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Dead Men Walking (Paul J. McAuley

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

The chaos after the genocidal Quiet War offers one custom built living weapon the chance to reinvent himself; that things did not work out entirely to plan is foreshadowed by the fact that when we meet him he is dying out on the surface of Ariel, Uranus’s fourth-largest moon.

I really looked forward to the novels in this series until I read one and realized it was going to be an endless sequence of boots stamping on a man's face forever. This in contrast manager to squeeze out a few drops of satisfaction from a highly constrained life.


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Mongoose (Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

In a world where space station fall prey to extra-dimensional predators, defense may rely on a human and his cheshire ally. But what are cheshires, exactly?

This reminded me a bit of a melange of Cordwainer Smith and HP Lovecraft.



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Free-Fall (Graham Templeton)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Trapped 30 kilometers above Earth in a malfunctioning space elevator, a journalist is given an opportunity to confront the hollow shell of his life and the skill with which those who matter keep the little people bound with chains of debt.

SF really is about the time when it is written, isn't it?

Petrovic tells me that if one jumps up on a bulkhead and uses the pod’s diminished gravity to hand-plant on a lighting strut, that it is possible to look with a steep enough angle to glimpse where the ribbon disappears into clear, blue ocean.


+30 km means that instead of being 6378.1 from the center they are at 6408.1 km, which I think would reduce gravity by a majestic 1%.





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The Urashima Effect (E. Lily Yu)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

An interstellar voyager arrives in a stellar system several years before the one carrying his wife is set to arrive and - thanks to Einstein - many years after he left. To fill the time he carefully rations out installments of the audio communication his wife left for him, which contains the tale of Urashima and the reason why she chose that story to tell him.

Gosh, his government is remarkably dickish to a guy who is going to have a ship with a peak Ek of about 200 megatons per kilogram.

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From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled . . . (Michael Swanwick)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Two survivors - one human, one alien - flee the destruction of an alien city and near total slaughter of its inhabitants. Survival and the alien's goals depend on cooperation but the alien has good reason not to trust the human.

The economic discussions seemed a bit heavy handed.

It's interesting how often social insects turn up as a model for aliens in SF, something menacing, here mostly just odd.

First published in Asimov’s, February 2008.


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The Banquet of the Lords of Night (Liz Williams)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Against the Lords of Night, freedom depends on the skills of a single pastry chef.

Also on a paranoid ruling clique and their servant never having hit on the idea of "food tasters" but I imagine if they had that idea the plan would have been different.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2002, if isfdb can be trusted.

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(R + D) /I = M (E. Catherine Tobler))

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

First contact between humans and martians does not go entirely well.

Reminded me a bit of a Bradbury, although much less portentous.

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Tachy Psyche (Andy Dudak)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

An attempt to create super spy leaves its victim as a man trapped between two wildly fluctuating time rates and a prisoner of the enemy. Worst, the effect is only mental and so when someone finally tracks him down to discharge a pistol at him, he is forced to stand there and watch the projectile crawl towards him.

I think the comic book someone refers to in the comments on the Clarkesworld site was Hero Alliance; it actually came to mind when I listened to this. Which is kind of sad because it wasn't a great comic and I could have used the brain cells better.


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Right. Back on the horse.

Soulcatcher (James Patrick Kelly)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

A woman's effort to rescue her sister from a seductive alien is complicated by the presence of said sister.

This seemed like an awfully convoluted plan. Might make a good opera.


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Finisterra (David Moles)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

An engineer seeking a new life signs up with hardened criminals, only to discover their crimes don't stop at a bit of poaching.

So, the details that kept yanking me out of this were all world building on Earth, specifically details like
[...]the Nazarios, like the other Christians of Punta Aguila, however valued, however ancient their roots, knew that they lived there only on sufferance.
and
a slow, patient, reliable thing that dated from before the founding of the London Caliphate.
And it does seem to be the Punta Aquila in the Dominican Republic.

Could be the sort of detail tossed as "look, the world changed" but in a 2007 story, a casual reader might be forgiven for hearing Eurabia dogwhistles.

