April 14, 2023

Review: Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 198, March 2023

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 198, March 2023 Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 198, March 2023 by Neil Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The March issue of this magazine has a pretty strange cover--is that supposed to be the International Space Station, next to what looks like a space suit that would dwarf planet Earth?--and I don't think the stories this time around are quite as good as last month's.

There is one standout, Isabel J. Kim's "Zeta-Epsilon." This short story has a wonderful first line:

Start at the cleave of it, not at Zed’s meat death or Ep’s centuries-long destruction, but at the moment that Zed halves his own mind and walks away.

I mean, how can any reader not want to know what's behind that? The rest of the story delivers on this promise, with the story of pilot Zed and the starship Epsilon, united in mind because without the human Pilot's perspective, sentient Navigators inevitably kill their passengers. But Zed grows increasingly unhappy, and his "sister" Ep fakes his death and lets herself be decommissioned rather than allowing him to live a life of misery. Once Zed recovers and realizes what Ep did, he goes back for her:

Zed didn't stand up and swear at them and say that if they're talking to Zed, they're talking to Ep, she can hear everything you're saying. Zed didn't say that you don't know what you created when you and my parents made me and Epsilon into myself. Zed didn't say that you were the ones that called her my sister, and it's too late, now I have always loved her and she has always loved me, and I cannot imagine thinking without her.

Isabel J. Kim has not been publishing very long, but the stories I've read of hers have almost always been outstanding. She has a bright future.

Just as a reminder: Due to the usual Amazon fuckery, SFF magazines like Clarkesworld are going to have hard times in the very near future. If you're subscribing to the magazine through Amazon, go here to find alternatives. I've received a print edition of the magazine for years, and I urge you to subscribe as well, either in print or ebook.

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