The Sri Lankan mountainside is steep, and the ground is slick with mud and algae-covered tree roots, but I’m not even breathing hard as I ascend — I’m riding in a palanquin carried by a gang of jungle squid. They wrap their tentacles around upslope trees and pull, repeating the process with fluid motions; I notice no pause in my upward movement until we reach the top of the mountain.
The squid deposit my palanquin in front of the Temple of Clarke. Priests block the entrance, linking arms. “You cannot enter the temple. Our dot-matrix printer has been transcribing the nine billion names of God since 1968. If you interfere with the computer, we might have to reboot and begin again. You will destroy decades of work.”
I motion to the squid, who pull the priests apart and hold them out of my way as I walk to the temple entrance. One of the younger priests yells at me, “The jungle squid don’t want this. What you’re doing goes against their religion as well. You’re a monster.”
“If only you spoke jungle squid, you could tell them.”
So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer This story is told in the form of food-blog posts. It’s a long-winded way to tell a pandemic story, and there is no real conclusion.
Your Right Arm by Nin Harris I’d have found this story incomprehensible without knowing a few words from Asian mythology. Knowing those words didn’t make the story interesting.
In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer by Sara Saab A ship is evacuating people from a soon-to-be-destroyed Earth. People are lined up for the last remaining seats. Imagine the drama of this situation. Imagine the reaction of the people left behind. You’ll need to imagine those things, because the story focuses on a girl writing letters to her father.
The Hexagonal Bolero of Honeybees by Krista Leahy This has something to do with pollination failure, but the solution makes no sense.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Xia Jia A librarian meets a group of people who like the same poetry she does. There is no fantasy element, unless you hate librarians and think it’s fantasy that one could have friends, or you hate poetry and think it’s fantasy that a group of people could like it.
There may be a Chinese cultural orientation to the story — the librarian destroys information in the library’s newspaper archive, and the author portrays that as some kind of wonderful or heroic action. It wasn’t instructions on how to mutate a virus or build a bomb; it was biographical information about a poet.
Way Down East by Tim Sullivan I think the magazine is being a bit liberal with its “classic” designation, as I noticed some word usage that wouldn’t have made sense before the 1990s, then googled and found that the story is from 2008. An alien visits Earth, but the story is really about the family problems of two lobstermen. That’s lobstermen as in fishermen who catch lobsters, not lobster-men who run around pinching people with their claws.
One Last, Great Adventure by Ellen Kushner and Ysabeau Wilce This is a decent fantasy concept, but it’s told in a pure telling rather than showing style, to the point that it sometimes reads more like a plot summary than a story.
You Wouldn’t Be Reading This If It Weren’t for Buck Rogers by Mark Cole I haven’t been reading non-fiction during my magazine quest, but this title caught my eye. It’s a nice article about the history of sci-fi comic strips such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.