Not every venue can be great all of the time. For some reason, many of my favorite short story magazines have been giving up duds, lately, which has been very disappointing.
In the most recent Clarkesworld we got Thirteen Ways of Looking At Space-Time by Catherynne Valente, an author I’ve really enjoyed in the past. But this story didn’t work at any level: a series of creation myths mish-mashed with quantum physics technobabble, mixed with autobiographical vignettes. I’m sure that was very cathartic to write, but that doesn’t mean it was very interesting to read. We also have Messenger by Julia Sidorova, a Secret History of Jesus story. Secret histories, traditionally, offer us us an alternate, fantastical explanation for historical events whose mundane details we already know. However, the existing story of Jesus is already plenty fantastical, so what Sidorova did instead is give us a slightly different set of miracles which “explain” the familiar ones. If I read this story just as a tale of a rebellious angel, it works fine, but the Jesus elements become a glaring distraction, a Chekov gun that never fires. But as a commentary on the stories of Jesus, it’s just silly. Either way, I couldn’t get anything out of it.
Over at Brain Harvest we get Invisible by Lisa Marten, which attempts to make a banal political point by way of highly exaggerated physical crudity. Not even worth the five minutes it took to read.
Strange Horizons has done marginally better. The most recent story The Big Splash was unremarkable, and the one before that (Ghost of a Horse Under a Chandelier) I didn’t even finish. But at least none of them were actually bad.
On the plus side, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been doing very well, with Prashkina’s Fire, Eighth Eye, and The Isthmus Variation as recent highlights.