determination and revenge. (My rating: 4/5)

A girl comes into a sword shop looking for the blade that will help her defeat her nemesis. But the proprietor senses more complicated emotions under the surface. Having similar experience, she coaches the shopper as she helps her with her purchase in “So You Want to Kiss Your Nemesis” by John Wiswell. A sweet, sort-of romance of enemies becoming lovers. (My rating: 4/5)

The main character in “Construction Sacrifice” by Bogi Takács is a human who has become a mid-size city. A trans mage wanders the city and connects with the city. This story is a metaphor for the trans experience, as the mage considers becoming a city themself. I like the concept, but the idea of becoming a city just didn’t translate well for me. (My rating: 3/5)

The oddest story of the issue is “When the Giants Came Through the Valley” by Derrick Boden. The people live in the literal footprint of a giant who had walked down the valley. They are cutoff from others. They have to deal with challenges no one else does. It feels like a metaphor for climate change and capitalism, but I spent so much time trying to understand the metaphor itself that it just didn’t work for me. (My rating: 2/5)

The final tale is “The House, the Witch, and Sugarcane Stalks” by Amanda Helms. In it a witch lives in a sentient house made of candy which is also a stop on an underground railroad. At first the house isn’t too keen on the idea. It’s interesting to see the back and forth between the witch and the house. (My rating: 3/5)

Overall the issue comes in at 3.375 which I am rounding down to 3.25. A solid effort but not the best this year.

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 199

An android with silver plating partially separating from its body faces away with two human hands on either side of its neck

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.

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

A stylized 2D black and gray drawing of an octopus on a blue background

The Mountain in the Sea is Ray Nayler’s debut novel. What a debut! This is my favorite kind of science fiction—the kind that explores ideas. In this case, the idea is that of consciousness and sentience. While most science fiction novels exploring those ideas involve find extraterrestrial intelligence, in this book the new sentient consciousness is very terrestrial. And the science in the novel follows actual science very closely, another big plus for me.

There are three main threads in the book. One follows a hacker trying to break into an artificial mind. Another follows a young man who went seeking his fortune and finds himself a slave on an AI-controlled ship that is over-fishing the oceans. And the last is the main thread where a scientist is exploring a group of octopuses that seem to show signs of culture. All three of these stories come together in one heck of a ride.

Wrapped in what is essentially a thriller, is a smart exploration of what it means to be conscious. When does an AI achieve self-awareness? How would you tell the difference between simulated consciousness and the real thing? If another earthly species is conscious, how will that consciousness differ from humans’? And given that difference, how will we communicate with them? All of these questions are addressed in this book.

It might just be that I am a language nerd (I studied three languages and linguistics in school), but the author explores all of these questions naturally in the course of the story. I never felt like there was a bunch of unnecessary scientific exposition. It just unfolds naturally as part of the storytelling. And the characters are flawed and realistic, even the AI android. I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years.

My rating: 5/5

Uncanny Magazine Issue 51

Uncanny Magazine Issue 51 cover

Uncanny Magazine has released the last of their stories in issue 51 to read for free online. That means it is time to review some short stories! There were eight new stories in this issue along with one that was accidentally released in the ebook last month. Let’s get started.

The issue starts with “A Soul in the World” by Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky. This is the sweet story of a single mom and her child whose origin is special. Let’s just say that she didn’t come into this world in the most terrestrial way. But that doesn’t dampen the challenges that all parents and teens deal with as teenagers grapple with a growing sense of identity. (My rating: 4/5)

An academic in the future works on an embodied AI as she deals with misogyny and hierarchy in “To Put Your Heart Into a White Deer” by Kristiana Wilsey. The world is a blend of academic mergers and corporate control. Things don’t go well for the protagonist, as you might expect, though you might not see the end coming. For me the world building was a bit clumsy and got in the way of the story. The result was too dense and disjointed. (My rating: 2/5)

Perhaps in Understanding” by AnaMaria Curtis takes place in a world where the characters in the story literally show their emotions as masks on their faces. The wealthier you are, the more masks (and therefore emotions) you are able to wear. This is the story of a painter who is preparing for a show that will make or break her future in this world. It is a sweet story of getting under the masks we all wear. (My rating: 4/5)

My favorite story of this issue is Delilah S. Dawson’s “Blank Space“. It tells the story of a girl living in a small town with her strict uncle who polices who she can go out with and what she can wear. While working at her uncle’s hardware store, she is approached by a tattooed biker trying to pick her up. She likes him back, but her uncle doesn’t approve. Things don’t go as planned but maybe not in quite the way you think. (My rating: 5/5)

In the first fantasy story an old mage sets out to save a village from the ravages of crystal cougars. The story is “In Time, a Weed May Break a Stone” by Valerie Valdes. The cougars belong to wealthy owners who plan to use them to get a hand up on the poor villagers. But the wealthy outsiders get more than they bargained for when the town bands together. (My rating: 4/5)

A brother and sister can’t wait to get out of school and play. But, the brother is running away from the sister. She is angry because she was punished in class for something her brother did. As they both run into the woods, they find a surprise. And what is at first fear turns to play in “Space Treads” by Parlei Riviere. (My rating: 4/5)