First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2007.

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Guest of Honor (Robert Reed)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

An interstellar traveler becomes increasingly disenchanted with the means by which she will keep Earth's bored immortals entertained, both because it involves what on the one hand someone could call a form of immortality and on the other a form of mass cannibalism, and because these people are not worth her sacrifices.

This was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1993.

Death death death! But you know, that's tons better than SET's rape rape rape.


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Melt With You (Emily C. Skaftun)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Following the apocalypses, people found themselves reincarnated in new bodies, mostly but not all formerly inanimate bodies brought to life through some mysterious process. A group of religious fanatics reincarnated as garden gnomes think they have a solution. Unfortunately for everyone around them, it's a Final one.

Did I mention the Clarkesworld stories are about death thing? This one is about fates worse than death.


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No Portraits on the Sky (Kali Wallace)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

In a world beset with signs of creeping entropy, a woman gives aid* to a mysterious stranger fallen from the sky in hopes that he can shed light on the mysteries of her world.

* As a commenter points out, she never seems to gives the fellow food or water.

Again, a Clarkesworld story that turns out be about the inevitability of death and alienation. Very pretty setting, though.


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Annex (Benjanun Sriduangkaew)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Would-be revolutionaries use information manipulation and other methods to resist the occupation of a recently conquered world.

There's nothing wrong with this but I kept thinking of the other stories it reminded me of as I read it. In particular I was led to wonder if the editors have a weakness for stories about planets of artists and their ilk that find themselves invaded.

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Spar - the Bacon Remix (Kij Johnson)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

A remix of Johnson's Spar, in which all the graphic unwilling sex, of which there was a lot, is replaced with bacon.

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86, 87, 88, 89 (Genevieve Valentine)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

A volunteer archivist working in the rubble left after the US government deals resolutely with terrorists and willful collateralists is treated to an energizing learning experience about their true place in the grand scheme of things.

Curious if this or this played a role in the genesis of this story, along with the obvious.


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The Last Survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution (A.C. Wise)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

A young person interviews the last survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution, who is coincidentally also the owner of the only sexbot still in existence. Competing models of what exactly happened during the GSR are presented for the reader's benefit.


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The Weight of a Blessing (Aliette de Bodard)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

The daughter of a former refugee who steadfastly did her best to assimilate into her new homeland's culture rejects her mother's approach, not least because the daughter believes her hosts had a lot to do with why her mother had to flee her home world. When the daughter is arrested for what seems to have been terroristic monument defacement and sentenced to life time exile, the mother is given only three final interviews with her soon to be lost forever daughter.

Possibly set in the same universe as "Immersion".

A fourth story will be added to the monthly series, one selected by Garnder Dozois.


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Vacant Spaces (Greg Kurzawa)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

A deep space salvage operation goes poorly for the two humans involving.

This would be a variation on the weird stuff happens in space story (like all those surreal FTL stories). One detail that kept distracting me:

" [...] the hydrogen snow obscure his monitors."

Under what conditions can you have solid hydrogen, aside from "below 14K"? They start off in space and as far as I can tell from "Out here there’s not enough pressure to keep a body and soul together," they end up in space.


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The Wanderers (Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam)

The text version can be found here.

Read by Kate Baker

Powerful but not terribly bright aliens decide to travel to Earth to enslave and then torture the inhabitants, only to be frustrated by the apparent absence of the humans when the aliens arrive.

Two comments:

First: "aliens wander around baffled, making commentary on the human condition in the process" has been done a fair amount and I think you have to do more with the concept now than Stufflebeam does.

Second:
We came to your planet because we knew that you, the peoples of Kill Bill and Saw and Vietnam and Columbine Massacre would understand us.

[...]

Joker and Samara and Alexander Great and Corleone

[...]

“That place was like Iraq War,”

[...]

like Cloverfield.”

[...]
We saw Alien and War of Worlds and Roswell Area 51 Alien Autopsy Revealed.

[...]

Moon Landing and Mars Rover Mohawk Man


These are some seriously America-centric Earth-conquering aliens.



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