Reviewed by Cyd Athens
“Perfect” by Haddayr Copley-Woods
Despite deviating from the classic forms, this tale is an ode. It contrasts the main character’s hatred for everyday people, places, and things with the perfection she finds in a complex equation. The speculative bits here are about the equation’s significance.
“Steel Snowflakes in My Skull” by Tom Piccirilli
In the aftermath of surgery to place three metal plates in his head, a patient is pushed around on a gurney by someone he cannot see. The metal plates become sentient and start talking not only to him, but also to other people along his endless route. Eventually he figures out where he is and where he is going. This is a story about the journey rather than the destination.
“The Cultist’s Son” by Ferrett Steinmetz
Even though the term is never used in this story, Derleth suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has survived his crazy mother, a Quiverfull, who was constantly pregnant in the belief that she would birth the goddess who would destroy the world. Because of his upbringing, Derleth has no decent role models for how to have healthy intimate relationships with others. When he meets Gabrielle, the two of them must learn how to forge a path forward together. The speculative bits here are limited to those about the mother’s beliefs. Otherwise, this is simply a contemporary story about how people cope with having been abused.
“Repairing the World” by John Chu
Lila is working on her dissertation. She has developed a tape to mitigate intrusions from other worlds into hers. Bridger is her linguist. Here, the word means not only a talented multilinguist, but also a protector/bodyguard. Bridger is a same-sex loving man at a time when such things are frowned upon. As a result, he is reticent to discuss his dating interests. When his interest in someone splits his attention and hinders Lila’s research, the steps she takes to get Bridger refocused give her inspiration for her own project. This is a story about resilience and adaptation in the face of adversity.
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W.