Those Brighter Stars”

“Those Brighter Stars” illustrates the wildly varying ways in which humans react to the coming of the aliens: some with fear, others with hope, or greed. Ava’s struggles with her relationships with her father, mother and daughter finds echoes in the aliens’ behavior toward humanity. It’s a well-told, insightful tale with some disturbing ironies. ~Tadiana Jones (Full review at Fantasy Literature)

[B]oth a first contact story, and a story about abandoned daughters searching for a connection with their mothers. …. Ava is willing to leave her own daughter, pinning her hopes on the aliens’ arrival ushering in a better world for humanity. There’s a kind of naiveté to Ava’s belief, one that is heartbreaking. In the end, there’s a strong sense that Ava is seeking from the aliens the kind of relationship she never had with her mother…. Ava passes up a chance at a relationship with her own daughter in search of a surrogate for a relationship she never had, yet she remains sympathetic as a character. Her choices are portrayed as tragic, rather than cruel. It’s interesting to think of Ava in terms of the real-world choices many women face between their families and their careers, and the way they’re judged for their choices regardless of which way they lean. Rivera presents a balance, and the story doesn’t censure Ava for her faults. Rather, it shows her as human, flawed, and doing the best she can, which is the best any of us can do. (Full Review at Apex Magazine)

This is a story about contact and abandoned children. About being left and about the hope and fear that happens after being left…. I love how the story treats the idea of contact. It’s framed as a story told by the main character to her absent mother, the last promise to her father, that she would tell this story. And to me it becomes about expectation. About hope. About wanting so badly for someone paternal or maternal to help you. To lift you up. The way the main character wants from the aliens. The way she never was helped by her mother…. It’s a touching story and a hopeful piece, I would say, even when it refuses reconciliation. Because sometimes that’s not the goal and not even a desirable thing. Sometimes the victory is in living and keeping on regardless. An excellent read! – (Full review at Quick Sip Reviews)

This story is sure to appeal to fans of hard science and interpersonal relationships, because it has them in spades. Especially given our current political environment, I enjoyed the accurate depiction of science as a cooperative, international field. Those Brighter Stars feels so spot on about so many things, I find it a great depiction of a world just a couple of years or even months from ours. -(Full review at Strangely Charmless)

“Unreeled”

Rocketstack Review – Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy  (SF Horror) — EncelaCorp “streams” the consciousness of explorers to distant parts of the galaxy. Jonathan worries that the experience may have changed his wife somehow.  (Full review at Rocket Stack Rank)

Short, tight and excellent thriller from Rivera.

Jonathan is waiting with his young son for his wife’s return from exploring a singularity at the centre for the galaxy. Except she and her colleagues haven’t been away physically but “..had remained in stasis while a perfect replica of their brain patterns was uploaded into a quantum-entangled flik orbiting the black hole’s event horizon..’

And he’s not exactly eager for her return, as their relationship, prior to her going on this mission, had been crumbling away.

But she’s a changed woman on her return, which has to be a good thing, right? Wrong….

It’s a good format for a short story – introductory para to set up an intriguing ending to the story, and then some good characterisation and human interaction, and some solid science and SF. (Best SF)

“The Water-Walls of Enceladus”

“The best story here is probably Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘‘The Water Walls of Enceladus’’, another in his Wergen series, in which a race of technologically advanced aliens are enthralled by the ‘‘beauty’’ of human beings and will do anything to remain worshipfully in their presence. This one is set on Enceladus, where a woman considered by humans to be spectacularly disfigured has self-exiled herself to do essentially meaningless scientific busywork with a colony of appreciative Wergen who devotedly follow her every move, something that has begun to get on her nerves. She tries to escape, and what happens next shows just what lengths the Wergen will go to in order to not be separated from their beloved.” – Gardner Dozois (Locus)

“Freefall”

The title refers to the prolonged freefall of Duncan and his fellow soldiers as they plunge into the atmosphere of a far distant gas giant in search of allies in the war. These sections really highlight Mercurio D Rivera’s brilliance as he makes what amounts to long sections of falling into fascinating reading. The technical, psychological and sociological components of the mission make for dramatic reading. The mission is revealed one stage at a time as a disoriented Duncan is questioned on board a Wergen space station to find out what became of the mission. His relationship with his commander, his Wergen shadow and the whole war, are revealed one layer at a time as he recalls the mission and thinks back to earlier times when the Wergen arrival had a profound effect on his life. *** In all, an excellent addition to the Wergen canon, and a very good novella in its own right.

SFCrowsnest

“Manmade”

“While I remain unsure of the reality underpinning the story, Mercurio Rivera’s “Manmade” at least made me think, which is not something I can say about the majority of the stories in the anthology.  The moral quandary hinges on an AI who has been converted into a human body who wants out—to return to his AI/robot state.  While I personally don’t think you can have real AI without emotional input, Rivera portrays the teenage boy wanting to escape the emotional baggage of being human and get back to the pure rationality of being a machine.  Though it goes Hollywood at the end, moving in directions not entirely cohesive with the opening, the overall story still leaves a mark.”

Speculiction

“Missionaries”

“The first of the novelettes is Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘Missionaries’ which takes us into a future where humans have spread throughout the galaxy and found it a pretty lonely place. There are aliens but they are utterly uninterested in communicating with the humans except for one party of missionaries, a rarity in this militantly atheist galaxy. This raises this party to superstardom and they are invited to another world where these aliens exist to see whether they could pull off the trick again. Despite their devotions, they don’t manage to capture another alien, and the one they travel with decides it’s had enough. In the end communication of a sort is achieved. As you’ll be aware if you’ve ever read any of Rivera’s work before he tends to write rather stream-of consciousness works and this is no exception really as the tale is told from the view point of one of the missionaries, a young girl exposed to lethal levels of radiation.” — John Fair
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 ”‘Take the leap, Cassie,’ it says/thinks/sings. Cassie and her fellow Saviours are crawling towards the abyss. It is the end of a pilgrimage, and the ritual requires endurance; their pain is exquisite as it burns inside their muscles. Pain is life, and the only fit offering to God. On a rogue, dead planet, the Saved One – an alien creature of dark energy – sits inside its pod of Bose-Einstein condensates, and watches them suffer.

‘Missionaries’ is the second of two standout pieces in this issue. Rivera takes a classic “science vs. religion” format and twists it, until the line between theology and physics is blurred beyond recognition. The story revolves around human attempts to communicate with the Saved One – a dark energy life form at the galactic centre, and the first of its species (the ‘Sagittarians’) to acknowledge humankind. …. The narrative jumps between past and present, which provides us with glimpses into Cassie’s life before the Saviours, and comes to represent her shattered perception of space and time. Her transition from atheism to devout worship is extremely compelling to read, and I enjoyed the use of narrative structure as a thematic tool. Rivera has found exactly the right balance here between entertainment and “cleverness,” so that his thoughts on the nature of the universe are just as engaging as Cassie’s tragic history.

