Trapped somewhere in between literary fiction and science fiction, Clarkesworld publishes fiction and nonfiction that is either science fiction or fantasy in nature, though I think it’s fair to say that the pieces offer more than just a good adventure.
Even though it takes place on a ship in deep space, E. Lily Yu’s “The Urashima Effect” isn’t about the science-fiction, futuristic world it is created in; it’s about love, loss, and hard decisions. Leo Aoki awakes after three years on his travels to a newly discovered planet in a different solar system. He was sent alone to research, with his wife to follow behind him in another year, but weeks after he was put to sleep, the research project was cancelled due to a war. “They say you will not awaken until three years from now,” says his wife in a recording. “In those three years you will have traveled twelve point five light years, and thirteen years will have passed on Earth. Your parents may be dead by the time you are listening to this. I will be forty-nine. You, my love, you will be only thirty-six, traveling away from me at close to the speed of light.” She goes on to say that he can turn back now and take twenty years to return to a place where everything he knows is gone—and everyone he loves will be very old, if not dead—or he can go on as planned, alone. The story makes the reader question, what would I do? And I sincerely hope I never have to make a decision quite like this one.
In Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear’s piece, Irizarry is on the hunt for an evil presence aboard a ship that has been infested. Alongside him is his best friend and best weapon—Mongoose, who is a “Cheshire” but is certainly not a mongoose, or a cat. The story questions letting go of pride to save others, as well as questions about what tames a being. It is excellently paced, speeding up with anticipation and relieving the reader just as easily when the time comes.
Jacob Clifton, Graham Templeton, and Paul J. McAuley also contribute fiction pieces. Be sure also to check out the editor’s note, where Neil Clarke comments on self-publishing as well as the online medium for magazines.