The latest issue of the Irish SFFH magazine opens and closes strongly. The opening interview with James Gunn covers several pages, and gives a lot of insights into his lengthy career as a writer and editor. And the closing story by Bruce McCallister ‘Heart of Hearts’ is the pick of the fiction. It ponders the demise of the children of Percy Bysse and Mary Shelley, and the local rumour in the village where he drowned, that a descendant of an illegitimate love child still lives locally. A young boy from the USA is intrigued by a young girl who makes patterns with shells on the beaches (it is this that contains the fantastical element), and we follow his unconsummated infatuation.
The fiction opens with Allison Francisco’s ‘The Better To See You With’, the third place story in the Aeon Award 2008, and it’s lengthier than an author tends to get with their first published story. A shadowy figure is taking Polaroid pictures of children in a playground, and indeed is in fact taking more than simply a photographic image. The story suffers on a couple of counts – firstly, with the main protagonist. He’s called Richmond, as he’s young enough to spend a lot of time at the playground, but old enough to be left at home by his single parent dad and to be buying himself lunch. He’s referred to throughout by his name, and the word Richmond appears with way too much regularity. The use of his name rather than ‘he’ tends to leave the reader at some distance from him as a person, and we’re told how he feels, rather than experiencing it through his eyes. The society in which they live is sketchy – where are the parents? And what kind of society leaves vulnerable children at a playground with a strange man with a camera? The denouement also fails to take the opportunity of a more dramatic ending, not enabling Richmond to resolve the issue himself, but relying on setting his dad on the photographer.
Aaron Polson’s ‘Precious Metal’ is much shorter, and quickly sets up a dramatic ending, with the main protagonist a victim of his inability to realise that standing up to armed desperadoes when you’re old and infirm is likely to have only one outcome. The opportunity for him to use his technological skill was one that could perhaps have been employed.
Priya Sharma’s ‘The Nature of Bees’ features some rather awkward writing : “Her hoarding ovaries now threatened to release all her eggs at once. This rampant fecundity made her shine. Her pheromones were maddening. Vivien Avery didn’t givea fig for procreation. Her state made her pleasure hungry. She longed to be a carnal adventurer.”
But in contrast, by ‘eck, Martin Belderson’s ‘The Hot Chocolate Rocket’ gives us some good northern English dialect and a pair of inventors who are part Stephenson, part Brunel, and part Wallace (as in Wallace and Gromit). Subtle it ain’t.
And Matthew F. Perry’s ‘The Child’ is a short piece in which a shop assistant has an encounter with a young child which freaks him out.
And, as mentioned earlier on Best SF, a nice picture of a female elf struggling to keep her décolletage in order for those of you who like your fantasy to be the type that features women in a state of undress.