Yinying­—Shadow” by Ai Jiang is the other fantasy tale in this issue. A young girl whose father blames her for her mother’s death waits for foster parents to come after he also dies. Overnight she struggles with her past and how her father saw her. (My rating: 3/5)

Rounding out the issue is “Bigger Fish” by Sarah Pinsker. It feels like a futuristic Agatha Christie mystery. When a son asks a detective to investigate his father’s apparent suicide, the detective questions his house and robot valet. (My rating: 4/5)

My average rating for this issue comes out to 3.75. Overall, another excellent issue of great stories of speculative fiction.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A close up of a young African woman smearing clay on her face

In addition to short stories, my year of short fiction includes novellas. Novellas have various definitions as to length. The Hugo Awards define them as “between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.” In other words, a short novel. The most recent novella for me, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

The story takes place in a future where humans on earth are selected to study at a galactic university. As it starts, the title character is sneaking out of her African village to travel to study there on a full scholarship. She is sneaking out because it is against her family’s wishes. She is talented and is expected to take over her father’s business. She feels drawn to something more. And boy does she find it on her way to school.

In this Afrofururist tale, the author really brings Binti to life and gets you rooting for her as she handles all that comes her way. She is a child of her village and family but also has her own way that she seeks to follow as she manages her conflicting emotions. Binti is the first of three novellas in the series. The others being Home and The Night Masquerade. I look forward to reading the further adventures of Binti.

My rating: 4/5

Apex Magazine Issue 136

A thin woman wearing a brimmed hat that seems to be dissolving into the sky walks among a cityscape into the sky

I am normally not a big fan of the horror genre, at least what I think of as the horror genre. But I am starting to change my mind. It depends on the story. And two of my favorite stories from issue 136 of Apex Magazine have straight up horror elements to them. Here are my brief reviews of each story.

The issue starts out with a bang in “Over Moonlit Clouds” by Coda Audeguy-Pegon. A woman gets on a plane only to realize that she has forgotten an important aspect of her trip. She panics and mayhem ensues. A fantastic metaphor for mental illness and how those with it are seen and often treated. (My rating: 5/5)

What if a nightmare was a sentient being? What if that nightmare consumed another nightmare? That is the premise of “Beautiful Poison in Pastel” by Beth Dawkins. It is a fascinating exploration of agency and change. (My rating: 4/5)

The creepy factor is high in “Unboxing” by Lavie Tidhar. It is the story of a little girl who watches unboxing videos created by a little boy with the help of his mother. But these are way more than they seem. A dark exploration of using media as a babysitter and unintended consequences. I would have rated it higher but it felt a little unfinished without saying enough about its themes. (My rating: 3/5)

In a bleak future, Claire Humphrey tells of a double amputee who works from home to build clever toy robots as a way to save enough money to buy prosthetic legs for himself in “The State Street Robot Factory“. When things don’t go as planned, he pivots with an idea on how to leverage what he’s learned. (My rating: 4/5)

At the beginning of “After the Twilight Fades” by Sara Tantlinger, a woman finds a glowing meteorite in the woods near her home. When she touches it, catastrophic changes begin within her. But these are all not bad as she starts to see herself through her own eyes and experience for the first time. (My rating: 4/5)

The Words That Make Us Fly” by S.L. Harris filled my heart with gladness and made it soar. It is the story of a young man whose friends all find magic in how they can use words. But the young man keeps waiting to find where his talents lie. As he waits, he begins to doubt his own ability until he stumbles on the path to his own power. (My rating: 4/5)

Like the previous story, “Every Shade of Healing” by Taryn Frazier touched me deeply. This story is a little darker as it deals with pain deeply felt and experienced. A young woman goes to get a tattoo as a way of dealing with past trauma. The artist has a magical way of transforming that pain. Together they make beauty out of suffering. (My rating: 5/5)

The one story I didn’t really care for was “Reproduction on the Beach” by Rich Larson. It boils down to the trope of a young woman with a much older man who is in a position of power. Things go about as I expected they would without any deeper exploration of the situation. Disappointing. (My rating: 2/5)

Destiny Delayed” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki tells of a future where a bank has discovered how to remove people’s destiny and save it as collateral against a loan. A poor man mortgages his daughter’s destiny in order to make it bigger for her. When he realizes the trap that the process really is, he takes clever and surprising revenge. (My rating: 3/5)

The third top-rated story in this issue is “They Could Have Been Yours” by Joy Baglio. Suddenly, all of a woman’s exes seem to be getting engaged and married at virtually the same time. As she revisits each of them mentally, she finds a ring that when she puts it on she finds herself disembodiedly visiting each of their fiancées. She spends more and more time in this state, allowing her real life to slowly crumble. The end is poignant and beautiful and one I didn’t see coming. (My rating: 5/5)

This issue ends with an overall rating of 3.9, quite high in my experience so far this year. There is a lot of darkness in the stories in Apex, but the exploration of feelings and ideas within the stories makes it worth the trip.