I recommend this piece unreservedly…. [A]s we’ve seen in some of his other works (e.g. Dear Annabehls), he is not afraid to enhance his storytelling by playing with its structure. This is an excellent piece of SF, and a thought-provoking read about mankind’s search for understanding.” — Tangent Online
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“Tethered”

Recommended by Rachel Swirsky (link)

“The best story in this issue is “Tethered,” by Mercurio D. Rivera. It is the story of a species that is unaccountably attracted to humans, attracted even against their will. For some reason humans make them feel especially good. Some members of the alien species believe this to result in a sort of slavery, so that the two species are secretly at war. Others give in to the servility that biology urges upon them. But at its base, the story questions whether true friendship is possible between two species with such an odd biological relationship. The story carefully works through all the consequences of the biology of the two species in a way that is the essence of sociological science fiction. I would not be surprised to find this story on award ballots next year.” – Fantasy Literature
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“Mercurio D. Rivera finishes this issue with ‘Tethered’, another in the author’s series of Wergen stories, which also featured in issue 235. The Wergen are an alien creature that is enslaved against their will by the biological addiction to human pheromones so that they love to please humans, even against their better judgement. On the shores of Saturn’s moon Titan, a young girl befriends a young female Wergen and we are shown the peculiar way that the Wergen mate. Rivera has created a compelling series of stories and ‘Tethered’ is a potent new addition that fleshes it out further. I feel one of the Wergen stories could be a contender come awards time.” — SF Crow’s Nest
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“Tethered’ from Mercurio D. Rivera is another story set in his future universe where humans have teamed up with the alien Wergen who had given human access to their system and the rest of the galaxy.  Cara first meets the Wergen Beatrix when they are both young and the story follows their friendship as they grow up. The Wergen have a strange-to-human-eyes mating ritual; they seek out the most genetically compatible Wergen and then their tendrils lock the pair together and they begin to merge. Beatrix’s brother tried to stay as far away from Cara as possible for the Wergen were induced into a sort of pheromone induced slavery but when he and his sister prove to be the best genetic match available, Cara tries to make friends with him as well. This tale is less pleasant in some ways than ‘For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind’ but in focusing less on the pheromones it felt less squicky.” — John Fair
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“Humans are studying a new species called The Wergen and they are puzzled by its lack of gender specifics, and find it hard to categorize at first, but they plod on with their research and their experiments. In-between the story are excerpts from a medical journal about what the studies have revealed so far. Cara and Beatrix get on with the bots and the other people where they are stationed.

I enjoyed this story of sexuality and procreation, but also the way in which alien beings went to the next stage of evolution. For these aliens, being tethered is the most wonderful thing that can happen to them, and … this is one of the best in the magazine” — SF Site
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“Another Wergen story by Rivera, ‘Tethered’, features in the September/October Interzone, #236. This one examines the peculiar mating dynamics of the Wergen through the lens of a friendship between a young Wergen girl and a young human girl, a friendship doomed when the Wergen girl comes of age, and it manages to generate a strong emotional charge by the end.” — Gardner Dozois for Locus
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“The aptly named Mercurio D. Rivera contributed my other favorite, “Tethered” a multi-layered, nuanced tale that is part of his Wergen continuum. The central premise of these stories is that the alien Wergens are benighted by biochemistry: they can’t help falling in love with any human they meet in the worst case of pheromone based co-dependence ever. This is a fascinating concept!” — The Nameless Zine reviews YBSF 17
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“Quite a few stories reflect a feminine perspective. ‘Tethered,’ by Mercurio D. Rivera, describes a species in which marriage is fatal for the passive partner who quite literally absorbed by the dominant mate. Rivera has taken feminism to a whole new level.” — The Iron Mountain Daily News reviews YBSF 17
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“I see evidence here of a continued resurgence of adult SF stories with youthful protagonists, including several of the better stories in this volume…. Mercurio Rivera’s ‘Tethered’ is an eerily strange coming-of-age story set on Titan where humans intimately interact with aliens living among them.” — SF Site’s review of YBSF 17
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“For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind”

Recommended for a Hugo by Jason Sanford (link).

“The best short stories [in Interzone in 2011] were Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind’ (July-August), another of his series about the Wergen, an advanced alien race troublingly obsessed with humans who use that obsession to enslave them — here we see a Wergen resistance” — Rich Horton
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“From [Interzone] Issue 235, ‘For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind’, by Mercurio D. Rivera.  I’ve enjoyed all of his Wergen stories so far, including ‘Tethered’ from issue 236, but this one was particularly touching and I only allow myself one story per writer in my list of favourites (a silly rule, as it’s all about the story really, but let’s not argue).  I particularly liked seeing the ‘love’ concept developed in this, and the ambiguity regarding the Suppressor, the first person perspective providing a powerfully emotional sympathetic view of the Wergen race.” — Ray Cluley
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“[A]nother story told in Rivera’s Wergen universe, two of which have previously been published in Interzone. The Wergen are an intelligent race that react to human body chemistry by being utterly devoted to them. This has caused them to offer themselves as slaves to the humans, who treat them with contempt. Joriander is devoted to Lady Madeline and Master Alex until his brother gives him a drug to counteract the human pheromones. The story of his change and its aftermath are told beautifully by Rivera.” — Sam Tomaino for SF Revu
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“For Love’s Delirium Haunts The Fractured Mind by Mercurio D. Rivera has a fine wordy title, but I’d have preferred something a little less lyrical. Still, it’s an accurate description of the states-of-minds of the Wergens, an alien race who are chemically predisposed to affection towards humans. Joriander is an ambassador for the Wergens, but he is treated as little less than a servant. None of the humans in the story are remotely sympathetic. Lady Madeline comes across as vaguely tolerant, while young ‘Master’ Alex is an uncaring little sod. Joriander still offers them unconditional love, but it’s put to the test when his brother arrives and gives him a chemical inhaler that would inhibit his love for the humans.

