Spoilers for “The Visible Frontier” (Grace Seybold) 

Oh the beauty and the sadness of discovery which can be seen in this story! In a world which has forgotten that it is a Dyson sphere around the sun, with enormous seas and distance places shining like stars from the inside of the shell, a young and curious sailor is given the unique opportunity to Know and to See. And he blows it. For everyone, all at once, in a small moment.

The society of “Generation Gap” by Thoraiya Dyer is a strange one, where every mother has only one child (at least around on Greenhill – there must be some population growth elsewhere so families can be replaced) and some other oddities, and in the context of this odd world it is a very interesting narration of the feud (or else) between two neighboring families. This one is read by Alethea Kontis instead of Kate Baker for Magazine, for a change.

Story: Reproductive Self-Determination 

I found “Jigsaw Children” by Grace Chan emotionally difficult. It depicts a China (and world) 70 years into the future, where society is built around designer babies—no individual babies, just submit an application to request the state to use your genes in producing a baby. The baby will be carried out by a surrogate mother and raised in a children center (you'll see them once a year at New Years') and sterilized when old enough. All else is unpatriotic.

Spoiler: “The Host” by Neal Asher 

There are various ways I have seen in the past to build ethical-philosophical stories out of reproduction, but the one used in this story seemed pretty novel to me. Despite this, I think I had a pretty good idea of what was going on relatively early in the story, after I had managed to wrap my head around what had been going on with the main character on the surface level.

Cooper Shrivastava's “Mandorla” is such an interesting story about the interaction of two vastly different (and very non-human) species, with their two vastly different paces of life, ecological outlooks, and societal structures.

I did find “Eyes of the Crocodile“ by Malena Salazar Maciá quite confusing, but I didn't have full concentration when I heard it.

The Septembers in Hollis Joel Henry's “Outer” are people born after some kind of mutagenic experiments. In a mix of the real and the comic sense: They have various health issues and society looks down on them, but they do also have frightening abilities, like setting things on fire with their thoughts, to the point where they are professionaly hunted. One of them is the titular character, known to himself as Toozen, who literally sees and (initially) nourishes the light of life in everyone.

The title of “The Ancestral Temple in a Box” sets it fair and square in Chinese tradition, gold-lacquered wood carvings and kowtows and ancestral spirits and everything. But then Chen Qiufan does not stop at the past, but depicts how the intricate craftsmanship connected with it might be fit for the future.

“The last to die” by Rita Chang-Eppig speculates what will happen when death becomes avoidable because people can upload their minds into machine bodies. There are some of those neo-humans in the story, sure; but the setting is the old people's home where they banished those who could not be uploaded. This story does that one thing, and it does it very well.

“The perfect Sail” by I-Hyeong Yun has so many half-baked moving parts, but what rely set me off was the Sailor acting as Mr. Exposition half way through. And then describing a society without writing as ignorant and unintelligent? Ewwww.

I got by with my pop culture knowledge of “King Kong” (never watched it or read the full plot) in following “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart” by Sam J. Miller, which assumes the film is a true story. It follows, six years after the dramatic events, the female lead and her taxi driver in an originally awkward, but heartfelt conversation about relationships and human cruelty.

“Wu-Ding’s Journey to the West” by Tang Fei plays on Entropy (and obviously on another famous story, though I still don't know that one) and tries to imagine a world where it is reversed. Unfortunately it is not very consistent in that, so overall it feels like this ‘magic’ is more set-dressing than structural worldbuilding. (And why the three generations? Is that a reference lost on me?)

“Xingzhou” by Ng Yi-Sheng starts out like a typical story of a rural Chinese migrant looking for better (or at least less desolate) fortune in the new world. Except that the destination is not America, but the eponymous Xingzhou, a fantastical city built between the stars, where the streets don't gleam like gold but like literal fire, inhabited by all sorts of entities (including the grandmother, grandzyther and grandneither of the narrator) and at some point governed by Lovecraftesque beings.

I have told you before about “Digging” by Ian McDonald, right? ( Magazine 2019, read by Kate Baker) Somehow it reappeared on my play list, and the social structure of those Mars digger colonies, with its in-cousins and out-uncles, was again fascinating – and the story isn't bad, either.

“The Carrion Droid, Zoe, and a Small Flame“ by Parker Ragland is a short sweet and optimistic story about loss and someone dealing with it. The two characters are so so different and beautifully painted with the words Kate Baker reads for magazine.

Initially, I found the “we” narration of Luis Javier very confusing, so I had to listen to the beginning of “One in a Million” twice. Then I had the hang of it, but despite all the hints it took me until the end of this beautiful and strange romance story to figure out why the author, Rodrigo Juri, employs this device throughout.

The robots in “Flowers on my Face” by Geo-il Bok are just normal people with depressions, faces, friends, burials, tragedies, hearts, respiration, genders, drinks, and so on. Why do they need to be robots then? Just to make the blunt fantasy colonialism bearable?

“Entangled” by Beston Barnett is a sweet story about romance and self-discovery. The first non-natural born citizen of Earth, a vaguely swan-like alien piloting a fully immersive android body, is looking for an ace romantic partner and wondering what that means for their self and for nature versus nurture. They have never been embodied in their native body, after all, all their senses have always been connected to their earth body through FTL WiFi.

After a long silence, today I listened to 's “The Weapons of Wonderland”. It's a weird horror story, full of three (okay, two, but one of them in two different times) characters trying to convince “you” of one thing or another. The sci-fi ecosystems of the story, a comet full of alien shape shifters and a freezing earth overrun by CO2 sequestering algae gone grey goo, are quite ridiculous.

@alxd It's a great characterization! Not just of Suz but also of the messed-up system that Matthias and his group operate in. I hope (but I have my doubts, knowing how academia works elsewhere) this is not how this kind of research works in reality everywhere. I also gave the link to my wife who enjoyed it, as well – and for her it's far more out field compared to her normal media, so that's not a given. (So, who and when is the next one? 🥺)

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Wandering Shop

The Wandering Shop is a Mastodon instance initially geared for the science fiction and fantasy community but open to anyone. We want our 'local' timeline to have the feel of a coffee shop at a good convention: tables full of friendly conversation on a wide variety of topics. We welcome everyone who wants to participate, so long as you're willing to abide by our code of conduct.