Editor Simon Ings kindly offered me access to a review copy. As I understand it, the 160 page magazine is only available on-line. Some of the articles have hyperlinks embedded and I found these very helpful.
In Forward, Frederick Pohl reminiscences about how he became a fan of Science Fiction and a member of the World Future Organization.
In Present Tense‘s article “Nobody Knows You’re a Dog”, Anne Galloway and Submit Paul-Choudhury discuss about technology which is now used on animals, from pets to livestock to wildlife. Concerned pet owners have been tagging their pets because they can know just where their pets are but also for uploading their pets’ funny moments on the Internet. Canada has passed a law that all farm animals must be tagged with a RFID chip but USAian farmers have bitterly protested a similar law. However, is it possible that soon consumers will require food animals to have the tags so that the consumers can know how the animals are being treated and where they are really from? But do consumers really want such an intimate relationship with their food? Personally, I’ve often been baffled and saddened by the attitudes that big businesses have and it seems that it really is up to the individual consumer to force the businesses to treat the animals (and employees and us sub contractors!) humanely. But it takes a lot of time and effort, so many people don’t even bother. This sort of tagging could help with that. Of course, I’m sure plenty of people would be very uncomfortable with knowing more about their food sources.
In Prior Art Sonja Vesterholt and Simon Ings remember Pavel Klushantsev. I haven’t even heard of this Russian filmmaker so it was interesting to find out that he influenced many of the famous SF films, including Prometheus.
The issue has four short stories with the theme of post-humanism. I enjoyed them all but my favorites were VanderMeer’s and McAuley’s stories.
Nick Harkaway’s Attenuation: Sonny Hall has just returned to consciousness after his trip from his original body on Earth to his new body on Waystation. But something has gone wrong: he’s old body is still alive and about which causes Sonny pain and his mind is stretched between the two bodies until it will snap. Also, he has amnesia so he can’t remember if someone else has done this to him or if he has been part of some scheme. He has to find out.
I found the world interesting. The bodies, even the original ones, are called corpses. It seems that people who are able to travel, have a more cavalier attitude towards their bodies that those of us who have just one. The new bodies are apparently grown and the basic stock is Caucasian; you have to pay extra for other type of bodies. Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with Sonny. We get to find his background a little by little while he solves the mystery. The story is written in present tense.
Paul McAuley’s The Man: The Jackaroo have gifted planets to humans. Yanos is one of them, circling the M class red dwarf sun Sauron. The planet doesn’t turn, so one side of it is always towards the sun and the other away from it. Human settlements are in the twilight area where it’s bearable to live. Cho Ziyi lives in a small cabin with her two huskies. They live as best they can in a world of perpetual snow salvaging what she can from nearby ruins of a factory, although she doesn’t actually know what the place had been and who had built it. One day, a naked man appears on her door. At first Ziyi thinks he’s human maybe a survivor from a bandit attack. But quickly she realizes that’s not the case.
Ziyi is an old woman who has lived a hard life. But she’s not bitter, just tired of humans. Although that might be because the few humans around her aren’t very likable; they, too, have hard lives and do whatever they need to survive and get a better life. Ziyi lives alone and only goes to town to get gasoline and food.
I found the world quite intriguing. The Jackaroo are an alien race which came to Earth after several countries had nuked each other’s cities. Some humans wanted to stay and fix the Earth, and maybe they did, but some wanted to get off the planet and start a new life. However, the planets given to humans don’t appear to be easy to live on and this seemed to have been a surprise to the people who won the lottery and got off Earth.
T. D. Edge: Big Dave’s in Love: Big Dave is the heart and leader of Gaffville but he’s been under the weather for a while. His underlings, the bio-toys, have been worried that he won’t be able to protect them anymore. But then, his batman Jack brings the joyous news that Big Dave has seen an soulled woman and is in love, and all is well again. The town celebrates. Unfortunately, Dave himself isn’t so sure of it.
This story is written in present tense and with some slang. Fortunately, the slang isn’t broad enough to make the reading difficult but brings a certain rustic charm to the tale. In this story almost all of humanity has been wiped out, this time nine years ago by sludge-flood which is still threatening the remaining people. Having a soul seems to keep it back and falling in love expands one’s soul, so it’s a big deal. Especially since the bio-toys believe that soulled humans can share their souls with the toys.
In Komodo by Jeff VanderMeer the story’s protagonist tells their story to a child, who doesn’t necessary even understand the language the protagonist is using, and to everyone else who are listening. The story starts inside a giant green alien plastic head and will take you for a wild ride with angels and King Komodos and celestial bears, and not in a linear structure.
Arc is also looking for new short stories.
In Inner Space column, Regina Peldszuz talks about the problems that space travelers will have to face; namely isolation and boredom. Even though a lot of fiction dealing with space flight tends to center on action/adventure, some have dealt with this problem, too, such as movies Moon and Dark Star. While the space travelers can take entertainment with them, the problem is to have something that all of the travelers enjoy – or don’t easily come bored with.
In the Unevenly Distributed column, Gord Stellar examines South Koreans. They were propelled to the space age when most of them were just farmers (with oxen, not tractors) but they have adapted. Their old customs and religions can be seen just below the surface. Many seems to cling to the old ways as a shield against the modern alienation. I don’t know anything about South Korean so this small look into their culture was fascinating.
In the Spaces column, P. D. Smith discusses about the fun and pleasure that cities provide. City dwellers seems to have a tendency to want places just for fun, from theater to sports stadiums. This goes as far back as the original Olympics and people throughout ages have taken part in various urban entertainments. In the future, it’s possible that entertainment places are even more in demand.
In the Play column Holly Gramazio examines the way that adults are playing in modern cities. Geocaching is perhaps the most famous example of this (and the only one I’m familiar with). It uses modern technology to let adults come out and play. However, it seems that more and more games are designed to take advantage of the in-between places of cities rather than demanding that cities be built specifically for play.
In the Games column Kyle Munkittrick muses about the narrative power of modern video games. Most of them give the player the power to choose different actions but only a few makes the player question the morality of those choices. They can also point out that the player has only a limited number of choices and none of them are palatable, like sometimes in the real world. All of the examples sound like interesting games but unfortunately I haven’t played any of them.
I found almost all of the articles interesting and it was particularly nice that they all were optimistic and hopeful about the future, and even about today’s world. We’re currently almost flooded with bad news so it’s a refreshing change.