The story plays with the idea of whether love is purely chemical, or whether there needs to be a deeper connection. It also shows how humanity would probably behave if we encountered a species who offered us unconditional love – we would turn them into slaves. It might have been interesting to have shown some difference of opinion amongst the humans, but as the viewpoint of the story is entirely from Joriander it succeeds in making them seem like a totally uncaring oppressor.” — Rob McCow
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“A further story in the ‘Wergen’ series, which started with ‘Longing for Langana’ back in 2006. The story is another with a Wergen viewpoint, with Joriander a live-in servant cum nanny in a human household. He is in thrall to his mistress and his young master, and clearly there is something amiss – and we find out when he has revealed to him that there is subtle infamy at work – the Wergen, although technologically far superior, are evidently under biochemical influences, binding them to humans and blinding them to the human’s real intent.

The story fills in background to the Langalana setting, the Wergen psyche and society, and effectively takes the story sequence a step forward.” — Mark Watson for SF Revu
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“Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us”

“[A] brilliant meditation upon the role of magical thinking in our political culture… it is also one of the most atmospheric, disturbing and thought-provoking short stories I have ever encountered. If Rivera’s work does not get picked up by one of the Year’s Best anthologies then there really is no justice in the world.” –Jonathan McCalmont, SF Signal
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“Set in some future in which “proxy wars” have left some small counties uninhabitable, Edgar is a refugee from the Dominican Republic who worries about increasing terrorist attacks in the United States. He is grateful to be living in a run-down apartment building but something odd is happening in the basement. Edgar finds out and must make a decision on how to deal with it in another very effective story. –Sam Tomaino, SF Revu
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“[A] mutant Copland, with mongrel Spanish/American Chandleresque freeflow amid an alternate war against ‘Chinos’, spiced with S&M and Voodoo. And on the surface this is a breath of cruel air….Good job I passed Spanish A Level in 1966. A bit rusty, but enough to cope with this story.” –A mighty Story Quintet
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“Mercurio D. Rivera jumps nimbly between bystander, torturer, and victim in “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us.” This fast-paced tale follows Edgar, a war refugee immigrant from the Dominican Republic to New York City. While we learn that the wars and terrorists of this not-so-distant future have left everyone a victim in some way, Edgar is relatively lucky with a new apartment and a safe home for his mother and sister upstate. No apartment is perfect, though, and Edgar tries on the one hand to turn a deaf ear to the screams in the basement, and on the other to quickly apologize to his landlady when he and a girl are making too much noise.

The reason they’re making noise is because Mercedes is the kinky type and trying to goad Edgar into fulfilling her masochistic fantasies. Their love-making turns into a heated argument where Edgar gets slapped around, and the landlady comes in to make sure everything is okay. Embarrassment ensues, and Edgar’s worried he’ll get kicked out.

After realizing they can’t be lovers, Mercedes and Edgar become friends instead, and he confides to her his worries about the screams in the basement. He can’t bear not to investigate, but as he does so, his perception of the world spirals out of control.

Plenty of gore in this one. Rivera includes a lot of Spanish lingo, but it’s easy enough to infer the meanings of all his phrases, and if you do know a bit of Spanish, the story is enhanced. I predict that this is the story from this issue that will stick with you the longest. Tight, fast, dramatic, and tortuous.” –Sharon Campbell, Tangent Online
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“Mercurio D. Rivera’s “Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us” stands out like a sore thumb in an issue that is dominated by quiet psychology, profound humanity and lightness of touch. Set in an apocalyptic world in which the government battles “Justice Gang” lynch mobs in the wake of a series of terrible terrorist attacks, this story is a brilliant meditation upon the role of magical thinking in our political culture. “Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us” explores the idea that, in times of stress, humans retreat into atavistic beliefs about the need for pain and purification. This idea is first introduced in the figure of a masochist who wants to be brutalised by men in order to satisfy her unspecified psychological needs. Rivera then takes this principle and projects it against the use of torture in the War on Terror.

As a 21st Century civilisation, we in the West know for a fact that torture does not work. It does not work because if you beat someone long enough and hard enough they will invariably wind up telling you anything that will make the beatings stop. We know this. We all do. But despite this knowledge Guantanamo Bay remains open and our governments continue to outsource the interrogation of terror suspects to countries with more ‘liberal’ attitudes to torture. Rivera asks: Is the acceptance of torture a result of ignorance or the product of superstition? Do we send people to be tortured because we genuinely believe that this is a reliable means of extracting intelligence or is it because we think that as long as someone out there is suffering for us, we will be safe?

Rivera asks this question through the lens of South American culture, the story is elegantly written, beautifully atmospheric and filled with some wonderful local colour. “Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us” is not only the strongest story in the issue, it is also one of the most atmospheric, disturbing and thought-provoking short stories I have ever encountered. If Rivera’s work does not get picked up by one of the Year’s Best anthologies then there really is no justice in the world. –Jonathan McCalmont, SF Signal
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“Another newcomer is Interzone regular Mercurio D. Rivera whose ‘Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us’ is the best story in the issue.

Edgar first hears the screams while he’s undressing and Mercedes is changing clothes in his baño. He doesn’t normally get involved in the shit that goes down in this vecindario – best to let the justice gangs handle it – so he ignores it, tries to shut it out.

Set in a near future New York in a world of ‘proxy wars’ and nuclear-armed terroristas, Rivera neatly reworks the classic scapegoat theme while peppering his narrative with Spanish. Outstanding.” –Colin Harvey, Suite 101
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“All Smiles”

“Trapped aboard an alien spacecraft at the mercy of his sadistic captors, the US President is not ‘All Smiles’ in Mercurio D Rivera’s brutal and horrifying tale. It makes you worry that the worst of humanity have their counterparts among the stars and there may not be anything we can do about it.” — All Smiles
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“In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty”

“Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty’ is a captivating story of revenge on the Neptunian moon of Triton. Alien technology has opened up space colonization for humans, the enigmatic white-skinned Wergens asking mainly for human companionship in return. This sets a wondrous stage on which to play out Rivera’s story, the plot of which pulls you along as each new facet of the story unfolds to its appropriately bittersweet conclusion.” –John Denardo, SF Signal, 5 stars
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“Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty’is set in the same universe as his ‘Longing for Langalana, which won the Interzone Reader’s Poll in 2006. Humans are endlessly fascinating to the alien Wergen, two of whom accompany narrator Max on his quest to recover his wife Miranda, who has been drugged and abducted by their friend Rossi. The reader needs to study the story carefully to avoid feeling cheated by a twist that on re-reading is signposted for the diligent. It’s fascinating, despite none of the characters being particularly sympathetic.” –Colin Harvey, Suite 101
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“Also good here is Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty’ about a man obsessively following his ex-lover to the ends of the solar system, convinced that she’s been stolen from him by the application of a mind-altering chemical aphrodisiac; this turns out to be both true and not true. The motivations of the human-obsessed aliens here, the Wergens, who are willing to do almost anything for the humans they’ve become fixated on (and who remind me a little of Al Capps’ Shmoos, who will invite you to eat them and obligingly fall over dead if you look even the slightest bit hungry) may be a bit hard to understand if you haven’t read Rivera’s other story in this sequence, ‘Longing for Langalana’” –Gardner Dozois, Locus

