A.C. Wise Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld – Locus Online

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Clarkesworld 3/24

Clarkesworld’s March issue opens with “Hello! Hello! Hello!” by Fiona Jones, a sweet story about an alien entity encountering a human adrift in a shuttle, eventually realizing that the human is dy­ing, and carrying out a rescue mission. Jones does a wonderful job of presenting a truly alien alien, and showing the difficulties of communication between vastly dissimilar species, but also the possibilities opened up by the drive to understand each other. “Nine Beauties and the Entangled Threads” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires shares similari­ties with Damián Neri’s story from the Winter 2024 issue of The Deadlands. A young woman studies a group of endangered trees that her grandmother told her stories about when she was a child, learn­ing they are even more connected to each other than she realized, while also deepening her link to her personal history.

One Flew Over the Songhua River” by Qi Ran (translated by Andy Dudak), originally published in Science Fiction World in 2021, presents an in­teresting character portrait of the narrator’s aunt, whose husband abandoned her to go to space. “Phosphorescence” by Ben Berman Ghan is full of gorgeous poetic imagery. It follows the Botanist and the Machinist/Mechanist, lovers who meet at an apocalyptic conference where competing groups of scientists present their plans to save humanity from a world in ecological collapse. The two enact their own plan in a nice inversion of apocalyptic tropes, focusing on saving the Earth itself, rather than its people, and forcing humanity to live with the consequences of its actions in an unexpected way.

A Brief Oral History of the El Zopilote Dock” by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a frighteningly plau­sible novelette set in a near-future world where Texas has gained independence and reinstituted slavery through its prison system. The oral history focuses on two women, Karla and Symphonie, who escaped prison to join the Underground River, helping others to freedom. The history is recorded by Symphonie’s granddaughter, allowing for a nuanced exploration of generational trauma and complicated family relationships as Sylvia grows up in the shadow of her legendary grandmother, wanting to be like her, while Symphonie wants a different and better life for her granddaughter.

Her Body, the Ship” by Z.K. Abraham also explores the idea of family legacy from a different perspective, asking what happens when the later generations on a generation ship don’t buy into the vision of those who initially embarked on the journey. “Swarm C1048 – Ethological Field Report: Canus Lupus Familiaris ‘6”’ by F.E. Choe closes out the issue with a poignant story of an alien swarm observing life on Earth post environ­mental collapse. The swarm develops a particular attachment to a puppy whose birth they witness, and whose life they follow, while trying to maintain their detachment. Like many science fiction stories featuring dogs, this one delivers an emotional gut-punch, but it’s also sweet, and weaves in notes of hope, making it well worth the read.

Recommended Stories

“Hello! Hello! Hello!”, Fiona Jones (Clarkesworld 3/24)
“Phosphorescence”, Ben Berman Ghan (Clarkesworld 3/24)
“A Brief Oral History of the El Zopilote Dock”, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Clarkesworld 3/24)
“Swarm C1048 – Ethological Field Report: Canus Lupus Familiaris ‘6”’, F.E. Choe (Clarkesworld 3/24)


A.C. Wise is the author of the novels Wendy, Darling, and Hooked, along with the recent short story collection, The Ghost Sequences. Her work has won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and has been a finalist for the Nebula Awards, Stoker, World Fantasy, Locus, British Fantasy, Aurora, Lambda, and Ignyte Awards. In addition to her fiction, she contributes a review column to Apex Magazine.

This review and more like it in the April 2024 issue of Locus.

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