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review 2019-06-14 00:00
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2014
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2014 - Gordon Van Gelder,Katie Boyer,David D. Levine,Marc Laidlaw,Naomi Kritzer,Alyssa Wong,Pavel Amnuel,Oliver Buckram,Tim Sullivan,Jonathan Andrew Sheen This month’s lead novella is ‘Bartleby The Scavenger’ by Katie Boyer. As ‘Bartleby The Scrivener’ by Herman Melville is one of my favourite classic stories, I was intrigued by the title. This is set in the USA after a disaster of some sort. Bombs were dropped and the small town of Brook has withdrawn into itself and been taken over by Mayor Peighton, a beautiful, ruthless woman who demands productivity from everyone. The narrator gets a job as a scavenger and is soon leading a team. The eponymous hero doesn’t appear until you’re 22% into the story (accurate these e-readers). His catchphrase is ‘I’m good, man’ rather than the ‘I would prefer not to’ of his classical equivalent but his lack of enthusiasm for work is the same. Starting with a title is a quirky way of constructing stories, though Philip Jose Farmer had fun with it. Katie Boyer made a good job out of this one.

‘The End Of The Silk Road’ is a novelette. Private investigator Mike Drayton is hired by Victor Grossman, head of Superior Silk, to investigate a drug dealer who has turned his brother into a heavily indebted junkie. The twist is that Superior Silk is located on Venus and the drug dealer is a ‘froggie’ or native Venusian called Uluugan Ugulma and the drug is Ulka, also Venusian. Mike travels from Earth to Venus by airship through the interplanetary atmosphere. David D. Levine’s story uses the hard-boiled private detective plot framework and narrative style in an interesting new world. Obviously, blondes are involved, too. It was clever, fast-paced and very enjoyable.

‘Rooksnight’ by Marc Laidlaw is another novelette featuring the bard with a stone hand and the gargoyle with a fleshy one, their respective appendages having been exchanged by a sorcerer. Gorlen and Spar have teamed up to search for him but they encounter various other troubles in their wandering. This time it’s the Knights of Reclamation, followers of a vanished lord who had a great treasure ages ago which was lost and scattered around the world. The Knights’ mission is to recover this treasure so that the lord will come back in some way. The presumption is that any treasure they come across is theirs. Clearly they were the merchant bankers of their day. A crowd of rooks have a fortress full of jewels and the Knights need the gargoyle to get them through its various dangers. Inventive and quietly witty, this was not quite as enjoyable as the previous tale featuring these heroes but it was certainly good.

‘Containment Zone: A Seasted Story’ is a novelette by Naomi Kritzer. The series must be popular enough now to put the brand name in the title. Hardly surprising as the episodes are very readable and cover interesting themes. The Seasted is a man-made archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, west of California. Kritzer writes lively, dialogue-heavy prose in a conversational style similar to that of Robert Heinlein. One character is accused of yammering! Meaningless talk. The themes of ruthless capitalism, extreme libertarianism and the struggles of the poor workers are relevant to our times. My impression is that Kritzer is more on the side of the workers than the late Robert Heinlein, though the early Robert Heinlein was a different matter. Our hero is Beck Garrison, a young lady blessed with a rich and powerful father but cursed by a conscience. This yarn about a plague unleashed on the Seasted was not the best of them but it was entertaining. Indubitably, they will one day be collected into a book.

On to the short stories and beginners first. Alyssa Wong is a talented graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy and ‘The Fisher Queen’ is her first published story. It’s well told and one is always glad to welcome fresh talent to the genre. Unfortunately, and the fault is mine, this yarn about dubious relations between seamen and mermaids made me think of Troy McClure and ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘A Fish Called Selma’ so I couldn’t take it seriously. Other readers may get more from it, I hope.

‘White Curtain’ is a translation from the Russian of a story by Pavel Amnuel and deals with multiple realities created each time we make a choice. Two learned gentlemen in this field were both mad for the same woman and one was jilted. A very moving story about true love and it’s always nice to see foreign Science Fiction stories and widen our horizons.