“In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty — a story about Mercurio D. Rivera’s aliens that adore humans — an impressive depiction of the pain and self-deception that surround an affair.” –Three Beautiful Things
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“Maxwell is traveling the solar system in pursuit of his abducted wife. He’s joined by a pair of Wergen, aliens who have granted humanity access to immense amounts of new technology, and also follow humans about with an unexplained cloying devotion. Maxwell is part of a team that discovered a chemical that induces a similar unconditional love in humans. This sets up a neat counterpoint between the Wergen-human relationship and his personal relationship with his wife. Well done. –Matt Bruensteiner, Garbled Signals
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“Mercurio D. Rivera’s “In the Harsh Glow of Incandescent Beauty” is told from the viewpoint of Max, a man looking for his wife, Miranda, who has run off with his former friend, Rossi. He has come to Titan to look for her and is aided by an alien race, the Wergens. They have given a lot of alien tech to humanity (wormholes for intergalactic travel, force fields that help them colonize places like Titan, etc) all in exchange for their companionship. Max and Rossi had been studying Wergen DNA and found that they could synthesize a neuromone, that would affect the amygdala and cause humans to fall in love. Max is convinced that Rossi used this on Miranda. Rivera has shown great invention here and written something that will touch you deeply.” –Sam Tomaino, SF Revu
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“In the Harsh Glow of Its Incandescent Beauty’ from Mercurio D. Rivera sees us in the depths of the outer solar system as Maxwell finds himself on Triton searching for his wife Miranda and academic partner Rossi. The latter had infected the former with a nanotech love gene derived from humanity’s partners, the Wergans. Rivera plays a bit with the format of the story, taking us to one point then going back until we catch up again and he does manage a couple of twists.” –John Fair, John’s Readings
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“The setting is the moon Triton for ‘In The Harsh Glow Of Its Incandescent Beauty’ by Mercurio D Rivera. Travelling across the solar system, a researcher attempts to track down his kidnapped wife in this realistically-rendered image of human colonisation. The alien Wergens provide an intriguing backdrop and some light relief along the way, balancing the story nicely between drama and humour.” –Gareth D. Jones, SF Crowsnest
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“Mercurio D. Rivera reworks the “love potion gone awry” plotting previously used most notably by Shakespeare and John Collier’s “The Chaser.” The narrator has set off to another planet to find his wife, who he believes has fallen in love and gone off with his former best friend because she’s been drugged into loving him. In addition to a nice twist on the notion of who has been drugging whom, and why, the source of the drug’s chemistry is an alien race — the Wergens — that is infatuated with humans (hence the ability to induce artificial amore). The Wergens of ”In the Harsh Glow of Incandescent Beauty” play a counterpoint for the misplaced affections of humans. Seeing as how they appear in at least one previous Rivera story, “Longing for Langalana,” I’m intrigued enough that I hope there’ll be future installments about the Wergens.” –David Soyka, Black Gate
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“Set on Triton, “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” by Mercurio D. Rivera is an SF story about a love triangle. The protagonist with two alien companions in tow pursues his kidnapped, drugged wife to rescue her from a conniving coworker. The charm of the story overcomes some fairly flat human characters. The mystery of love’s origins and endings are universal for humans and aliens alike, something that transcends mere biochemistry.” –Kathleen Kemmerer, Tangent Online
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“In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty by Mercurio D. Rivera, illustrated by Jim Burns: against a strange background in which humanity’s access to space is aided by aliens who believe we are just wonderful, an abandoned husband chases across the solar system after his drugged wife and her abductor.” –Anthony Williams, Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Jason Sanford’s early picks for his favorite story of the year include “In the Harsh Glow… “: A continuation of Rivera’s “Longing for Langalana” story about an alien species deeply in love with humanity. A fascinating idea backed up by great storytelling.
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“Dance of the Kawkaroons”

“A pair of human scientists visit a world occupied by the Kawkawroons, sentient bird-like creatures. They communicate with one through a translation device, and ask to see its nest — but what is their real motive? I found this a breezy, enjoyable story: Rivera tells the tale from both human and Kawkawroon viewpoints; the contrast of mentalities is interesting and nicely evoked — and there’s a neat twist at the end. A fun read.” –David Hebblethwaite, Follow the Thread
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“Mercurio D. Rivera returns for his fifth appearance in the magazine, and the second in consecutive, with what may be his best story yet. Humans draw Inspiration from the eggs of the alien Kawkawroons and in hunting them seem to threaten their very survival. But Rivera adds subtlety to his aliens and his world-building, and things are not as they may seem. Highly Recommended.” –Colin Harvey, Suite 101
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“Dance of The Kawkawroons’ from regular contributor Mercurio D. Rivera sounds initially like it may be an environmental campaigning story, but slowly develops into something more intricate. The viewpoint shifts between the humans and the avian Kawkawroons adds an extra intriguing dimension.” –Gareth D. Jones, SF Crowsnest
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“A story about boorish, exploitative, and ignorant humans exploiting a fragile alien ecosystem and its beautiful, mysterious, harmless, and highly-valuable fauna gets turned on its head when … well, I’d better not say, but Rivera may have been reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire when he thought this one up. A solid story.” –Matt Bruensteiner, Garbled Signals
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“The second drug story involves the exploitation of aliens in order to obtain a substance called Inspiration, found in the eggs of the Kawkawroons, who may be the descendants of a lost, advanced civilization. It is by using Inspiration that the humans develop the means of acquiring the eggs; the substance vastly increases intellectual abilities in those who take it. But there are other consequences.

