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Thoughtcrime Experiments
Edited by Sumana Harihareswara & Leonard Richardson
Review by Sam Tomaino
CreateSpace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781442157903
Date: 06 May 2009 List Price $5.09 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Thoughtcrime / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

Thoughtcrime Experiments is a Creative Commons anthology with stories by Mark Onspaugh, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Alex Wilson, William Highsmith, Andrew Willett, Sherry D. Ramsey, Therese Arkenberg, Ken Liu, and Carole Lanham.

Thoughtcrime Experiments is a nice little anthology I received in the mail that's published under what is called a Creative Commons license. I won't go into detail of what that is, but just say this is an entertaining book you all should check out.

The anthology begins with "Welcome to the Federation" by Mark Onspaugh. Gird Mackel is the President of a tiny planet in the Large Magellanic Cloud called Covalla that no one cared about until they came between the Federation of World, based on Earth and the Kregaash Empire. The Federation had won the diplomatic battle and had wound up changing things to their standard, to the displeasure of the Covallans. Gird is finding things more difficult and decides to make some adjustments in this amusing story.

Mary Anne Mohanraj's "Jump Space" features a family in space, trading for goods in a freighter called Grains of Sand. This family consists of Kate, the pilot, Sarita and Joshua and their children, Amara and Iniya. Sarita convinces the other two adults that they should see what they can trade on Deneb, a planet notorious for maintaining a "genetically engineered serf-species". They finally agree and Sarita is sent down as a representative. We also get some of their back story. This was an interesting look at how a different family arrangement might work and shows that things are never easy.

In "The Last Christmas of Mrs. Claus", Alex Wilson gives us a cynical view of life at the North Pole. Betty is the current Mrs. Claus and is frequently unhappy with her husband's behavior. Let's just say that this Santa is not very traditional and really not what you want to read at this time of the year.

"Qubit Slip" by William Highsmith is described as the hardest SF story in the anthology. It takes place in a future in which quantum computers run everything. This works fine until one day when there is a quantum crash and everything stops working. Sal and his co-workers must come up with a solution to the problem in this well written problem-solving piece.

That' followed by a real change of pace in "Daisy" by Andrew Willett. Robert and Jenna are a young couple living in New York City. Their problem is that their apartment is infested by rats. The super is of no help, so they decide to get a cat. That might sound very mundane but it is anything else but. I won't spoil the delight of this story by saying what kind of vermin or what kind of cat. I'll just say that this was a very enjoyable read.

The editors describe Sherry D. Ramsey's "The Ambassadorís Staff" as a future-noir and it is just that. Rachel Thompson is a private eye who gets an unusual case when a teenage boy named Seetharaman Warren walks into her office and shows her something he has found, three pieces of a crystalline that she immediately recognizes as part of the staff of the Martian Ambassador who had been visiting Earth with the intact staff with him at all times. The problem is that the ambassador has been reported dead in his bed of a heart attack. How did his broken staff wind up on the street in a poor section of town? Rachel investigates and we meet some interesting characters and read a crackling good story, with some interesting questions at the end. I'd like to see more stories with this detective.

"Goldenseed" by Therese Arkenberg is (as the editors describe it) a fable with some elements we might find familiar. Told from the viewpoint of many years after the event, we meet a young woman named Andra Nattinsen. She is part of the Ekandrian Expansion in Tuscroean country. She has gone for a walk in the deep forest and encounters an old man whose hat and features are all described as sandy-colored. He introduces himself as Xanathan Kurtler, also called Xanny or just Xan. They are in a grove of trees that he said he planted, trees he calls Orel trees. These trees don't bear fruit. They bear gold. He lets her pick a piece of her own. He tells her about the trees and why he has planted them all over. We are told by her that he became known a Xanathan Goldenseed and we sense something familiar. All this comes together for a poignant tale that I won't forget soon.

In the afterword of Ken Liu's "Single-Bit Error", we are told it was inspired by Ted Chiang's award-winning story "Hell is the Absence of God", a story I actually hated. I liked this one better. Tyler is a young man who works as a database programmer and reads his poetry in a coffeehouse at night. He meets a young woman named Lydia who tells him of her meeting an angel named Ambriel and how that convinced her of the existence of God. Tyler is an atheist but he falls in love with her, anyway. Then, tragedy strikes and he must try to understand his world. Liu manages to make you care about Tyler, whatever your personal beliefs are and that is quite an achievement.

The book concludes with "Friar Garden, Mister Samuel, and the Jilly Jally Butter Mints" by Carole Lanham. Esme Padora is a fourteen-year old girl who is very attracted to Sam Bell, also fourteen and the son of her mother's nurse. Estrella Calliope June bug Padora is her sixteen-year old sister, but she has the mind of an eight-year old. Nonetheless, she can call into creation candies she calls Jilly Jally Butter Mints and when the three of them eat them, wondrous things happen. The three of them have several adventures but Estrella is attracted to Sam, too, and things happen. The editors describe this as "bittersweet" and I can't think of a better description. This was written beautifully and will stay with me a long time.

Thoughtcrime Experiments was an anthology filled with stories that I enjoyed thoroughly. You can get a free downloadable .pdf at or order a print-on-demand book for $5.09. It's worth it either way.

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