‘The Memory Cage’ by Tim Sullivan proposes that, by a trick of quantum physics, it may be possible to collate old particles together and form a kind of ghost of a dead person, to whom the living can talk. Our hero, Jim, has issues with his late father who bought him up to be a ‘real’ man. Following this ethos, his brother went to war and died. The setting is a believable future with research stations on Titan, oligarchs, terrorists, sex change for the fun of it and long life due to advances in medical science. The problem is as old as man. ‘They f**k you up your mum and dad’ as Phillip Larkin pointed out.

‘The Shadow In The Corner’ is an excellent homage to an old master of dark fantasy. Our narrator, Arnold Boatwright, is a scientist working at the famous Miskatonic University. With his colleague, Agrawal Narendra, he hopes to create a window to look into other worlds. Obviously, the past talk of ‘elder things’ is not a concern to serious scientists until…! Nobody modern could duplicate Lovecraft’s prose – we don’t have the same education – but Jonathan Andrew Sheen captures the spirit of that old master in a tale of true terror. Great stuff.

In ‘Plumage From Pegasus’, this issue an NSA man is involved in Operation Nudge’em. The secret service hopes to influence the masses by popular fiction. This has happened in the past accidentally, with ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and some works of Dickens but doing it deliberately isn‘t going so well. Paul Di Filippo’s pieces usually have a serious point to make. No hint of that in ‘Presidential Cryptotrivia’, a spoof historical article by the always amusing Oliver Buckram. Good fun but not really a story, this alternative view of the US Presidency might have been written by Gore Vidal when he was drunk.

Along with the usual interesting non-fiction and book reviews, this collection of stories adds up to another good issue of that venerable publication, ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
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review 2019-06-02 00:00
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2014
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2014 - Gordon Van Gelder,Pat MacEwen,Jon DeCles,Michael Libling,Leo Vladimirsky,Oliver Buckram,Ron Goulart,Sarah Pinsker,Albert E. Cowdrey,Daniel Marcus,Ted White,D.M. Armstrong,Gordon Eklund,Rob Chilson As well as the informative ‘Departments’ there are loads of stories in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy And Science Fiction’, divided on the contents page, as usual, into novella, novelette and short stories. Arbitrarily, I will section them into Science Fiction, fun and fantasy. These categories are not mutually exclusive.

This month’s novella is ‘The Lightness Of The Movement’ by Pat MacEwen and its genuine Science Fiction with two human females studying the alien Neons on Hrallsted’s World. What do you do in the future if you’re a failed ballet dancer majoring in anthropology? The answer for Shannon, our first-person narrator, is to go to another planet and put on a celluloid ’costume’ with some armour capability, lots of built-in sensors and, most importantly, the ability to receive the amorous attentions of Neon males. To get this you have to do an elaborate mating dance first. Shannon is doing her thesis but the boss is Niera, the lady in the ship orbiting overhead. The theme is what ‘Star Trek’ called the Prime Directive: no open contact with a non-technological species. Unfortunately, like James T. Kirk, Shannon is rubbish at not interfering and also applies her human morality to non-humans with exciting results. Her heart’s in the right place and it’s a very entertaining and well-written story.

‘Collar’ by Leo Vladimirsky is about a man trying to get a job. This involves a long and hazardous swim from the east coast of the USA out to factory ships in international waters. The story is told from the perspective of Tom, an escort for workers whose fee is a percentage of their wages if they get a contract. A very well-constructed yarn in which the world scene is effectively conveyed in conversation and shows a future all too realistic and bleak.

After the bleak future, you might consider ‘The Uncertain Past’ which features the assassination of President Kennedy, not, on this occasion, considered as a downhill motor race. To test a new theory of time, some researchers go back to watch the murder but each one sees different things happening. Possibly they are entering parallel universes or even creating them by their presence. Ted White’s story is neatly resolved in a dramatic conclusion at another major historical event but I‘m not sure the issue was settled. In any case, it provided an interesting space-time theory and believable characters.

