OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #39, May/June 2014

OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #39, May/June 2014

Reviewed in this issue are:

“Foreign Bodies” by Melinda Brasher
“Salt and Sand” by Kate O’Connor
“Memory of Magic” by Jacob A. Boyd
“Rapture Nation” by Jennifer Noelle Welch
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart
“The Other Bank of the River” by Camila Fernandes

When her fellow colonists start having terrifying hallucinations that they are being attacked by wolves, bears, and snakes, Elizabeth, Melinda Brasher’s protagonist in “Foreign Bodies” is the person they seek out for help. Before long, the colony is locked down and under quarantine while Elizabeth works to find out not only what has caused the fearful graphic visions, but also how to fix it. This she must do even as she is in the grips of her own hallucinations of a man who is trying to kill her. Here we are taken into the off-world frontier and shown an unglamorous, yet non-horrific side of colonists in space. A good story with plausible scientific bones.

In “Salt and Sand” by Kate O’Connor, Saesa is an immortal tender of the dead. When corpses arrive in boats on her distant shore, she processes them and releases their memories back into the world. On the day that the corpse of Rin, a young girl, arrives, it is accompanied by a gaunt, but living woman. From one of Rin’s memories, wherein Saesa sees the woman standing by and doing nothing while Rin is attacked by a bunch of boys, Saesa learns that the woman is Tallis, Rin’s mother. Tallis does not want to give Rin to Saesa. Instead, she wants to find a way to bring Rin back to the land of the living. Saesa strikes a deal to help Tallis leave the island in exchange for Rin’s memories—the only way that Rin will leave alive. From the onset, this story takes readers on an emotional journey and shows us how first impressions can be horribly deceptive.

A young girl who has lost her father in a mining accident is the protagonist of Jacob A. Boyd’s “Memory of Magic,” a speculative western. Each section of this story begins with anecdotal information about the person featured in the section. Since the girl no longer has any living relatives, she decides to run away from the mining town before the adults there can take charge of her and bend her to their wills. On her way out of town, she finds a little wizard which she initially mistakes for an abandoned baby. This discovery changes her plans. She adopts the little wizard, hides it, and returns to town where she takes a room at the local brothel. In order to feed and take care of the little wizard, she is forced to make tough choices. How those choices are received, and how she would like them to be received by those around her is the heart of this tale.

In “Rapture Nation” by Jennifer Noelle Welch, what begins as an automotive caravan en route to the titular event, devolves into a disappointment when radio stations go offline as predicted, but followers find themselves still alive and in the presence of the mundane instead of the divine. Resilient true believers, they continue their trek, now following a star in a journey reminiscent of theological tales. After they find arcane spiral sunbursts scratched on some of their vehicles, the adventure takes a slight turn. The speculative questions here are whether they are anticipating “the return of the Son,” or the return of the Sun, and what the latter possibility implies.

When humans and another sapient species both want the same plot of alien land, there are challenges to overcome. Such is the case in Gray Rinehart’s “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium.” Humans made it to the place they eventually named Alluvium first; the P’Shari, lizardlike creatures with an ingrained terror of enclosed places, came later and, after winning the war against the humans, took over as benign rulers. Phil Keller is dying from cancer since the P’Shari took away the equipment humans used for the personal nanobots that kept them healthy. Knowing that the P’Shari will find the idea abhorrent, Phil makes it known to his human friend, Tauran, that when he dies, Phil wants to be buried two meters underground in a grave with a tombstone. This story about subverting the dominant paradigm uses the acts of being buried and having a grave marker as activism. It also includes, artfully interwoven into the text, a quick description of the difference between sentience and sapience.

“The Other Bank of the River” by Camila Fernandes is a fable that could easily have begun with the traditional words, “Once upon a time.” Here, a river separates East and West. The people and their traditions are distinct and separate. Haric’s father, a builder on the East side who has ambitions to extend his business into the West has arranged for Haric to marry his Western business partner’s daughter, Merissa. On the way across the one decrepit bridge that crosses the river, Haric and his father encounter a Western trader. The bridge is too narrow for the parties to pass each other; one will have to turn back so the other can cross. The trader requests that Haric and his father grant him passage. Haric, having heard tales of Western obstinacy, demands that the trader be the one to give way. As in fables, things take a turn for the worst when the trader forges through, forcing Haric’s father off of the bridge and into the churning river below. There is the requisite witch, magic, and smart wife who takes control of things to make sure they turn out right. This story could easily end with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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