The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July/August 2014

fsf20140708Guest Editor C.C. Finlay.

Charlie Jane Anders. Palm Strike’s Last Case.

An intriguing combination of stories. The first half features the superhero Palm Strike, who with little more than a healing ‘juju’ and a helmet and armoured suit, does the righting wrongs thing. He of course has an Arch Enemy/Nemesis, and a reason for doing the righting wrongs thing. However, with things both on Earth and personally looking bleak, a new life on a distant planet and a long journey in suspended animation beckons.

But once unthawed, there are still wrongs to be righted.

There are some nice touches in the story, with a strong focus on the superhero and his internal as well as external challenges.

Paul M. Berger. Subduction.

Subduction being the name for the process by which one tectonic plate slides under another, causing earthquakes. Berger creates an intriguing setting, as a man with a memory that only goes back a few days, finds himself drawn to one particular coastal community.

He is attenuated to the rumbling quakes deep beneath, but exactly how and why is only revealed at the end, as his own hidden depths are called into action to address the unusual challenge.

Annalee Flower Horne. Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned from The Trade Summit Incident.

Fans of stories about sassy teens will love this one, especially if you like your fiction to use stand-in swear words like puck instead of fuck, and ship instead of shit. The trade delegation would have gotten away with it if it hand’t been for the pesky kid!

David Erik Nelson. The Traveling Salesman Solution.

An anomalous result in a local marathon race causes an invalided ex-soldier to explore just how this one strange dude could manage such good times, especially one race in which he is wearing a variety of footwear and clothing at each photograph en route.

The light tone gets darker very suddenly, as the nature of the technological invention comes to light. If you’re not familiar with the travelling salesman problem it’s helpfully explained. As is the implications of having that processing power suddenly available, and the risks of that happening.

The story is a sort of complement to Nelson’s No Sound of Thunder from Asimovs June 2014, which was a most excellent time travelling tale.

Mind you, I’d have preferred a slightly more upbeat ending to this story!

Sandra McDonald. End of the World Community College.

A very black look at one community’s approach to resisting an apocalypse being brought about by a bewildering array of threats, and how a motley crew of teaching staff draw on hidden reserves to ensure their flock behave themselves.

The story takes the form of the college prospectus, and is a treat.

Cat Hellison. The Girls Who Go Below.

A story that starts out with the gentle feel of A Picnic at Hanging Rock, as two young sisters spend idyllic hours at a local lake. When a young boy appears, the young sister worries that he may drive a wedge between the two.

There are dark doings, but as by whom to whom, I will not divulge. But the lake isn’t the only one with deep, dark depths.

Sarina Dorie. The Day of the Nuptial Flight.

A story that starts out intriguingly, but gradually my suspension of disbelief failed.

Dorie tries a difficult thing : telling a story from an entirely alien viewpoint. Alien and insectoidal in fact. She makes life a little easier by starting ‘I will try to use the words a human might understand’, and then goes on to write the story in perfect human English.

The narrator is a hive-insect (human size), fluttering around his/her fields seeking a queen to impregnate. Unable to perform when require, s/he then finds what is of course a human being, and transfers his/her attention. The insect follows the human to its camp, and the story continues as we see it’s attempts to make sense of these strange visitors to its world.

Where the story makes a big leap is the point at which the alien insect begins to be able to speak basic English, which I found difficult to accept. The story has a challenging ending, as the human finally gives birth to a baby that lives, but…

Dinesh Rao. The Aerophone.

Aerophones being Aztec/Mayan flutes used in ancient ceremonies, and one academic finds himself exploring some very ancient and strange spaces through playing one.

A slightly detached, mannered (perhaps more formal English due to the author’s first language not being English?) style prevented me getting too engaged with a story that progressed steadily to a finish that was similarly not overly dramatic.

Ian Tregillis. Testimony of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events upon His Majesty’s Ship Confidence, 14-22 June, 1818 with Diagrams’

In which we are furnished with the verbatim testimony of one Samuel Frobisher regarding events he witnessed blah blah

If ‘ee likes piratical stories, or bemoan the dire nonsense of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, then this salty, spirity tale will please as it be writ with just the right tone for suchlike.

But no diagrams!!

Spencer Ellsworth. Five Tales of the Aqueduct.

Five mini-vignettes, spanning the millenia and the planets, all linked by the California aqueduct.

Haddadyr Copley-Woods. Belly.

If it’s Hallowe’en and you’re looking for a scary story of witchcraft to read to the children then for fuck’s sake don’t read them this as they’ll need counselling and you’ll have child protective services calling.

Copley-Woods looks inside (and I mean inside) the world of witchcraft in a quite chilling fashion… the protagonist ends up forever washing herself to get clean, and the more fragile amongst the readers may similarly find themselves needing to freshen up after reading it.

William Alexander. The Only Known Law.

A Golden Age of SF feel to a story of a half dozen pages, in which communication with an emissary from the alien planet below is finally established, only to find the message being delivered has big implications for humanity at large, and the human who has set foot on the planet.

Alaya Dawn Johnson. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i.

A strong story from Johnson, looking closely at relationships between humans and the vampires who have taken over the world. There’s a chilling setting – a blood facility, where the vampires keep humans, drawing blood from them on a regular basis.

The protagonist, Key, has backstory, as do the vampires in the story, and relationships going back many years are important to the story, as are decisions by different humans as to how they approach life with the vampires.

As ever, these double issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction offer extremely good value for money, especially with an issue that eschews bards, minstrels and other cod-fantasy tropiage

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