I believe Robert A. Heinlein wrote the first account of an inter-generational colonising starship on which everyone has forgotten the original mission and reverted to a primitive state. His story ‘Universe’ is a classic but in ‘Albion Upon The Rock’, Daniel Marcus visits the same territory. The crew of the ship have names that refer back to their origins: Sandy Ecosystems, Eden Security and Sergei Navigation, even though they are now a hunter-gatherer culture in the hydroponics decks. Jamal Operations’ wife is about to have a baby, so soon he must take the long journey, scale the cliffs to weightlessness and let the wind take him. One life, one death is the rule that keeps the balance. As Jamal goes about his business, the ship with a self-aware artificial intelligence, encounters a multi-dimensional being spread across space-time that takes an interest in it. The cosmic and the human are neatly twined in a charming story which somehow avoids the sense of futility that such material might engender in another writer. I think I liked it as much as ‘Universe’ and I like ‘Universe’ a lot.

A simple farm boy gets his arm mangled in the combine harvester and has an efficient but ugly prosthetic fitted in its place with a chip wired to his brain. The arm does not think it is an arm, however, it thinks it is ‘A Stretch Of Highway Two Lanes Wide’ in Colorado. This is definitely weird but quite effective in an odd way. Apparently, Sarah Pinsker has been submitting stories to MofF&SF since she was twelve and I’m glad she finally succeeded with this quirky little gem.

‘Hark The Wicked Witches Sing’ is by Ron Goulart, who generally has fun with his creations rather than taking them too seriously. The title of the story is also the title of a horror musical written by Hix, a B-movie writer in forties Hollywood. Apparently, there are a number of stories about Hix but this is the first one I’ve come across. The B-movie titles scattered through it were entertaining and the yarn capered along amusingly for a while but the ending, while leaving room for a sequel, was a bit flat.

An issue of MofF&SF without Albert E. Cowdrey is like a day without rain in England – very rare. Last time, he was in serious mode. This time he returns to comedy with ‘Byzantine History 101’, a sequel to ‘The Woman In The Moon’ which appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of this magazine. In that yarn, Professor Threefoot had agreed to let his daughter’s useless husband, Adam, write his authorised biography. Now his grandson, another Adam, who follows in his late father’s footsteps so far as utility goes, has hooked up with an antique dealer called Terrence, a man who can give Threefoot a run for his money when it comes to selfish, ruthless pragmatism. Obviously, such a homosexual pairing cannot carry Threefoot’s DNA into the next generation but he has plans. Very entertaining, as usual with Cowdrey.

Oliver Buckram is becoming almost as much an MofF&SF regular as Albert E. Cowdrey and is just as welcome. This issue’s offering is ‘A Struggle Between Rivals Ends Surprisingly’. The story is set in a busy port and the odd title is a reflection of the culture of beetle-like creatures who conduct all mercantile negotiations according to classic scenarios such as ‘clever servant outwits rich foreigners’ or ‘a son slayed unknowingly by command of divinity’. Treya is a human negotiator and her ex-lover, Neb, is her rival in bidding for a rich contract. The title is a neat plot summary. This is not quite as good as Buckram’s previous stories but, as they were brilliant, that’s not much of a criticism. Very good.

Even though I usually like everything explained in a story I’ll forgive Gordon Eklund for ‘I Said I Was Sorry, Didn’t I’ because it’s such good fun. The story is set in present-day America. Our hero has caused the end of the universe, which is to happen shortly, and is therefore unpopular and has to wear a false beard to avoid public attention. His wife kicks him out, but he has three sisters who may put up with him. Like Terrence and Threefoot from Cowdrey’s story, he’s not very loveable or politically correct but he is amusing.

From fun to fantasy. Arthur and Alexis are childless and doing okay when suddenly she gets pregnant and he has to deal with it. ‘Butterscotch’ is a fantasy because it features ‘travelers’, odd creatures that have appeared lately, moving about the land aimlessly. They seem to be made of vacuum cleaner waste and leave a small trail, ‘the way a burning cigarette dragged along the asphalt might.’ Nobody knows where they came from. The slightest blow reduces them to dust. A traveller appears in the garden when Alexis becomes pregnant and her pregnancy becomes difficult. Is there a connection? The mother-in-law from Hell moves in to help. She is ‘built like a toy train, squat and bulky’ and smells ‘like a mixture of stew and lingering aerosols’. D.M. Armstrong’s deft use of language makes his interesting and honest story – honest about fatherhood – very effective.