The Kawkawroons are a colorful and exotic alien creation. But this story is grounded more firmly in scientific principles than it first appears to be, although they are never openly discussed….” –Lois Tilton, Locus Online
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“Mercurio D. Rivera returns to the magazine with Dance of the Kawkawroons, a subtle and effective contact story which ends on a twist that had me going back and reading the story all over again.” -–Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill
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“’Dance of the Kawkawroons’ by Mercurio D. Rivera is a sort of first contact story as humans sneak out to the Kawkawroons’ home planet in order to steal their eggs in order to breed them back on Terra for the source of the elixir so nicely named Inspiration that could give anyone the ability to have an inspired idea. Now while this may seem to be a typical exploitation story, you will find yourself changing your thoughts just to who is exploiting whom by the end. The Kawkawroons were a nicely realised alien race and I did find the ending fun.” –John Fair, John’s Reading
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“Dance of the Kawkawroons” by Mercurio D. Rivera starts out on a planet we only know as Kawkworld, named for the winged intelligent natives called Kawkawroons. We first get the point of view of our human narrator and Annie, his girlfriend. Our narrator had sipped a thimbleful of something called Inspiration, a few months previously and had been able to develop a cloaking device that allowed them to avoid the patrols that would have stopped them from landing on the planet. Annie, by way of Inspiration, had developed a translator which would allow then to speak to a Kawkawroon. We also get the point of view of a Kawkawroon who does not quite understand who these invaders are. We eventually find out what the humans are after and we also get a hint of the consequences of their actions. This was another well-crafted story.” –Sam Tomaino, SF Revu
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“Dance of the Kawkawroons by Mercurio D. Rivera, illustrated by Jim Burns.

A couple of fortune hunters manage to bypass the quarantine patrols around a planet populated by some exotic intelligent flying creatures living among the ruins of an ancient alien civilisation. They steal some eggs which have characteristics which are incredibly valuable to humanity; but who is exploiting whom?” –Anthony Williams, Science Fiction and Fantasy
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“Dance of the Kawkawroons’ by Mercurio D. Rivera is a sweeping, powerful tale told through the eyes of the humans and an ‘alien’ Kawkawroon. A great example of how to do dual narrative view points and a twist ending.” –Dan Powell
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“Two humans manage to land on a planet under quarantine, to steal from the supposedly protected avian race. We get the alien perspective on their meeting, as well as the human, as it at first offers, then has taken away brutally, it’s eggs. The eggs contain a chemical that is used to create the drug Inspiration, that humanity is increasingly using to make new breakthroughs. However, it’s not quite that simple… A short, clever piece.” –Mark Watson, Best SF
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“Longing for Langalana” 

“‘Longing for Langalana’ is simply stunning – one of the most moving pieces of SF I’ve read in a long time.” — Ian Whates

“The best story is the first one “Longing for Langalana” by Mercurio D. Rivera. In it, we meet Shimera, a female member of the race known as the Wergen. When she was young the Wergen and the people of Earth had started a colonization project of the planet Langalana. The young Shimera falls in love with a Earth boy named Phineas. There is something about humans that makes the Wergen find them incredibly beautiful. The story about Shimera’s doomed love is sad and touching.” — SF Revu


“The Wergen species suffers from an uncontrollable attraction to human beings. This love is not reciprocated. Whether it is the physical appearance of the Wergens, or their mating habits, or simply a natural aversion, humans are repelled by their unwanted attentions. Still, the two species have previously found mutual advantage in working together, and the colonization of Langalana is a joint project. On a remote colony outpost, Shimera and Phineas grow up together, and Shimera comes to love Phinny to the point that she refuses to take a mate from her own people. This is a story about the suffering of an unrequited love. At one point, Shimera encounters Phinny with his human wife.

I stopped.
“Does she love you, Phinny?” I whispered.
He nodded.“Let me ask you something,” I said under my breath with a ferocity that surprised even me.
“How do you know?”
“Excuse me?”
“How do you know? How do you know she isn’t just physically attracted to you, that she isn’t just driven by a biological compulsion to propagate your species, to combine her DNA with yours?”
“Shim . . .”
“How do you know it’s true love?”

Good question, Shim. Can any of us ever know what is in the other’s mind? Can we even be sure of what is in our own mind, whether the love that we feel is real, or a chemical reaction? Or whether there is really a difference? But perhaps the kindest thing is not to ask, to let us cherish our illusions. RECOMMENDED“   Lois Tilton for Internet Review of Science Fiction

“Mercurio tackles a challenging sf trope: intra-species love. And makes it more challenging by making it an unrequited live, and further more difficult by the POV being the non-human. Fortunately, Rivera brings the story off successfully. The Wergens are sufficiently alien from humans to make the story interesting – none of this pointy-ear or slightly greenish tint being the main difference between the races. We gradually have revealed to us just how different the Wergen are – in particular their long term relationships, seeing one Wergen literally absorb the other.

We know, from the start as the Wergen looks back on the lost love, that it will end in tears, but just why it happens that way, and the apparent indifference of the human in the ‘relationship’ is handled well, within an overarching theme of that which we can not have.” — Best SF
Read the full review

“We begin our review of Interzone 204 with unrequited love. Yes, unrequited love.

“In Mercurio D. Rivera’s “Longing for Longalana,” the entire Wergen species has a crush on humanity. There isn’t a lot of detail on why this is, and the why isn’t that important. All you need to know is that to every Wergen, a human is the most beautiful being in the universe. Humans don’t have any such fascination with the Wergen, but they are interested in the Wergen’s superior technology. And so, a whole host of thorny questions about the nature of love and the ethics surrounding it are raised. There are no answers in “Langalana,” but that’s OK. It’s enough that it asks interesting questions in an interesting way.

“From unrequited love we move on to steampunky goodness. “The Song” by Tim Akers is … a beautifully spun confection that serves well to cleanse the palette after the ruminations inspired by “Langalana….” — Tangent Online
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“In many ways it was rather sad and even deeply emotional in places, reminiscent of something from ancient Greece by Sophocles or Euripides. Mind you, there are those who would say that all plots were invented by the Greeks several hundred years BC and that anything written since is only a derivation of one of these plots.

“Anyway, the story involves a woman of alien nature from a race called the Wergen. Sounds a bit twee and even more so when you learn that her name is Shimera but twee it is not. On the planet Langalana, many years before she fell in love with an Earth boy called Phineas, the women from Wergen think Earth boys are the bees knees and are irresistibly attracted to them. (Where exactly is their planet?) Unfortunately, the love cannot be and the poor woman descends into a sort of melancholy. It must be Phineas’ aftershave.

