Locus, September 2013
I wanted to like Leah Cypess' “What We Ourselves Are Not” (Asimov's, September) more than I did, because its central idea is interesting – an implant that gives people access to real memories of people of their culture, with the idea that this will help preserve diverse cultures. Alas, the main characters (two teenagers) don't convince, and the story is given to somewhat loaded arguments for both sides of the (worthwhile) question considered.
Locus, August 2016
Leah Cypess’ “Filtered” (Asimov's, July) concerns a journalist struggling with getting a story he thinks important noticed in a world where online filters tailor what everyone sees so much that nobody sees anything that will challenged their preconceptions. It’s further complicated because his wife is also his boss – and their ambitions, and their slightly different focus, might threaten their marriage.
Locus, June 2017
From the May-June Asimov's, “On the Ship” is another impressive and thoughtful idea piece from Leah Cypess. The narrator is a child on a spaceship searching for a new home planet. (A perhaps too explicit analogy is made with the horrible treatment of the Jewish refugees on the St. Louis before World War II.) Life on the ship seems fairly happy, and every time a new planet is reached there is a party while it is tested. But the narrator soon realizes that something strange is happening, especially when a mysterious woman keeps showing up unexpectedly. The secret isn’t much of a surprise to SF readers, but it’s used and resolved effectively here.
Locus, July 2017
Leah Cypess contributes “Neko Brushes” (F&SF, May-June), an effective retelling of a Japanese folktale about a boy who can paint things so well they come to life – mostly cats, but eventually a magic sword in service to a woman in revolt against the Emperor.
Locus, August 2018
And, finally, don’t miss “Attachment Unavailable” by Leah Cypess (Asimov's, July-August), a short and sharply funny story told as a comment thread from a social media group of new parents, discussing the offer of some aliens to help their babies sleep better.
Locus, April 2019
Leah Cypess, in “Parenting License” (Analog, March-April), takes on the notion that prospective parents might need training before insurance companies will pay for the costs of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing. Melanie, thus, is panicked when she turns up pregnant by accident before she and her husband have had gotten their Parenting License. At first blush it seems poised to be a satirical take on the issue, but instead it too looks quite soberly at the problem.
Locus, May 2020
What matters most? Plot? Character? Prose? Something else? The answer is all of the above, I think, and more importantly, each reinforces the other, ideally. These thoughts are prompted by an exceptional novelet in the May-June F&SF, “Stepsister”, by Leah Cypess. At first look, this is as cleverly constructed a plot as I’ve seen in some time. It’s a Cinderella retelling, from the point of view not of a stepsister, but of the Prince’s stepbrother. He’s absolutely loyal to his Prince (now King), partly, to be sure, because any sign of the bastard son of the former King being less than loyal would mean his life. But now the King wants him to fetch Queen Ella’s stepsister from the refuge the King allowed her when Ella insisted her sisters and mother be killed. There’s a tangled mesh of personal issues to deal with – Ella’s hate for her sister is justified: she really was an abuser; however the King had fallen for her just enough to save her life; and the stepbrother – had completely fallen for her. But what now? Does the King want a new Queen, as Ella has proved barren? Has Ella discovered she is still alive, and does she want her killed? What will the stepbrother do? Does the stepsister even have a voice in this?
All these snarled threads are just beautifully resolved. And we realize, that much as this expertly constructed plot snaps shut perfectly, we’ve seen a story of character wonderfully resolved as well – the beautiful plot wouldn’t work if we didn’t believe in the motivations – in the love! – of each of the characters. Even the character we don’t know about until the end. Excellent!