‘Draft 31’ by Michael Libling is one of those stories where telling what it’s about spoils the ending, so I won’t. It opens with a small town doctor having to treat the son of his former high school sweetheart and from there on develops nicely. The narrative viewpoint switches from time to time, which I don’t mind at all, but it’s unusual nowadays, forbidden by the arbiters of literature. In this case, it was probably essential. Normally, I like things more clear-cut but the vagueness on this one worked somehow.

There are two very good fairy tales in this issue. The first, a novelette, is ‘Apprentice’ by Jon DeCles in which Dafyd, the difficult stable boy, is assigned, by his fellow villagers to serve the local wizard as payment for that worthy getting rid of a gryphon. This turns out well at first because the wizard is quite a kindly, forgiving old fellow, certainly nicer than Dafyd’s previous masters or his parents, who got rid of him at the first opportunity. All the elements of the tale come together in a splendid conclusion which, happily, leaves the way open for a sequel. I hope Jon DeCles has one in mind.

The other fairy tale, ’Our Vegetable Love’ by Rob Chilson, features sentient trees, with which we are all familiar now. These don’t talk like C.S. Lewis, booming, but rather in a ‘woody groan’. They also speak in a northern English dialect. I won’t give away the secret of the trees’
sentience but it’s very clever and the story of Grandpa Tree’s interactions with his naughty granddaughter on Bonfire Day is great. In mellow middle age, I am coming to like this kind of thing, partly because I am fond of the omniscient narrator, forbidden in most modern fiction but allowed in this particular sub-genre. ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’ features faery frequently and many of these tales, slightly edited for adult content in some cases, could be put into a good anthology for children.

Reading and reviewing this not inconsiderable quantity of fiction every two months takes a lot of time but I don’t begrudge it. ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’ continues to deliver the goods and sometimes, the greats.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
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review 2019-05-28 00:00
The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014
The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014 - Gordon Van Gelder,Andy Stewart,C.C. Finlay,Claudio Chillemi,Paul Di Filippo,Albert E. Cowdrey,Oliver Buckram,Bruce Jay Friedman,Moira Crone,Alex Irvine,Robert Reed A new year and a new issue of ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ with which to celebrate it. Hurrah!

The first thing I scanned was ‘The Via Panisperna Boys In “Operation Harmony”’, co-authored by Claudio Chillemi and Paul Di Filippo, two fellows clearly not frightened by quotation marks. Unless Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1934 and Marconi invented an iconoscope television that lets the watchers be watched, this is set in an alternative history. The lads of the title are a bunch of Italian physicists who flee to the USA to develop a weapon to fight Hitler. Quite a nice weapon really. Enrico Fermi is their leader and they enjoy playing music together. The other band members are Ettore Majorana, Emilio Segrè and Bruno Pontecorvo, all of whom can be found in Internet encyclopaedias. One of those stories that are good fun to read and was probably even more fun to write.

These historical fantasies are often entertaining, as is the case again with ‘The Man Who Hanged Three Times’ by C.C. Finlay. Consarn it, if this one ain’t set in the old west. Dagnabit, a fine tale of a drunk and no good citizen, who is accused of killing the Chinese woman with whom he lived in sin. He denies it but is found guilty and they try to hang him. The narrator of this one is interesting and it did not feature Hollywood made-up swearwords. That’s just me.

‘The New Cambrian’ by Andy Stewart is definitely my type of thing and might have been printed in one of those great SF magazines of the fifties such as ‘Astonishing’ (now ‘Analog’), ‘Galaxy’ or even ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’. It’s a good old-fashioned story of engineers and biologists working on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Dr Schneider, a female biologist, has been lost in a tragic accident in the ice-covered ocean, the first death on the planet. It shakes everyone. Our first-person narrator is her former lover, Ty. Their affair ceased when his wife Ana came to join them at the base. Human feelings interact with the complexities of life in alien waters to make an interesting yarn that borders on horror.