“I’m now going to look through the Greek tragedies to see where I’ve seen this before. This doesn’t detract from the story. In fact, it puts it on an elevated level which is where it should be. An excellent read!” — SF Crow’s Nest
Read the full review

Review of the podcast:
http://www.rev-up-review.co.uk/

“The fiction in the current May/June Issue #204 also leans toward the fantasy side and wouldn’t be entirely out of place in The Third Alternative/Black Static. There’s an overarching theme of irredeemable loss, and while many stories are set in the future or on other worlds, the tales are less science fiction than fabulism. The strongest is the lead story, “Longing for Langalana” by Mercurio D. Rivera, which depicts a species infatuated with human beings and how one member of this race deals with unrequited love in a very human (i.e. not overly sensible) way.” — Black Gate
Read the full review

“Longing for Langalana”, by Mercurio D. Rivera, is a sad story of humans colonizing a planet in partnership with an alien species, the Wergen. The aliens have a couple of intriguing features: on marriage they are physically connected, growing ever closer over years. And they are obsessively attracted to humans. But the colonization of Langalana runs into problems (due to a cleverly depicted native species)–and in parallel the relationship of humans and the Wergen deteriorates. This is movingly portrayed by the relationship of the story’s narrator, a Wergen female, with the human boy she meets and is inevitably drawn to as an adolescent.” — Rich Horton for Locus

“Science fiction blended with inter-species romance; this is the harbinger for Mercurio D Rivera’s ‘Longing for Langalana’. It’s a tale told as though the protagonist is put on a witness stand. Shimera, a Wergen, tells her story to an emissary … the son of the human named Phinny she once loved. Although a little too quixotic, I really enjoyed this one. With strange mating rituals on the Wergen’s part, descriptive language of their beguiling anatomy – and a pesky native of Langalana that cannot be tamed, this opener to the issue will be sure to stay with you long after the last sentence.” — Horror Scope

Read the full review.

Blog Reviews:

“Exogamy gone horribly wrong. Rivera tenderly depicts an exploitative galactopolitical human-alien relationship in terms not of political jackbootery but a cruelly one-sided love affair, in thoughtful and thought-provoking manner.” http://londonkds.livejournal.com/166115.html

“Longing for Langalana” (Mercurio D. Rivera) is an unusually romantic take on the first-contact standard; I can imagine it making a good short film. ” http://offog.org/books/20060701-interzone-204.html

Honors and Accolades for “Longing for Langalana”

“Longing for Langalana” won the Interzone Readers’ Poll for Favorite Story of 2006. The poll results appeared in the 25th anniversary issue of Interzone #209.
http://www.ttapress.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=157&sid=f3ff4ae9ef09e9d43dc008145bcfbd85

Longing for Langalana made the “long list” of nominees for the British Science Fiction Award for Best Short Story, but alas didn’t make the final cut.  http://www.bsfa.co.uk/index.cfm/section.nom2006

“Longing for Langalana” received an “honorable mention” in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction collection.

One voracious reader was kind enough to mention “Langalana” among his picks for the year’s best on the Asimov’s message board. http://www.asimovs.com/discus/messages4/6695.html?1168442398

Sam Tomaino of SFRevu listed “Langalana” as worthy of consideration for a Hugo nomination for best novelette. http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=5099


TRANSMISSIONS FROM BEYOND PODCAST OF “LANGALANA” – Read by Heather Welliver

•  Paul S. Jenkins at The Fix writes:

I found it a fascinating and satisfying story exploring the nature of love.  Is love something deeply spiritual or simply the result of chemical reactions in the brain?  The story is an example of how science fiction can deal with issues that matter greatly to us in the here-and-now, despite being set in the future and involving alien species. It’s told from an alien perspective, mostly in flashback, and concerns a young alien female who becomes a language tutor for a young human male.  Over time, a relationship develops which we see entirely from the alien’s viewpoint.  As with many such stories, the aliens are depicted as possessing human qualities, which can be a legitimate criticism, though in this case it’s the whole point, enhanced here by Heather Welliver’s expressive reading.


The Aye No Maybeblog writes:

I like podcasts. I like science fiction. So I often listen to cool SF podcasts. I know many of my readers are not huge SF fans (why not?), but I think there are a couple of gems you might be interested in listening to.

The first thing is a short story I listened to this afternoon called Longing For Langalana by Mercurio D. Rivera. It’s a lovely story of unrequited love beautifully read. Aw. Go listen to it at Transmissions From Beyond.


THE SCENT OF THEIR ARRIVAL – REVIEWS

Colin Harvey, author and regular reviewer for Strange Horizons, writes for Suite 101:

“Mercurio D. Rivera returns with ‘The Scent of Their Arrival.’ Few writers in SF depict aliens quite as alien as Rivera does, as demonstrated in ‘Longing for Langalana,’ which won the Interzone Reader’s poll of 2006 for Best Story. This time an orbiting spaceship poses a mystery for aliens who communicate by scent rather than sound, in a genre-blurring story that ends IZ214 on a high note.” http://scififantasyfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/interzone_214


Anthony Williams of SFF Blogwrites:

“The Scent of their Arrival by Mercurio D. Rivera explores the world of planet-bound but intelligent beings who communicate by scent, struggling to understand the message sent by the vast spaceship which had arrived in orbit around their world. All is not what it seems…” http://sciencefictionfantasy.blogspot.com/


Gareth D. Jones at Whispers of Wickednesssays:

“I was blown away by Mercurio D. Rivera’s The Scent of Their Arrival; it’s the finest story I’ve read for some time. A pair of alien scientists are attempting to decode a transmission from an orbiting spacecraft. The nuances of their culture and details of their physiology make them an intriguing pair and a story about them would have been interesting by itself. The transmission, which they can’t understand, is from a human, telling of the invasion and decimation of Earth by a trans-dimensional species called the Reviled. It’s a harrowing tale and again could have stood on its own. The culmination of the two tales, although I guessed the ending before it arrived, was stunning in its emotional impact. I shall have to read it again.”

Read the rest of the review of Interzone #214 here.


BESTSFwrites:

“A second strong SF story. On an alien planet, a race of creatures which use scent rather than speech, to communicate, are attempting to unravel the mysterious transmissions from an orbiting alien spaceship. It has been in orbit for some time, but has made no attempt to land and contact them, and has merely been transmitting a message. The orbiting spaceship is of course of human origin, and we find in the transcriptions of the messages, that humanity has come to a horrific end.

“As the messages progress, the nature of our demise becomes clear – an invading, vampiric race has ravaged Earth. …It’s a page-turner, with Rivera creating a more interesting alien race than is often the case.”

Read the rest of the BEST SF reviews of Interzone #214 here.


