September 14, 2008

Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Oct/Nov 2008, Part I

Ike report: I'm cool, just got some rain in my area. My family members in Houston suffered both major and minor property damage, but none of them are hurt.

Book Cover

Inside Story by Albert E. Cowdrey

I have not read “Queen for a Day,” the World Fantasy Award winning short story featuring the same two characters, Detective Fournet and Tobin. It’s posted on the F&SF website, but I decided to go in cold to the story. It’s set in post-Katrina New Orleans, with a strong sense of place. Cowdrey writes his characters’ dialect but it’s easy to decipher. There are some nice bits of humor and a cute ending. Still, I never connected to the characters and found the beginning somewhat slow. In any issue, not all the stories will work for all readers. This one didn’t work for me, but it deserves inclusion in the magazine.

Sleepless Years by Steven Utley

This and M. Rickert’s story make me want to add & Horror to the magazine’s title. Oh yes, it’s SF, but this story scares me. Scientists may gain the power to return life, but what if those people can no longer sleep? What if they won’t let those people exercise their right to die again? The zombie narrator possesses more humanity than the zealous living characters. If I were them, I would listen closer to his threats about Hell. Thought-provoking, disturbing, and faintly religious, “Sleepless Years” is one of my favorites in this crop.

Days of Wonder by Geoff Ryman

The intro to this story directs you to an article on artificial chromosomes in Science, which got my hopes up. I adore SF based on genetic principles. (Brief warning: I’m fairly sure you can only read abstracts from Science without a subscription. I am unable to check as my campus subscribes, which is very handy.) In this world, humans( “Ancestors”) have passed from the world, although they combined their DNA with that of various animals. The story is from the point of view of Akwa, a horse. Her strong, unconventional groom-mate Leveza decides to capture a Cat in a moment of distress. I liked Leveza’s character and understood Akwa’s, but ended up finding the story only mildly appealing. Akwa’s perspective offered a view of the societal norms that contrasted with her friend’s behavior, but I felt like Leveza’s was probably more interesting.

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates by Stephen King

I enjoy it when King writes outside of the horror genre. He tends to avoid his current formula in such pieces. Anne receives a strange call from her husband James. It becomes less strange if you consider that her husband died days before. King touches briefly on her life after that call, and the wonder of who is on the line when you just can’t reach the phone in time. Short and simple.

Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter’s Guild by Scott Bradfield

Parts of this one fall flat, but most of the time it’s funny in both straightforward and satirical ways. Two other stories about dazzle can be found in Bradfield’s collection HOT ANIMAL LOVE, but “Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter’s Guild” can stand on its own four paws. I sometimes wish I knew whether Dazzle actually could talk or not, and to know whether I’m silly for not knowing that. Either way, that story comes to a most satisfying climax. I had to wait for my laughter to subside before moving on to the coda.

The Visionaries by Robert Reed

Reed writes about the best job ever. Oh, there’s certainly something going on behind the scenes, but on the surface it’s the best job ever. (As for the behind the scenes – I now have the desire to read terrible stories on fictionpress.com to see if there’s something more to them.) Reed starts with an intriguing idea, unfolding in it through small meetings. I love how it finishes, with the narrator still fixated on the small picture, even though he’s caught a glimpse of the bigger one. In my mind, he succeeds in his endeavor.

Part II will be posted on the 18th. F&SF is currently offering a discounted subscription through this link. If anyone has a better site for me to link some of the author's names to, please feel free to tell me.

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