There’s more Science Fiction in ‘For All Of Us Down Here’ by Alex Irvine which extrapolates the continuing separation of society into the haves and have-nots. Perhaps I should say renewed separation. We got a bit more equal for a while. Anyway, in a not too distant future, the ‘haves’ can upload themselves to the Sing, which seems to be an orbiting computer complex. Their bodies are cared for but they soon lose the knack of using them properly. The story is about an encounter between a lad in Orono, Maine (that crossword puzzle favourite, as Stephen King once called it) and a Singular. It’s a neat family drama, but the context of the story is more interesting and I am sure there are other tales, probably a novel, to be extracted from this fascinating concept. Once the technology exists, I have no doubt there will be people delighted to upload themselves into their favourite computer game and spend eternity there, especially as the condition of planet Earth deteriorates.

Moving from the Sing to Song, Seth Chambers gets the editorial mature content warning for his novella ‘In Her Eyes’ and, rightly so, as the language is crude and direct. That suits the character of the lady in it. The gentleman and first-person narrator is Alex, who works in a museum, and it’s there that he meets Song, a not very pretty woman. He likes her, despite her looks, they go out and then there are some surprises. To say more would be to ruin it for the reader but it is a raunchy yet emotional story based on an interesting Science Fictional concept. A strong contender for the best story this issue, if the magazines still ran polls.

Paul Di Filippo has the regular ‘Plumage From Pegasus’ spot as well as the aforementioned collaboration and gives us ‘The Very Last Miserabilist In Paradise’. Science has solved all mankind’s problems and there is boundless energy, food for all and no work unless you want to, and all the benefits once dreamed of by SF writers. But one SF writer is not happy. Good fun as usual.

Albert E. Cowdrey is a welcome regular in these pages, often with comedy, but ‘Out Of The Deep’ presents him in serious mode. After an incisive description of fifties America, the protagonist, Pete, tells us how he met Alistair McCallistair, a rich kid, whilst on holiday on the Gulf coast. Time passes and Pete is a Viet-Nam vet and a bit messed up. McCallistair has avoided the war, as rich kids did, and now hires his old friend as a bodyguard because one of the bad guys is out to kill him. The fantastical element comes from McCallistair’s cook and concubine, a lady from the Caribbean with that ol’ black magic. It’s a great story with interesting characters, not least, the messed up ‘hero’. Cowdrey is a good old-fashioned storyteller who gives you a definite beginning, middle and cathartic end. You know exactly what’s happened and there’s none of that woolly vagueness that sometimes plagues the genre. He deserves to be on the bestseller lists and many of his yarns, because they are so strong as stories, would make good films, including this one. He could easily write straight thrillers, I think, and achieve mainstream success but clearly, he has a fondness for fantasy. We are lucky to have him.

‘The Museum Of Error’ is a longer entertainment from Oliver Buckram, who has contributed hilarious short stories in the past. Herbert Linden is the Assistant Curator for military history in the museum and is called upon to investigate when the petrified cat goes missing. The cat was turned to stone by the gorgon gun of mad inventor Theophrastus Morhof who accidentally petrified himself, too, and is also an exhibit. Evil rivals at the Science Institute may be responsible for the theft. Buckram’s inventiveness in dreaming up the exhibits for the Museum of Error is almost unbelievable and there’s a good gag in nearly every paragraph. It also works pretty well as a detective story. Thoroughly enjoyable.

‘We Don’t Mean To Be Kind’ by Robert Reed is set in a distant future when the universe is winding down and some creatures catch up with the Creator. The conflict is told from both points of view. An interesting concept at the far reaches of the fantastical and I’m not sure if I liked it or not. I’m pretty sure it’s good and that my hesitancy is based on residual Catholic guilt and the fear that He might be watching me read and judging.

