October 2, 2008

Jason Sanford and Mary Robinette Kowal

Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain

Book Cover

by Jason Sanford

This story was originally published in the August 2008 issue of Interzone, an internationally popular SF magazine. (You can find their free downloads here.) Sanford is hosting a giveaway for a year's subscription to a US blogger. The magazine is bi-monthly, British, and a source of excellent SF.

"Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain" tells of a strange world, where people move up and up as strange ships throw off destructive weather. The narrator Master Tem watches the weather with apprentice Cres, who dreams of being picked up by a ship. It's a strange world that seems like a rather undesirable place to live. Then Cres and Tem discover a ship below Tem's home and the secrets of the world unfold. Sanford briefly, but not tritely, explores human nature.

Four Stories by Mary Robinette Kowal

All of these are available online. I've previously reviewed some of her other fiction here. Since then, she won the Campbell award (which is awesome).

Evil Robot Monkey
First appeared in Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 2

Kowal made an audio version of this story because she wanted to play with her new Blue Snowball mic. The sound quality is good and Kowal does a nice oral performance - she varies her tone and maintains good speed. (Some authors read aloud fabulously; others are surprisingly bad at it.) Sly's too smart to live with the other chimps, but too much of an animal to live with the humans. (Almost a direct quote.) He acts up when treated like an animal, when all he wants to do is make pottery. This one reminds me, in a way, of "Time Enough at Last," a Twilight Zone episode that never fails to make me cry. (In all truth, that episode is probably my personal nightmare.) However, the ending to "Evil Robot Monkey" is the bittersweet sort, not one of utter despair.

Horizontal Rain
Apex Magazine, April 2007

Of these four stories, this is my least favorite. It's still a wonderful short story. Architect Max flies from New York to Sweden due to problems at the construction site. The native workers and Amalia believe trolls are responsible for the site's trouble and Max needs to change his plans. Campbell applies a touch of the dark side of faery tales to bring this one to its conclusion. Between this and "Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain" I'm going to develop a complex about weather.

Clockwork Chickadee
Clarksworld Magazine, June 2008

Who doesn't wonder what toys do while their owners are gone? Clockwork, after all, must be wound. Chickadee envies Sparrow his flight and dislikes his haughty manner. She conspires with the mouse to teach him a lesson. The story is very much a fable without starring an innocent. Chickadee knows how to plot and manipulate, which makes her far more interesting than some of the typical naive fairy tale leads.

Scenting the Dark
Apex, August 2008

Penn, his seeing-eye dog Cody, and Madison are on an unfamiliar planet. Penn wants materials to make perfume with. But something has gone wrong, and an animal killed Madison. He must escape the monster, but he barely knows where he is and keeps miscommunicating with Cody due to his panic. Kowal uses scent, sound, and touch to great effect in this chilling horror story.

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