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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction…

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction May/June 2012, Vol. 122, Nos.…

by Gordon Van Gelder (Editor)

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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction typically gives the reader a collection of intriguing stories every other month, in line with its publishing schedule. Some readers may be turned off by the recurring names in the bylines, but others may draw comfort. Ultimately, it depends on the reader’s preference for a particular author.

The joy of the short fiction format is that a magazine can publish what amounts to the length of a NY Times Bestseller, but has a more diverse scope of audience.

In “Maze of Shadows”, Fred Chappell returns with his shadow thieves. In this volume, the protagonists must work to discover the mystery of why a blind man guided by a young girl could safely navigate a maze designed to thwart thieves, but also solve a broader mystery surrounding the reason behind their creation of the maze in the first place. Meanwhile, there’s resolution to one of the characters getting his voice exchanged with that of a cat’s. The story is written in a dialect that brings to mind the way people would talk if they were in a medieval fantasy (which this story essentially is), which may turn off some readers, but may draw the realism to the story that the author hopes to invoke, making the reader get lost in the woven tapestry of language that sets his story apart from other fantasies that use more present-day dialect. With Chappell’s shadow stories, he produces series (not serial) fiction, which presents an individual, easily digestible tale that requires little to no knowledge or recollection of the stories that went before it, yet at the same time, could be compiled in book form with very little seemingly needless repetition. Ultimately, while the story was slow in progressing, it was a scenic journey that did not leave me disappointed.

“Liberty’s Daughter” reads like the first chapter of a longer work (as, according to the magazine’s editor, the author, Naomi Kritzer, has indicated that it is), presenting a future world in which several man-made islands are created off the coast of California to compete with ridiculous limitations enforced by the US government. These range from simple tax evasion (for those feeling underrepresented), to complete freedom in the form of anarchy. A young girl, whose job it is to track down things for other people, be it a pair of shoes to a certain colored swimsuit in a certain size, finds herself making chains of exchanges just to get the original item. It is when she seeks out a pair of flip-flops that she comes across an American expatriate who wants to find her sister. This leads our protagonist down certain streets she previously avoided, being the daughter of one of the more powerful people on her island. As she enters the underbelly of the beast, she finds more about the way the rich and successful got to be that way. What makes for an intriguing first chapter to a book also makes for an intriguing story on its own. Were I not so encumbered with a reading backlog, I would look up the full volume to read.

In “Asylum,” Albert E. Cowdrey reminds us that he’s a perennial flower on the pages of FSF. Like many of his stories (if not all), this one takes place in good ol’ New Orleans, post-Katrina (well, maybe all after 2005). While I could give or take Cowdrey, his writing is not intolerable. This story follows a young man who decides to enter the thrilling world of ghost hunting, and following a series of events involving doddering old relatives and their finicky felines, he does. Ultimately, this story is more focused on the characters than on what’s happening, introducing a wide array of unique people, but ultimately having a plot one could summarize in ten words or less.

“Taking the Low Road” by Pat MacEwen is an interesting logical next step to today’s vapid stars, those people whose Twitters we follow with rabid dedication, who are only popular, really, just because they’re popular. In not-too-distant future, one such celebutante tries to escape her twin sister to stake out her own individual identity. She does this by traveling through a wormhole in a space suit with a large group of other potential colonists. Unfortunately, one such colonist is a little closer to her than she would prefer. While the story was enjoyable, it begged for a longer epilogue.

Michael Alexander presents a sort of Huckleberry Finn meets Mad Max with his story “The Children’s Crusade,” which, I imagine, is an homage to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. In this story, a stranger comes to town with lots of useful knowledge, and must convince the devout that his wisdom comes from practicality, and not the devil. There is so much more to this story than that, though, and it is definitely worth reading. This story too is written in a sort of dialog, which totally helps with the narrative, introducing terms that at first seem vague and foggy to the reader, but in context become very real, and sometimes scary. Well done.

“Necrosis” is a short story by Dale Bailey. It presents a gentleman's society in which one member starts to go through an unusual metamorphosis. Each of the other gentlemen use their respective expertise (medical, legal, etc.) to attempt to diagnose the problem behind his back. Ultimately, it ends with a chilling scene. Possibly not for the squeamish.

“Typhoid Jack” by Andy Stewart is a story about a future United States where robots known as Farmers keep everything running smoothly to prevent the food supply from diminishing, causing everybody to starve. In one of their benefits to society, they have introduced a panacea which has rendered most diseases obsolete. In this future, nobody gets sick, and because of that, their sick days languish while their employers work them to the bone. In such a society, typhoid Jacks and typhoid Marys present the world with something they had all but lost: the sick day. For a price, you can contract a common cold. It is under this premise that the protagonist must attempt to infect a high-powered executive while riding under the radar of the ever-watching Farmers. It’s a great story that blends a x-topian future with gritty noir. It made me want more, but I knew that any more would have been too much.

Matthew Corradi’s “City League” spoke to me on a level that invoked my youth spent in Detroit, going to Tigers games because that’s what my parents liked to do. In Corradi’s story, though, his protagonist is a dicer, a person who analyses memories to detect counterfeits. In evaluating on to determine the authenticity of a caught foul ball at a Tigers game, he compares it against his own, and finds that certain things just don’t add up. He confronts his father, a notable memory slicer (the type of person who gives dicers a job to do). This story also spoke to me on a different level, of that of a recent father, who, when I hold my baby daughter in my hands, I know I want to give her the best, but sometimes wonder specifically how.

“Grand Tour” by Chris Willrich reminded me of another author’s story (Dancing With Eternity by John Patrick Lowrie). However, the similarities end at the body mods, prolonged life, and Barnard’s Star. This story deals with a sort of rite of passage: a child disembarks from the earth for a while and comes back as an adult due to time dilation. The protagonist is a young Jewish-Chinese girl with a completely overbearing family, each with their own unique quirks (like her Great-Uncle, being dead, who is a holographic projection from his walking stick). In this future tale, we find that parents still don’t understand what it is to be a kid, though, this time they have a better reason, as it was so long ago for them. I enjoyed it, and wondered what happened next.

In Di Filippo’s Plumage article, he tackles an issue close to my heart: the fact that a copyright term is life plus 70 years, only he logically extends it by adding medical advances that let us live forever. While I feel that no copyright should last more than 28 years, the story Di Filippo presents is a timeless example of what’s wrong with our modern (or post-modern) ownership society, labeling the intangible and infinite as “property.” I enjoyed the double barbed stinger at the end, a left hook from the Content group, followed by a sucker-punch from the consumer. Humorous and enjoyable to anybody following the topic.

All in all, I thought the issue was fairly strong. The weakest story was the Cowdrey, but at the same time, it wasn’t that weak. As I mentioned before, had I more time for this sort of thing (what with my reading back log), I would definitely partake in reading this publication more often. As I currently have a stack of books ready to topple over onto me and consume me in a mass of pages, I must at this time, respectfully decline each time the cover of FSF calls to me from the newsstand. That doesn’t mean you have to as well! ( )
  aethercowboy | Sep 19, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Van Gelder, GordonEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willrich, Chrissecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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