Moira Crone gets away with ‘The Lion Wedding’ one of those fantasies set in the ‘real’ world that are generally written by and appeal to sensitive ladies. Well-crafted and some will like it but not really my type of thing. Likewise ‘The Story Teller’ by Bruce Jay Friedman in which a professor of literature finds himself in an afterlife where a story is demanded from him. It was okay but writers writing about writing should probably be confined to non-fiction.

The stories by Cowdrey, Buckram and Chambers more than compensate for the cover price of the magazine by themselves and the additional worthy material is a bonus. I should also mention the non-fiction articles but my electronic preview does not include the current ones and by the time I get a hard copy the review is done. Generally, they are excellent. The intelligent book reports of Charles De Lint and Elizabeth Hand give me good lists of books I don’t have time to read and so are frustrating. Readers with fewer tomes to be done will find them useful. On the other hand, a movie takes up less lifespan and the film reviews, by various contributors, highlight DVDs to look out for, often ones that have not been commercially successful but are well worth a watch. Also, they are not snobbish and will allow that a half-decent Hollywood action movie of the sci-fi sort can be entertaining, too.

So, ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science-Fiction’ is keeping alive several worthy traditions. For the Creator’s sake buy it and keep them going!

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
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review 2019-05-28 00:00
The Magazine Of Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Magazine Of Fantasy and Science Fiction - Gordon Van Gelder Ask a politician a question nowadays and he’ll tell you what he’s focusing on and what he’s focusing on won’t be the subject of the question. It goes without saying that ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’ contains interesting non-fiction articles and book reviews but what I’m focusing on is the stories.

The big novella this issue is ‘Success’ by Michael Blumlein and I liked every word of it, except for the last page. It’s the enthralling tale of Dr Jim, a brilliant scientist who goes off the rails and then gets back on them, perhaps, with the aid of a similarly brilliant but more stable lady scientist. There is much deep thought built into the story about epigenetics, Lamarckism, change at the individual and social level and searching for the meaning of it all. Dr Jim brought to mind the chap in ‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’, who becomes engrossed in his thoughts to the exclusion of everyday cares. There was even that old horror standby, the thing in the basement. The fact that the story was not resolved in a traditional manner was the only aspect of it not to my taste but there are plenty of readers who don‘t mind that sort of ending. Possibly it all made sense and I just didn’t understand it. Oh well, I enjoyed the ride anyway.

Novelettes next. ‘Stones And Glass’ by Matthew Hughes takes up the continuing story of the thief Raffalon, who featured in ‘Wearaway And Flambeau’ in the July/Aug 2012 issue of this magazine. Raffalon is travelling under an alias to sell some precious gems at a fair in the town of Tattermatch. It has to be done quickly because the ‘gems’ are actually common stones and will be revealed as such in a few days when the enchantment on them fades. Raffalon encounters a man called Cascor, a former provost with a very persistent manner. Like Albert E. Cowdrey, Hughes always narrates in an entertaining fashion and I enjoyed the story but was I meant to prefer Cascor, as a character, to our hero Raffalon? No matter. It is hinted that they might team up for future stories so we will get more of both.

‘Baba Makosh’ by M.K. Hobson is a very unusual fantasy featuring Russian gods and keen communist revolutionaries. It takes place during the Russian civil war of 1922. Our hero, Pudovkin, is an old-fashioned sort of chap, close to nature and does not much enjoy his current work of purging villages for Commander Tchernov, a very stern scientific revolutionary. Then they all end up in Hell and things get complicated. It’s a highly original, moving and complex story with tons of imagination. Wonderful stuff.

The underworld only features in the title of Albert E. Cowdrey’s ‘Hell For Company’, a tale that demonstrates some facility with narrative technique. First off, the narrator is an anonymous writer chatting to Mark Twain who tells him a ghost story in which the ending is narrated to Twain by the person to whom it all happened. Complicated but well done. The story itself wasn’t particularly awesome but, as ever, Cowdrey delivers it in lively language and one’s time is pleasantly spent.

