Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 55
by E. Lily Yu
Review by Ernest Lilley
Wyrm Publishing Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B004V49TM6
Date: 01 April 2011 List Price $2.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Clarkesworld Magazine this month, features an excellent story by E. Lily Yu ("The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees") and a darn good one by Erin M. Hartshorn ("Matchmaker"), and a typically engaging interview with John Scalzi, as well as a wordy article on linguistics by Brit Mandelo. And it's still free online.
I tried picking up a paperback to read the other day, and found the prospect of actually turning pages, finding a place with just the right light, and you know...dealing with a physical book in general, kind of off-putting. Fortunately for those like me who've made the mental switch to eReading, Clarkesworld is available online as an ePub. It still seems to be available for free online though. I actually find the eBook functionality useful enough that I spring for the Kindle version.
The first story, "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu, is a beautifully crafted piece that's a bit hard to pin down genre-wise, but except for causing literary taxonomists some angst that shouldn't bother anyone, and if it does, that's part of its charm. The story takes place on several levels and spheres, starting when a boy disrupts a wasp nest with a stone, which leads to the discovery that the wasps are actually magnificent cartographers. It's a good thing they have a head for direction, because in short order they find being sought after isn't doing them any good and they head off to seek their fortune/conquer the world. Which goes pretty well, right up until the appearance of the second of the title characters. A bit of divine(?) intervention at the end keeps us from thinking things are ever really simple, and the epilogue suggests that dead bees can still sting. Not her first story, nor certainly her last, E. Lily Yu is a writer to keep an eye on.
"Matchmaker", by Erin M. Hartshorn, is a good story, if not in the same league as the first. It's clearly social SF, with a Jewish girl nearing 21 and not betrothed, much to her seriously overbearing mother's dismay. A colonist on another planet, rubbing shoulders with a sexually compatible alien race, the mother doesn't quite know what she's getting her daughter in for when she sets her up with a shadchen (matchmaker). What she also doesn't realize is that being domineered might be excellent training for standing up for oneself and one's beliefs. The notion of interbreeding aliens makes me roll my eyes a bit (oy gevalt) and all in all there's a bit too much schmaltz for me, but it's not bad.
The issue's scholarly article, "Linguistics for the World Builder" by Brit Mandelo, is quite good, offering a reasonably painless introduction to psycho-linguistics, which is a pretty cool subject in itself and darn useful for writers to wrap their heads around. I was pleased to see some of my favorite authorities mentioned, including Benjamin Lee Whorf, who was a chemist by day, and a pscyho-linguist by avocation. My only beef is that while the subject deserves the treatment it gets here and more, like most scholarly works it goes on past the lay-readers attention span. Could we have the Cliff Notes up front and the interesting detail thereafter? Please Sir, could I have a little less?
John Scalzi's interview with L.C. Jones isn't especially short, but like anything with John in it, it stays lively from end to end, so there are no complaints here. We get a fair amount of discussion on the author's process, as well as how Fuzzy Nation came to be, and why the dog steals the show.
I do like Georgi Markov's cover, the "Post-apocalyptic Fisherman", though I wouldn't mind if it related to one of he stories...and I kind of miss those days when the future looked so bright we had to wear shades, instead of so foul we have to wear goggles.
Whether you read it for free or pay for it, #55 is still worth the money.