SFerics 2017 by Rosie Oliver and Roz Clarke (ebook review).

And it came to pass that there was a Bristolcon 2015 where some were gathered in a small room to discuss the impact of future technology on society. Rosie Oliver ran a small workshop where she informed the participants of the latest trends with information gathered from an innovation conference the week before and encouraged them to think of story ideas. They did and here are the stories in ‘SFerics 2017’. I imagine the date is added because there might be more SFerics to follow. SFerics is a real word, incidentally, for the study of atmospherics. Who knew?

‘A Glitch In Humanity’ by Mike Hardwick is a writing debut. When a builder puts pen to paper for the first time since leaving school, you don’t expect Olaf Stapledon but…er…that’s what you get. It was great! The first person narration is by a monastic scholar looking back on a lifetime’s work. In a nice tribute to the origins of this anthology, he muses over the technological advances spurred on by one chance meeting of strangers in a small room at an SF convention. These ideas went into ‘A Canticle For Development by Professor Leibowitz’ (yes, I got it). The monk tells us centuries of history in an engaging style and there’s a neat ending, too. This was my favourite story in the book. The current masters of literature say ‘show, don’t tell’ but if you tell engagingly enough the reader is perfectly content to go with it.

The next best for me was ‘Ivory Tower’ by Amanda Kear, a near future SF detective story with engaging characters and a clever idea at its heart. Titus Lanyasunya is a wildlife protection officer with the Kenyan Wildlife Service. The story starts when a van crashes and the routine investigation finds it was full of ivory tusks, over three hundred, an unbelievable quantity, and all from elephant calves. Despite the grim subject, the approach is light-hearted and it’s all delivered in easy reading prose.

A story as good as ‘Angular Size’ by Geoff Nelder wouldn’t be in third place if the competition wasn’t so hot. Dr. Alison Derry works in an observatory which with all its fancy instruments can’t spot an object fast approaching Earth which can be seen with the naked eye. A mystery, to be sure. This is based on hard science but easy to follow and I liked the feisty, independent heroine, even though she shagged the boss to get a comfortable chair.

A quadriplegic hospital patient doesn’t seem a likely heroine for any sort of tale but turns out to be just that in ‘Cyber Control’ by Rosie Oliver, the originator of this anthology. Jessie is helpless after a diving accident but was it really an accident? This is a techno-revenge story that will have you thinking twice about all that Blue Tooth in your house. Rich descriptions convey the narrator’s love of that undersea world we are all currently enjoying with ‘Blue Planet II’.

‘Positive Falsehoods’ by Gareth Lewis was a tale of corporate infighting and out-fighting with lots of bluff and double bluff among the technocrats. It didn’t set me afire but it was okay. ‘Heart’s Trust’ by J.S. Rogers was heavy on romance and the plot might have come from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’. The third series, unfortunately. Normally, these 50s-style SF yarns of eager Earthlings exploring strange worlds suit me fine but this felt a bit too familiar. However, tastes differ and it might be your favourite.

Of the six stories here, I’d rank one third very good, one third good and one third okay. Not a bad score for any anthology so it’s definitely worth a look and cheap!

Eamonn Murphy

November 2017

(pub: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 98 page ebook 639.0 kB. Price: £ 0.99 (UK), $ 1.30 (US). ASIN: B076PJWTMW)

check out website: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SFerics-2017-Rosie-Oliver/dp/1976143381/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509997226&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=sferics+2017+by+rosie+oliver+and+roy+clarke

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