Reviews of Short Fiction: August Edition

Each month, Daniel Haeusser reviews short works of SFT that appear both online and in print. He is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Canisius College, where he teaches microbiology and leads student research projects with bacteria and bacteriophage. He’s also an associate blogger with the American Society for Microbiology’s popular Small Things Considered. Daniel reads broadly in English and French, and his book reviews can be found at Reading1000Lives or Skiffy & Fanty. You can also connect with him on Goodreads or Twitter.

In This Moment, We Are Happy” by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Rebecca Kuang

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 155, August 2019

A story presented as a transcript to a documentary that chronicles multiple intertwined stories of human reproduction from the present into the future. Recent advances in reproductive technology and their potential application are fertile ground for speculative fiction right now, but I find many of these handled more effectively in The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick. As a transcript to a documentary there are layers of artificiality and distance here that make this really hard to emotionally connect with, and it could be improved by being half its length. Like their written equivalent, the memoir, I’m not a fan of documentaries to begin with. Their underlying forced narratives make the ‘true’ ones play the same to me as a Christopher Guest film. I assume those who feel different might find this a much stronger story.


The Second Nanny” by Djuna, translated from the Korean by Sophie Bowman

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 155, August 2019

A second very long story in Clarkesworld that is at least written with good pace and a fair amount of action. Told from the lively point of view of a sixteen-year old future human named Brook who arrives in her spaceship at a ‘beansprout’ elevator extending to Neptune’s moon Triton, the story dumps readers into this universe without many bearings. Rival AIs war throughout the galaxy, with varying designs on the place in it for remaining humans. Brook’s purpose on Triton, the relation of that to things on Titan, Mars, and ultimately on Earth become revealed in a densely rich speculative story. It surprisingly doesn’t go much into scientific details, but instead rides on space opera entertainment.


HeLa is Here” by Ketty Steward, translated from the French by Toshiya Kamei

Bewildering Stories Issue 819, August 2019

A fascinating short story that imagines Henrietta Lacks ‘reborn’, cloned by a cult of disciples of her story, using the cancerous cell line derived from the tumor that killed her in 1951. The story is a heartfelt take on the possibility of continued exploitation through modern biomedicine, even with ‘best’ intentions. I read the story first in its original French text, which can be found on under the “Fiction” tab. This translation gets the story across, but with text that reads clunky at times in English by sticking too literally with the French.


The Biggest News in History” by Anderson Fonseca, translated from Portuguese by Toshiya Kamei

Antipodean SF Issue 251, August 2019

Astronauts sent to Titan (hey, a recurrent appearance this month) reveal discovery of the creator of humanity. This is flash fiction that ends up abruptly and doesn’t really explain any of the science behind its ideas. I read it as a take on the religious faith of a creator compared to belief in origins solely from organic chemistry to the first cellular life. But I find the choices in the text and ‘plot’ to not even accomplish that really.

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