Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mindless Things

Clarkesworld Magazine #40
The Things by Peter Watts
All the King's Monsters by Megan Arkenberg

Non-fiction part of the issue doesn`t let say much: the article about video games is not my cup of tea (I have not been playing games since 16), and interview with Lucious Shepard looks like 40 other interviews with Lucious Shepard. In every interview he invariably tells how he`d started to write, how attended the Clarion Writing Workshop, how lived here and there, how he got idea to write one or another of his books. Indeed, Shepard have an inexplicable appeal, that`s why we read the interview parts of it seem to have been read somewhere.

Fiction part of the issue is more interesting. Every month Clarkesworld offers 2 fiction pieces by high rate writers referring to their rate not just due to old merits but confirming them by their new works. By the way high rates don`t mean all writers publish in the magazine are hardened veterans who drank with Heinlein and played golf with Tolkien. Clarkesworld publish as well new writers.
40th issue (first in 2010) offers short stories by Megan Arkenberg «All The King`s Monsters» and by Peter Watts «The Thing». Watts is not a newcomer indeed, and Arkenberg published a few stories in webzines.

Johnathan Strahan praised Watts` story and regretted that “The Thing” wasn`t included into the final version of his Eclipse Three anthology due to unresolved copyright issues. “The Thing” is good story but not as much as Strahan wrote. Narrative is told from the point of view of that monster from John Carpenter's 1982 film “The Thing”. Narrator in the story is the Darkness itself per se. Well-written, story holds on a reader in tension till the end making us watch for the perishing forwarders with wide opened eyes. But the problem with this Watts` story is the same as in dozens of likely stories where a writer tries to show thinking of mind alien to human beings such as ET or monsters from Carpenter`s film which origin is alien too: how don`t you try to show an alien mind this alien whatever will think like a man. As far as a writer itself is a man so characters of his works are the men as well though if they hide under the skin of such alien creature bearing inhuman, unearth mind. And Watts unfortunately wasn`t able to achieve that. The writer had set very high goal but failed and it doesn`t detract from his story`s merits.

Arkenberg`s story lays in a completely different plane though it affects as we can show from the title of the story to the monster subject too. Lyrical tale about the girl caught in confinement and lost her groom is at the same time retelling folk tale about Humpty Dumpty and aching story about that every man has his own monster and no escape from it. Arkenberg has good style, skills to carry out plot, but she lacks the tension and originality.

Two tales about monsters each one of them lacks something.

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