The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2013.

Stories by Alex Irvine, Matthew Hughes, Desmond Warzel, Judith Moffett, David Gerrold, Ken Liu, Dale Bailey, Albert E. Cowdrey, Robert Reed.

Alex Irvine. Watching the Cow.

Chris Piccinetti provides a wonderfully literal cover image to go with this story title. Fortunately the story doesn’t feature beachball-sized floating eyeballs staring at an unbothered bovine. The story looks at the impact that an accidental rewiring of the brains of children whilst playing a computer game has – they lose their sight (or in fact choose so to do) but they are able to communicate on a much broader scale.

It’s an interesting conceit but doesn’t go quite as far as I’d have liked. What with The Midwich Cuckoos and Childhood’s End published around half a century ago, and myself having read them about 30 years ago, I’d have liked just that little more from the story.

David Gerrold. Night Train to Paris.

A traveller on a night train hears a story, as one does in such stories, from a fellow passenger. Can the story be true. Nicely told, although the tribble with the story is that it’s a fairly well excavated piece of horror landscape, with little to be turned up through further excavation.

Ken Liu. A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel.

Liu moots an alternate 20th century with gargantuan engineering undertaking that links the continents. Charlie, a Formosan, has spent most of his life either working on the tunnel build, or subsequently living in one of the city waystations under the tunnel. Liu subtly explores some of the politics necessary for the build to happen, and the sacrifices made (some necessary and chosen, others less so).

Matthew Hughes. Devil or Angel.

An afterlife that features berobed angels, and devils in skintight red outfits with little horns, comes as a surprise to the protagonist, the more so when he finds himself finding himself in the queue for a red outfit.

Dale Bailey. This Is How You Disappear.

Deceptively disturbing story which starts with a bit of domestic disharmony, a touch of mild depression, and gradually slides into darker, albeit more transparent, territory.

Albert E. Cowdrey. A Haunting in Love City.

In which F&SF regulars Morrie and Jimmy carry out some spooky sleuthing in Texas.

Desmond Warzel. The Blue Celeb.

Two wisecracking Harlem barbers find a car left outside their barbershop is a most righteous automobile.

Robert Reed. Among Us.

A clever, understated story from Reed, that looks at those in our society who aren’t quite what they seem. The Neighbors are difficult to spot, and the agency charged with identifying and engaging with them will go to many lengths to engage with them. One investigator has some perceptions challenged in the case in hand. Just who is the alien amongst us? And who is to decide?

Judith Moffett. The Lights and Darks.

You would think that with a 12-week old cocker spaniel puppy sitting on a rug quietly at my feet as I write this I’d be as receptive as I would ever be to a story about dogs.

Nah.

A reporter is tasked to write a story about which he is less than happy with – communicating with domestic pets. He’s cynical at first, but by the end is just the opposite.

‘Nuff said. Move along now. I’m gonna read me some SF.

Conclusion

From bovine to canine, and issue that spans the genres.

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