This was a “Dominic Green special issue” with three stories by the author, an IZ regular. Since I haven’t been reading the magazine long enough to be familiar with Green, this was a good introduction.
The first Dominic Green piece was “Butterfly bomb”. The story is about an old man living alone on a desert (in the classical sense) planet, caring for his granddaughter. Its obvious from the start that there are some secrets in his past (not to mention the graddaughter’s). There’s a couple of places at the start of the story that read like editing mistakes, but all except one turn out to have been just setting up a plot twist.
Green’s second story here, “Coat of many colours”, stays closer to home. Set in a near-future post-abundance (post-post-scarcity?) Brazil, the story revolves around the possible discovery of intelligence in a genetically engineered farm animal. Our protagonist, an Australian animal-intelligence expert, is brought in to determine whether the subject , “experiment 2308”, is actually intelligent. This leads to tension with the project managers, who are hoping for a quick verdict in favor of turning the experiment into hamburger and leather goods.
Third is “Glister”, in which we return to the space opera universe of “Butterfly bomb”. This starts out looking like a “big, dumb object” story, focussed on some unusual geography, but then morphs into a biology puzzle. The characters are prospectors who mine gold not out of the ground, but from the blood of some unusual animals. After they solve the mystery of the predatory tzee which has hunted them they return to town with a newfound source of wealth and the story morphs again; this time, into a moral tableau in which we can examine the depravity of the villagers, who don’t prospect for gold, but farm it, from the blood of the sentient native species. The story reads well, but with all those morphs I feel like I’ve just read a trainwreck of three themes that each could have driven an excellent story on its own.
Aside from the thematic confusion in “Glister”, all three of Green’s stories are engaging, clever, and enjoyable. I’ll look forward to seeing more of Dominic Green in Interzone and elsewhere.
The magazine’s next story, “The transmigration of Aishiwarya Desai”, by Eric Gregory, is set up as a story of an academic duel, set up by wealthy hosts, with winner-take-all stakes. The question is the nature of the only known extraterrestrial intelligence, the Yama, which the protagonist believes she has received unique knowledge about through some kind of clairvoyance (which she herself doesn’t understand). Her opponent, a multi-Nobel-prize-winner, argues from a purely rational point of view. Only one of them will be paid for appearing in the debate. But the debate is sidetracked when a Yama arrives in the flesh. A well-written story, but it didn’t engage me like the Dominic Green stories.
Finally, Suzanne Palmer gives us “Silence & roses”, the story of robot caretakers at an old-folks home, and their reaction when they find out their patients can’t live forever. Again a strong story, but the melancholy theme was not well-served by having to follow after the more boisterous work by Dominic Green.