Future Science Fiction Digest # 15 is all translated stories. Hooray! In the foreword, editor Alex Shvartsman says that he aims for this in every issue but the quantity of quality stories that have been translated makes it impossible so the pages have to feature original English yarns. Nothing wrong with them but the point of this magazine is to broaden your horizons beyond the Anglo-Saxon sphere of American Cultural Imperialism. Two of the stories are from Ukraine, where the editor has roots and feels now is a good time to offer them support in any form. Fair enough. The other tales are from Greece and China.
‘Rescue Rangers’ by Henry Lion Oldie, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey, starts with a team breaking into a top-secret institute to steal a computer disk full of dangerous information. The narrator is Dum-Dum, who seems like an eager adolescent. The rest of the team are Lenka, Zhorik and Vas-Vas and they each have special skills. The story proceeds like a James Bond/Mission Impossible film, then cuts to an older man, Simurgh, discussing the team with a woman and I didn’t get it. The meaning of the story escaped me. Sorry.
‘Déjà Loop’ by Kostas Charitos, translated by Dimitra Nicolaidou and Victor Pseftakis, has the unnamed narrator working for the International Counter Terrorism Agency – Mnemonic Operations branch. He and his colleagues are Premnemoms and can glimpse the future sometimes, enough to win at cards and avoid sudden danger. We meet him in a casino, then he goes to work and spends some time with new recruits, a good way of introducing the reader to the setup before he goes on a mission. I liked the premise and it was a terrific story with an intriguing concept in the Loop of the title. Inevitably reminds you of ‘Minority Report’, but very different.
‘The Exclusion Zone’ by Volodymyr Arenev, translated by Max Hrabrovv, has Arthur travelling across a dangerous border to see his mother in a city now occupied by some authoritarian regime after an event called the Separation. Apart from the usual human risk of being arrested for no good reason, there’s also some physical difference between the two places, so that you have to take a pill to get across and still feel slightly sick anyway. Arthur, something of a bigshot in the media, makes the journey via Smushkovka, Suyovi and Kopalni, which I googled and got nothing, so I assume they’re fictional. As with ‘Rescue Rangers’, I found this obscure. Perhaps that’s a trend in Ukrainian Science Fiction.
Keeping geopolitics and fiction separate is tricky. One supports Ukrainian writers and finds their stories difficult. China’s crimes are multiple but Chinese SF writers keep producing excellent stuff. ‘The Immaculate Ivory Tower’ by Li Huayi, translated by Nathan Faries, is a case in point with likeable characters and a wonderful alien species. The tower of the title is made from the tusk of a ‘wandering elephant’, the name given by our hero Professor Bai Xuan to the creatures that have suddenly started appearing randomly on planets all over the galaxy. They are dead where they lie. They didn’t fall because there is no evidence of impact and they are huge, some the size of a small city. Their carcasses, especially the tusks, are incredibly valuable and have launched a whole new trade in luxury goods. But where did they come from and why does Bai hear songs and have visions sometimes in their vicinity when no one else does? This is ‘sense of wonder’ Science Fiction of the best sort.
Usually, I find ‘Future Science Fiction’ full of excellence but this one was mildly disappointing. However, two out of four ain’t bad and issue fifteen is worth getting for those two or possibly for the other two, because tastes differ. I’m old school and favour Asimovian clarity in fiction, along with plot and neat conclusions but there are readers who like a vague slice of life where everything is not explained. All the stories are well-written with sympathetic characters doing something to achieve a goal. Worth a look.
(pub: UFO Publishing, 2022. 100 page e-magazine. Price: £ 3.29 (UK),$ 3.99 (US). ISBN: 123000561-743-2)
check out website: https://future-sf.com/