Blackboard Sky by Gary Braunbeck
This issue's opener is by the prodigious Gary Braunbeck, a story accurately encapsulating what Jason Sizemore probably had in mind when terming the phrase 'Science-Horror' to describe his magazine. A brief tale, it serves as surveillance on Art as medicine ... a theme King himself often uses as a playground. Although not having read any of Braunbeck's novels, I have the distinct feeling isolation and loneliness is a theme he habitually explores. A central character, Vincent, has become symbiotic with a device from another star system originally charged with the task finding God. Vincent, tortured and vulnerable, uses the power successfully, but cries out for help to another soul in the format of storytelling.
Spinnetje by Stefani Nellen
Any story featuring scuttling metal spiders that have a relationship with the human brain has to be disconcerting for anyone. Spinnetje is described by the author as: an autonomous creature composed of a horde of nanites that could crawl through brains like a crowd of tourists crawling through ruins. (Charming.) Our main guy,
Ray Gun by Daniel G Keohane
Retro nostalgia comes to the forefront as an old man wakes up early one morning to find a spaceship crash-landed in his backyard. A friend comes over to help, and havoc ensues. This is 'every day Jill's and Joe's getting caught up in a nasty situation' kind of tale, and they never fail to entertain. One of our aliens is described thus:
An octopus with too few heads one moment, too many the next.
Uncanny by Sammuel Tinianow
Told in first person, Uncanny by Samuel Tinianow is extremely short and ... uncanny. While too many question marks come into play, you'll want to read it anyway to have a crack at decoding it. Lying in a hospital bed, our narrator recounts the story of a female cyborg who has been adopted by his family while they patiently wait for her resurrection.
The Moldy Dead by Sara King
Another classy sci-fi story with a 'pulp' feel, The Moldy Dead is the epicenter of this issue. Esteei is a receiver who joins a motley band of inter-species aliens to discover a 'mold' planet orbiting the fringes of space. Years back, Stephen King gave us a sand planet with Beachworld. Now, there's mold on the agenda. Although it starts off somewhat sluggishly, The Moldy Dead becomes a tearful tale of endurance and grief. Sara King is a newbie, and in this issue she shares space with Gary Braunbeck to take away top honors for best story.
Also included in this issue is a fascinating interview with Braunbeck (whose Mr. Hands in now in the post and flying my way), and writer Bryan Smith. The highly entertaining Althea Kontis gives us her thoughts on Curses, and there's a quaint epilogue of a story entitled What to Expect When Your Expectorating by regular Jennifer Pelland.