Compelling Science Fiction #2, June/July 2016
"Crinkles" by Michael Ryder
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
Compelling Science Fiction is a new online magazine concentrating on hard SF. Their second issue contains five stories showing imaginative views of new worlds and technologies.
"Crinkles" by Michael Ryder is told from the point of view of a computer on a space colony and what happens when six-year-old Callie arrives with her parents. The computer keeps tabs on every aspect of the colonists' lives, but is at a loss at how to react to Callie, whose behavior is so different from an adults'. Callie names the computer "Crinkles" and Crinkles begins to learn about children's play. But when something happens to Callie, things change quickly. The story takes a bit too long to get started, but it quickly overcomes the slow start and goes in a new and interesting direction. Overall, quite good.
Tommi Vertanen contributes "Seeds of War," a conflict from the point of view of the intelligent plant life that rules an unnamed planet. Humans land on their world, and they must take defensive measures. The story is short, and grew on me, even though it didn't do much other than describe the situation.
"Personal Trainer" by Meg Elison introduces an idea that many may wish could come true. Caroline Ebersol is working in a desk job and hires a personal trainer, who switches bodies with her and does all her workouts, then returns. But Caroline sees this as more than just a way to get into shape. I loved the concept, and liked the fact that the story went in a direction that didn't seem obvious at the start.
"Oelinium" is the story of Martin Eli, a professor in the future where a type of super-speed evolution (called "Hypution," a term I find very clunky) has allowed the fast colonization of multiple worlds, ruled under an elite called "the Patronage." But Oren, a student in his class, points out the ugly downside of the Patronage and enlists Martin to try to fight it. But Martin falls into a trap and is co-opted into the system in the worst possible way. Steve Rodgers creates a dystopia that looks benign at first. The early part of the story is — not surprisingly for a professor — a lecture, and I think the arc of the story is a bit too smooth: Martin's problems are too easily overcome. The story isn't a bad one, but seems to me to be missing something.
C.L. Kagmi finishes the issue with "Twiceborn." Told from the point of view of an alien, it's about a society that can pass their memories along to their offspring. The aliens have been thrown off their own world and hunted down as enemies, the humans calling them "vampires." The alien takes a seven-year-old human as the receptacle for the memories. The story is mostly just presenting the idea, though there's a good sense of the fear the alien has that their race will be destroyed by humans.
There's plenty to enjoy in this issue, and even the ones that impressed me the least were still at a high level. It seems a promising start for a new magazine.