‘The Soul In The Bell Jar’ by KJ Kabza is worthy of Edgar Allan Poe. Lindsome Glass is a nice little girl and her parents have gone away travelling so she is sent to stay with her old great-uncle. He is a scientist who experiments on the vivified, dead animals bought back to a semblance of life by stitching their souls back on. Locals know him as the Stitchman and nobody goes near the ancient house. It’s an excellent dark fantasy and the author has a way with similes. Kabza’s on-line bibliography shows that he started selling stories to those little magazines that pay a few dollars per yarn about ten years ago. Now he appears regularly in the most prestigious fantasy market of all, which is encouraging for struggling writers. (Of course, they won’t all turn out as good as him, but the only way to find out is to keep writing.)

‘Through Mud One Picks A Way’ by Tim Sullivan concludes the novelettes. It is genuine Science Fiction about three aliens from Cet Four who have been transported to Earth by a businessman for purposes unknown. He has hired Uxanna Venz to communicate with them by touch telepathy, which they do well. She worked on their home planet and is an expert on the species. A nice parable about colonialism with a couple of decent twists to keep you surprised. It was mostly written in dialogue with, very little narration, but Sullivan managed to get all the background information across anyway. A neat trick.

There are only two short stories: ‘Hard Stars’ by Brendan Dubois is cunningly told so that you don’t really know what’s going on until half-way through. I won’t spoil the plot but it explores the consequences of modern information technology if things go wrong and has a great ending. I should also say that I liked it and believe the late Robert A. Heinlein would have liked it a lot as well. He might have written it if he was still around. The other short is a fantasy, ‘Sing Pilgrim’ by James Patrick Kelly. It’s about a chair that appears suddenly on Lancaster Street in Pulanski, Kansas. This jolly little piece by an award-winning short story specialist nicely finishes up the fiction in another fine issue.

‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’ and several others in the genre, are now available in very reasonably priced and convenient electronic versions. That’s useful for everyone but especially for those who dwell in some far corner of a foreign field where distribution of paper copies is random at best and often non-existent.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/

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review 2019-05-27 00:00
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - Gordon Van Gelder,Adam Rakunas,Chen Qiufan,Eleanor Arnason,K.J. Kabza,Oliver Buckram,Harvey Jacobs,Ken Altabef,Tim Sullivan,Harry R. Campion,Rus Wornom The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science-Fiction’ explores the opposite extremes of the fantasy genre in this issue with a nice mix of Science Fiction and fairy tales. Most of the stories fall into one category or the other, so we’ll start with the fantasy.

‘Heartsmith’s Daughters’ by Harry R. Campion is a fairy tale about a village smithy whose wife is unable to have children. He manufacturers three daughters, one with a heart of cold iron, one with a heart of brass and one with a heart of gold. Their attributes match the metal of their cardiology in apt ways but they are soon the victims of evil men. A rather dark story, beautifully told. ‘The Color Of Sand’ by KJ Kabza is another excellent fairy tale featuring sandcats, enabled to talk by magic, and a good woman with a big son. To say more would be to give away the plot but it was written with the same kind of cadence as ‘Heartsmith’s Daughter’ and the same kind of language. Both have an omniscient narrator which allows for comments on the characters, something not possible with modern point-of-view techniques. Both are good clean fun and apt for inclusion in any children’s anthology. Both would sit comfortably alongside the classics of the genre.

‘Kormak The Lucky’ by Eleanor Aranson is similar. Kormak might not strike you as lucky at first because he is kidnapped from Ireland by Norwegian slavers and sold in Iceland. There he proves himself a bit too lazy to be a good slave and so is passed from master to master. Eventually, he ends up getting involved with elves, fey folk and the like in a long, involved story. It was a bit too long for my taste, to be honest, but readers more fond of elves and their ilk will like it, I’m sure. Elves and fey folk are not necessarily very nice, which is consistent, I believe, with the received wisdom. Fairy tales are often Grimm.

