Future Science Fiction Digest #6 March 2020 (e-magazine review).

Future Science Fiction Digest’ is the magazine of international Science Fiction, often translated, which makes sense in a genre that’s all about different cultures and ways of seeing. After a foreword by editor Alex Shvartsman, in which he explains optimistic future plans for the magazine in these difficult days, we get to the fiction.

First up is ‘Goal Invariance Under Radical Self-Modification’ by Julie Nováková, a Czech writer who works in English, too. Zina is depressed after losing yet another job to an AI and finds it ironic that her counsellor is another Artificial Intelligence which communicates by phone. Reluctantly, she signs up for an experimental treatment and from there on her life improves over the ensuing decades. An optimistic take on the future and perhaps realistic, too. After all, humans changed from hunter-gatherer to agricultural to industrial societies and we can probably adapt to whatever comes next.

In ‘Quality Time’ by Ken Liu, a new worker joins weRobot, a tech company set up by Jake and Ron and that’s flying high with home appliances. The first-person narrator majored in Folklore and Mythology and was recruited because the company wants arts graduates to think of applications, ideas and blue sky stuff. He comes up with rats. This is an interesting look at the culture of those companies that rule the world now and has a fun subtext riffing on the ‘Star Trek: Next Generation’ episode ‘Darmok’ with Tamarian quotes like ‘Shaka, when the walls fell’. An amusing, thoughtful story that I really enjoyed.

‘Vagabonds Review’ by Julia Meitov Hersey is a review of ‘Vagabonds’ by Hao Jinfang translated by Ken Liu and it made me want to read the book.

‘Our Lady Of The Golems’ by Irene Punti is the story of a sophisticated sex doll/prostitute training camp and what happens when the very human androids created to please become more human. The scientific descriptions of human biological interactions make us all seem a bit silly and we are, but it can be nice. The ‘Our Lady’ of the title is really Brenda, the scientist in charge and there’s no religious significance. The first person narration by what is, in all reason, a sentient lady, makes you think.

‘Vik From Planet Earth’ by Evgeny Lukin, translated by Mike Olivson, is a joke. Quite a good joke with the punchline right at the end but there’s no point in giving it away.

There’s an interview with Matthew Medney, who has just taken the job as CEO of ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine and has big plans. He’s done some writing and is keen on good creators but the focus was mostly on corporate empire building so this piece seemed more suited to ‘Forbes’ than a Science Fiction magazine. Interesting for some people, perhaps.

Future Science Fiction Digest # 6 is worth getting just for the Ken Liu story but the added stuff is certainly a bonus. I hope Alex Shvartsman succeeds in his mission to promote international Science Fiction and gets the magazine back up to a bigger page count. You can support it on Patreon or buy an issue or subscribe. It’s a good read available at all the usual online eBook retailers or go straight to their website for links.

Eamonn Murphy

June 2020

(pub: UFO Publishing, 2020. Price: £ 2.99 (UK), $ 2.99 (US). ISBN: 1-23000375-175-6)

check out website: https://future-sf.com/issues/issue-6/

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