The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction January/February 2015


Matthew Hughes. Prisoner of Pandarius.

More adventures from the rogue Raffalon. I baled out of reading Terry Pratchett after four or five of the Discworld novels, so clearly I’m wired quite different to a lot of readers. I think it was ‘Hogfather’, which I found over-long and halfway through the story it took 100 pages to go nowhere, bringing the reader back to exactly where they were 100 pages previously, and the phrase ‘he would drink anything he could keep down two out of three times’ appeared twice in the same chapter.

Dale Bailey. Lightning Jack’s Last Ride.

The narrator of the story is looking back on the life and death of Lightning Jack, and their relationship. We find out in the opening paragraphs about the video footage of the crash in which Lightning Jack was killed, as the narrator, who goes way back with Jack, hints that whilst the footage may be fake, he knows that Jack is dead.

It’s a near-future in which the USA has gone to hell, with the states anything but united, as civil insurgency, triggered by an NRA terrorist attach, and climate change has put the lid on Lightning Jack’s career as a top NASCAR driver. Gus had the chops back in those days to get himself into Jack’s team, and ended up being lead mechanic, and when Jack comes a-calling, post-NASCAR, with plans to make money out of driving, and out of the oil convoys, he is up for it, and before long they’re rustling oil tankers, and have blood on their hands.

It’s a nicely-told story, feeling just like it’s being taken down verbatim from Gus (with the exception of the of ‘atop’ twice in a couple of paragraphs – I’ve asked once or twice before : do people in the States routinely use ‘atop’ in spoken conversation? We don’t here in the UK and for some reason the word is atop my list of words that irk me!)

Eleanor Arnason. Telling Stories to the Sky.

A young girl living in poverty in a walled city in the mountains finds that telling her stories to the wind leads her to a life beyond her dreams.

Naomi Kritzer. Jubilee : a Seastead Story.

Another in the series of stories featuring a young girl living offshore in a near-future US. Not engaging with a story about a teen girl (I never understood them when I was a teen boy, and at my current age best to stay well clear of them) having trouble with pater families, and mater absentia, I leaped overboard and swum for the Shore of New Stories a few stories back.

Eric Schwitzgabel. Out of the Jar.

Neat story from an author new to me. The protagonist is fed up with the contrariness of God, and so lays out a message in his back yard asking for a dialogue.

Spoilers Ahead!

He gets some answers, but it’s very much a case of be careful of what you ask for, as he finds out that he’s living in a sim of Earth, not the real one, and, worserer, it’s an illegal sim, and worserer still, the sim is being run by a fairly unpleasant youth by the name of Yahweh.

As the teen gets extra features for the sim, unleashing all manner of godlike, and ungodlike plagues on the sim, the protagonist has two options : Plan A – reason, Plan B – direct action. And when Plan A fails, it’s time to turn to Plan B

Nik Houser. History’s Best Places to Kiss.

Gentle romp through some time travelling tropes as a married couple decided to revisit their wedding day, and do much more than simply observe their younger selves.

Alan Baxter. The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner.

A piratical yarn for those of you for whom Pirates of the Caribbean #3 left you wanting more…

Gregor Hartmann. The Man from Planet X.

Gentle look a the risks of bluffing your way through immigration citing your creativity as your reason for entry. Especially when that creativity belongs to someone else.

Albert E. Cowdrey. Portrait of a Witch.

Strange goings on in the Caribbean, with photographs which seem to capture the soul of the subject. In fact, photographs which -do- capture the soul of the subject.

Francis Marion Soty. The Gazelle Who Begged For Her Life

Another retelling of a tale from the Arabian Nights.

Bud Webster. Farewell Blues.

Webster provides a story of dark goings on in the swampy bayous of Louisiana that could be been penned by Albert E. Cowdrey.

A band is playing a residency in a bar by the waterside, and the music gets the locals a-calling, and then some…


Bailey and Schwitzgabel the pick of the issue for me. It’s all good stuff, but with a couple of instalments of established stories, and other stories by regular writers, it’s all a bit ‘safe’ so perhaps a good time for the editorial reins to be handed over.

You can read what Colleen Chen made of the issue on TangentOnline here, and what Lois Tilton thought when reviewing it for Locus Online here (she recommends the Arnason story and like me skipped the Kritzer ‘Seastead’ story.

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