‘The Woman Who Married The Snow’ is by Ken Altabef, who apparently specialises in tales of an Inuit Shaman named Ulruk. This tale of Ulruk was interesting for the insights into the lives of people in the colder regions of the world and the glimpses of an intriguing system of magic. There are eloquent descriptions of landscapes and the prose is generally of high quality. Although written in a more modern idiom, it does not sit ill with the preceding stuff.

‘The Miracle Cure’ by Harvey Jacobs is about trained doctors refusing to believe irrefutable empirical evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Gallstones feature, along with gallbladders, in this odd yarn. It’s probably more fantasy than Science Fiction so I will deem it as a modern fairy tale to squeeze it into my classification system. Isn’t all today’s fantasy just modern fairy tales? Tricky things, labels. Words, too.

Amaranthine. That’s not a word that crops up often nowadays but ‘In the Mountains Of Frozen Fire’ by Rus Wornom is written in the style of pulp tales from a hundred years ago. He also uses ‘tenebrous’, a favourite adjective of HP Lovecraft. There are a number of exclamation marks! Commander Denis Cushing, to use the short version of his name, is a secret operative, designated M4 by the United States International Vengeance Force. He is in northern Asia on the trail of…the Cobra, a deadly killer also known as Agent ZX-12. Wornom has good fun with this parody and so will a like-minded reader. The fantastic element is probably more Science Fiction than fantasy so it makes a nice bridge between the genres in my review. Amaranthine, by the way, seems to mean eternal or everlasting in this context. It might mean red.

‘The Nambu Egg’ by Tim Sullivan is definitely Science Fiction. It’s set in the distant future when the Tachtrans Authority can beam people to a distant planet, Cet Four in this case. Adam Naraya has returned to Earth because he has a Nambu egg to sell to the head of a rich corporation, one Mr Genzler. To tell more of the plot would be to ruin it for it’s the kind of tale where things are slowly revealed. Rest assured that the length of this paragraph does not reflect the very high esteem I have for the story.

’Oh Give Me A Home’ by Adam Rakunas is more Science Fiction but set in a much nearer future, alas. It’s really a modern western in which an almost ordinary rancher fights against the big rich guys who want to take over everything. He’s more scientific than Jimmy Stewart was in the classics and the rich guys are a giant corporation rather than a moustachioed villain who runs the town but it’s the same theme with a very contemporary and relevant twist. The bad guys even have a girl employee with a soft spot for our hero. Alas, in real life there actually are giant profit-hungry agricultural companies that want to patent everything and put the world’s farmers in hock to them forever. I name no names. They have lawyers, you know.

‘The Year Of The Rat’ by Chen Qiufan is translated by Ken Liu, no mean author in his own right. Broadening the scope of the magazine with foreign translations is an excellent policy, even though it means one less slot for the homegrown talent to fill in an already competitive and limited market. Like Adam Rakunas’ updated western, this tale of unemployed Chinese graduates being used for rodent extermination is realistically bleak about how the world is going. The rats are genetically engineered and very dangerous. The former students conscripted to kill them are not happy in their work. There’s a nice undercurrent about how us little people can never be sure what’s really going on with so many vested interests feeding us disinformation. Chen Qiufan is a name worth looking out for but I won’t end a sentence with a preposition just because of that. Not with Uncle Geoff editing me.

A comedy murder mystery narrated by a giant slug makes a nice change from the above. Oliver Buckram delivers ‘Half A Conversation Overheard While Inside An Enormous Sentient Slug’, about one Lord Ash who has been murdered at his manor, possibly by his wife who has vanished. Ash had estates in the Kuiper Belt and the sentient slug was a servant so this is clearly set in the future. Elegant fun that proves brevity is the soul of wit. I hope we see more from Buckram.

I hope we will see more of ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, too, for years and years to come. Sometimes the stories seem strong on lush writing and perhaps less strong on plot. This issue was very strong on plot with every tale having a firm commitment to the story element of stories as opposed to character, theme or sensual prose. No bad thing. The fiction’s the thing, really, but it’s worth mentioning that the ‘Departments’ provide useful information on what’s good out there in film and books and ‘Plumage From Pegasus’ by Paul Di Filippo is as entertaining as usual.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at sfcrowsnest
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