• Voracious reader StevenLPwho put ‘Langalana’ on his list of faves for 2006 writes:

“I read the January issues of Asimovs, F&SF and Interzone at the beginning of the month; all had at least one stand-out story (Asimov’s had Tanith Lee’s ”The Beautiful and Damned’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald’; F&SF had John Kessel’s ‘Pride and Prometheus’ and Interzone had Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘The Scent of their Arrival’)…” http://www.asimovs.com/discus/messages/4/7638.html?1201772240


Blog Review:

“‘[I]nteresting mish-mash of subgenres here, and probably my favourite story of the issue.  The main story is a nice Inverted Communication Difficulties thing, where we’re following aliens who communicate by smell having trouble deciphering the message from a human spaceship in orbit because they don’t understand that you can use sound to communicate (the alien planet is so geologically active as to make this utterly impractical, apparently — I can’t say I’m convinced but I’m prepared to accept it for the sake of argument).  The aliens are likeable, in the weird-on-the-outside-human-on-the-inside way that’s never bothered me, and there are a few fun touches to their culture, like their science/religion split somehow falling exactly along their gender divide (men are “supernaturalists”, women are “naturalists”; if it was a longer story I’d want to know a lot more about why and if there are any exceptions, but it was a nice bit of background).  Within this, we get to read the log entries as the aliens attempt to decipher them, which tell the story of how the ship came to be launched — a desperate race to escape Earth after the opening of a portal to alternate universes allowed Actual Vampires to overrun the planet, which is not described particularly explicitly but does set up a very grim SF/horror crossover atmosphere.”  http://ionlylurkhere.livejournal.com/32508.html


• In a Nutshell:

http://spaceoperareader.blogspot.com/2008/02/scent-of-their-arrival-mercurio-d.html


• Eamonn Murphy of SFCrowsnest writes:

“My favourite tale was ‘The Scent of Their Arrival’ by Mercurio D. Rivera which packed in a lot of ideas and the best aliens I’ve read about since Asimov’s ‘The Gods Themselves’. A good SF story might tell of Earth being invaded by aliens from another dimension. A better one might tell of man’s attempts to flee in starships. This one does all that but also tells of the ship’s arrival at a distant planet and its attempts to negotiate with a very different race. Told from the point of view of an alien couple who communicate by scent the whole thing was marvellous. The ending is like a kick in the guts. Wonderful.”

Read the rest of the SFCrow’s Nest reviews of the stories in this issue of IZ here.


Sam Tomaino at SFRevu:

“The fiction concludes with a brilliant novelette by Mercurio D. Rivera, “The Scent of Their Arrival.” The inhabitants of another planet wonder why communications from a ship orbiting their planet have been unsuccessful. The problem is that their race communicates by scent. We see the messages from the ship and they are from a future Earth which has been invaded by a race of vampire-like beings. Further, this planet appears to be ruled by inhabitants who are either “supernatualists” or “naturalists”. They cooperate and share power. The story of both Earth and this planet develops in an exciting way with a great finish. This story will be on my Hugo Award short list for next year.”

Read the rest of the SFRevu’s reviews of this issue’s stories here.


Nick Gevers writes in the March 2008 issue of Locus:

“Interzone for February is fairly impressive, particularly its closing story, “The Scent of Their Arrival” by Mercurio D. Rivera. Here, planetbound aliens whose system of speech relies on smell consider with puzzlement a message coded within a broadcast from a starship recently arrived in orbit. They have not encountered other intelligent beings before, and do not recognize the sounds made by the human speaker as meaningful content; as they gradually piece a partly correct picture together, a truly horrible irony unfolds, in which can be perceived the downfall of not one but many civilizations. This is a cogently nasty tale, a bit redundant here and there, but decidedly chilling.”  RECOMMENDED


Spiral GalaxyReviews writes:

“This is a brilliant story, told in two alternating strands. In one, a human survivor tells the story of the destruction of Earth, documenting its overrun by vampiric creatures from another dimension. It is a bleak and hopeless tale. In the other, two alien scientists try to decipher the transmissions from a ship sitting in orbit over their planet. It’s been sitting there broadcasting for quite some time, but they can’t make any sense of the communication. They’ve isolated the pictures and displayed them, but without a scent track it is unintelligible to them, since their primary form of communication is through chemical scents. While I’m sure scent-based communication has been done before in the literature (in fact it popped up recently in Paul Melko’s excellent novel Singularity’s Ring), this story is very well done. The relationship between the two alien researchers and the world building of their planet and culture are first-rate. The tonal shift between their straight-forward first-contact narrative and the bleak defeatism of the human narration is striking. The ending packs quite a punch as we realize how the threads tie together. The only small criticism I’d have is that the ending’s impact is more intellectual than emotional; it would’ve been a bit better if the reader were so emotionally involved with the aliens that we’d be really shocked and dismayed at their fate instead of going “Wow, so that’s how it all ties together. That’s gonna suck.” As it is however, this is another story that I’ll keep in mind come award-nominating time.”

Read the rest of Spiral Galaxy’s very thorough review of Interzone #214 here.


MISCELLANEOUS:

• I came across this cool illustration for the story by the terrific Paul Drummond, who also drew the cover of IZ #214.
http://www.pauldrummond.co.uk/illustration/gallery_image.php?image=14&category=2

The Scent of Their Arrival was long-listed for Best Short Story for the British Science Fiction Awards, but did not make the short list.


“Snatch Me Another”

“A very dark tale of two parents mourning the loss of a child. One turns to drugs and despair and withdraws from everything, the other goes fairly crazy, and remains happy. Both of these reactions play out to tragic extremes by the end. To complicate matters, this takes place in a near future where we’ve developed the technology to bring things over from other universes.

Both main characters are well characterized and empathetic in their madness. It’s easy to imagine either reaction being your own, although you’d hope to be stronger, or at least more stable. There is a spinning, terrifying, sickening, vertigo feel to some of the description that’s much more effective than the bland description so common in stories with this sort of technology. It seems perfectly real, but horribly so. Everything from the clouds to the minister to the drug inhalers at the beginning foreshadows the end and builds on some of the themes.

“So, not something for a light mood, but dark and thoughtful and terrible, in the best possible way. Snatch me another story from Mercurio Rivera. 4.5 out of 5.” – Scientifically Bookish
Read the full review

• A rave by Sam Tomaino at SFRevu, who says “Snatch Me Another” will be on his Hugo list for 2008:

“‘Snatch Me Another’ by Mercurio D. Rivera is an amazing story. In about 4000 words, he introduces us to a brand new idea and manages to write a great story about it. Kristina and Lindy live in a world in which an invention called the Snatcher allows people to snatch a copy of anything they want from some alternate dimension. Need some paper plates for a birthday party? Put in a sample and snatch a dozen from a dozen other worlds. Want a near-to-original of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night? It’s in the system and can be had easily. Need a replacement for your dead son? Pop a lock of his hair into the Snatcher! This one came up on me unawares. It will be on my Hugo list for next year.”

Check out his review of the entire issue here.


• Nutshell review:
http://freesf.blogspot.com/2008/02/snatch-me-another-mercurio-d-rivera.html


Rich Horton of Locussays:

“The first 2008 issue of Abyss and Apex is a good one. Two particularly sharp-edged pieces work best: Mercurio D. Rivera’s “Snatch Me Another” deals with the implications of a technology that can “snatch” conjugate items from parallel universes, and the effect on one couple, as we slowly realize that they have “snatched” a replacement for their dead child.”


The Fix‘s thorough review can be read here.

http://thefix-online.com/reviews/abyss-and-apex-25/


“REWIND, REPLAY” REVIEWS

Tangent Online writes:

“‘Rewind, Replay’ by Mercurio D. Rivera is a quiet tale that deals with Wynn, a man whose life changed when he was paralyzed in a boating accident. He relives that day over and over with a shunter, a device that allows him to hop into parallel realities. This story has a neat science fiction premise, but it is Wynn’s personal trauma that lies at the story’s heart. He is in pain, his entire life has been taken from him, and he uses the shunter to hide from reality. Rivera does a great job balancing the characters with the story’s cool idea.”

Read the rest of the review of Northwest Passages: A Cascadian Anthology here.


“THE BEST-DRESSED MAN ON THE COURT” REVIEWS:

Blog Review:

“The other major highlight was a surprise, something you don’t see often in a “genre mag” — and proof that Matt is up to something different — Mercurio D. Rivera’s “The Best-Dressed Man on the Court,” a moving real life memoir about paddleball, eccentric acquaintances, the transient nature of friendship and the way a tragedy can unite strangers who otherwise have nothing in common. It’s an excellent piece of writing that fits well within the issue’s milieu despite being a slice of Mundania — although Rivera’s depiction of paddleball culture in the Bronx is at least as entertaining as any fictional extraterrestrial society.”

Read the rest of the review of Sybil’s Garage#5 here.


Green Man Reviewwrites:

“[The] nonfiction article by Mercurio D. Rivera called “The Best-Dressed Man on the Court,” [is] an immensely readable story of his youth in New York spent in the grips of an obsession with paddleball (a type of lower-class cousin to racquetball). Poignant and relatable, Rivera conveys how, while the sport helped him to make friends, his narrow-minded dependence on the game kept him from knowing his own friends as well as he could have.”

Read the rest of the Green Man review of Sybil’s Garage#5 here.


“THE FIFTH ZHI” – REVIEWS

Artwork by the terrific Paul Drummond

The Fix writes:

“Mercurio D. Rivera introduces us to “The Fifth Zhi”—number 5 in a family of clones preprogrammed with devotion to their mission, an appropriate skill set for the task, and as little individuality as possible. This cloning project is the result of the usual mix between desperation in the face of a terrible threat and the callousness of those who give the orders towards those who carry them out. This theme is familiar, from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and countless others. “The Fifth Zhi”’s use of clones is an excellent, highly appropriate riff on the theme. It’s a gripping story, featuring a unique, likable protagonist; it avoids being unambiguously polemical and gives a familiar conclusion a very satisfying twist.”

Check out the remainder of the Fix’s reviews of IZ #219 here.


The Barking Dogwrites:

“Mercurio D. Rivera presents a tale of alien contact in ‘The Fifth Zhi’, as a succession of clones are dispatched to destroy an immense otherworldly organism that has penetrated the Earth, and is busy giving humanity a bad case of Cthulhu-esque nightmares. Despite the massive scale of an entity that has pierced the planet like a toothpick through an olive, this turns out to be a quite a thoughtful and intimate piece, with issues of identity and individualism coming to the fore in this straightforward but enjoyable yarn.”

Read the remainder of the Barking Dog’s reviews of IZ#219 here.


SF Revu‘s Mark Watson writes:

The fifth Zhi being one of several hundred clones, vat-bred and grown in a week, to make an assault on a very strange alien creature/tree that has landed on Earth, burrowed through the crust, and set up an impenetrable barrier to defend itself. The fifth Zhi is marked out from his cadre siblings by the fact the he alone has been able to pass through the barrier, and he must then climb the great tree to deliver a viral package to rid the Earth of the menace. However, in realising that is was his sense of loss that marked him out from his brothers, he is able to come to some understanding with the alien creature, which itself is suffering from a far greater sense of loss and loneliness. And he has to make a decision – whether to deliver his payload, or become one with the tree and to seek further afield.

Read the rest of SFRevu’s take on IZ#219 here.


Sam Tomaino reviews IZ#219 for SFRevuand writes:

In “The Fifth Zhi” by Mercurio D. Rivera, Zhi 5 is a clone who has been sent to destroy the Stalk, a strange immensely thick plant-like form that has bisected the Earth from North Pole to South. He has made it through a barrier that has stopped everything and everyone else. He carries a retrovirus that should kill the Stalk, freeing Earth from the nightmares it causes. He must climb the Stalk and release the retrovirus from the top of it. Naturally, things do not go as planned in this well-told tale of survival and triumph.


Garth D. Jones at SF Crowsneststates:

I was pleased to note the return of Jason Sanford and Mercurio Rivera whose stories I enjoyed earlier this year…. A giant stalk has skewered the Earth from pole to pole in ‘The Fifth Zhi’ by Mercurio D. Rivera. The eponymous Zhi is a clone sent on a suicide mission to destroy it who makes some startling discoveries about himself and the stalk. The mixture of adventure and introspection make it a touching story that leads to an entirely satisfying climax.


Social Links

Across the Event Horizon

Across the Event Horizon by Mercurio D. RiveraAcross the Event Horizon contains the very best of Mercurio’s work to date; fourteen stories selected by the author himself, including “Langalana” and “Tu Sufrimiento”. Learn more »

Other Worlds Than These

Other Worlds Than These by John Joseph AdamsMercurio D. Rivera’s story, “Dear Annabehls” is now out in the anthology Other Worlds Than These. Compiled by acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams, never before have the best parallel world stories and portal fantasies been collected in a single volume—until now. More info »

Year’s Best SF 17

Year's Best SF 17Mercurio D. Rivera’s “Tethered” appears in Year’s Best SF 17. Acclaimed, award-winning editors and anthologists David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer demonstrate the amazing depth and power of contemporary speculative fiction, showcasing astonishing stories from some of the genre’s most respected names as well as exciting new writers to watch. Prepare to travel light years from the ordinary into a tomorrow at once breathtaking, frightening, and possible. More info »

Holodeck Writer’s Workshop

Mercurio D. Rivera taught at the Holodeck Writer’s Workshop alongside Sheila Williams, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick and Gregory Frost. If you wish to raise your fiction, narration or art skills to the next level, this workshop is for you. More info »

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