The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2016


Marc Laidlaw. The Ghost Penny Post.

A ghost story set in England a century or so back, with the Royal Mail sending out an agent to discover just what exactly is happening to the deliveries in Binderwood. There are pale ghostly goings on, a spectral lady, and the vacant post of Ghostmaster General….

One for fans of Sherlock Holmesian writing. Mind you, how can an employee of the Royal Mail describe himself as ‘traveling’ rather than ‘travelling’…

Cat Rambo. Red in Tooth and Cog.

A spiritual successor to Terry Bisson’s ‘Bears Discover Fire’. In this short, a young woman finds that discarded domestic appliances with AIs are not going to await their fate once discarded, but are going to evolve to share the environment with us….

Nancy Kress. Belief.

A short look at scientific rigour – is having a rationalist approach to everything at risk of blocking out the possibility of something beyond what is scientifically observable and provable and replicable?

A mother struggled with a daughter who is seeking out something beyond, and a colleague who is grief stricken when rivals publish their results ahead of him. The daughter believes that she may have found something – a very personal feeling, that is in fact denied by others who she expects to support her. No resolution, just questions raised.

John P. Murphy. The Liar.

The editorial intro suggests that this is a story that you would get if one Garrison Keillor wrote a Stephen King story. Suffice to say, Keillor’s fame has not spread to the UK, so I’ll just content myself by suggesting that it is indeed quite like a Stephen King story, as I recall them from the 80s when he still wrote quite a few of them.

Curmudgeonly Greg lives alone in New Hampshire, and has a special hidden talent that he is called upon when a dark secret about the local community comes to light (there’s always a death in the town on November 5th…..). Greg investigates and has to use his way with words to convince the person responsible that the time has come for this annual event to stop.

Justin Barbeau. Nanabojou and the Race Question.

The old trickster Nanbojou returns to the pages of F&SF, and finds that the titular Race Question isn’t (sadly) anything more than a question of black and white…

Juliette Wade and Sheila Finch. The Language of the Silent.

Finch’s ‘Guild of Xenolinguist’ stories have been a feature in F&SF for almost a quarter of a century. It’s a few years last one appeared, which I haven’t felt as a loss as I never did engage with them, and had invoked my Perogative of Eschewment in terms of reading them. I could never engage with a conceit that with an unutterably alien alien, nuances of language would be a stumbling point, and felt most of the stories featured issues to be resolved that two humans with an otherwise shared experience but different languages, might come across.

Here Finch teams up with linguist Juliette, and the conceit of the story appears to be that the protagonist linguist loses her hearing in an accident, which of course makes the xenoliguistic process more problematic.

Chris DeVito. Diamond.

DeVito had a couple of strong stories published in F&SF a couple of years ago, to the extent that I asked (and got) his permission to post his story ‘Anise’ here on Best SF.

He returns with a four-pager, a baseball story (I reckon I know enough about baseball not to miss anything!) which revolves around the identity of the person making their first appearance for what presumably is a major league team. (The protagonist shares the same name as Jackie Robinson, who broke the race barrier in that sport).

And when the identity is revealed in the closing paragraph, and it is indeed a surprise, but perhaps not for the obvious reason (SPOILER : The protagonist is ‘simply’ a woman, rather than an alien, zombie, robot, or something similarly sfnal!)

N.J. Shrock. The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d.

A human science team have landed on Crucis-d and admire the titular silver strands, which put on an amazing show every morning and evening.

But the nature of the strands becomes an issue. Indeed, a very pressing issue for the humans…

Sarina Dorie. A Mother’s Arms

As with Dorie’s previous story in F&SF from this setting (Best SF Review), I once again struggled with the alien-point-of-view, with the narrative just not really convincing me I was seeing things through an alien POV, and once again, the ease with which alien language is picked up also stretching my suspension of disbelief.

James L. Cambias. Golden Gate Blues.

Tongue in cheek yarn about a world in which caped crusaders and Evil Scientists exist, and a detective has to find out who has killed a Giant Octopus and a Macro-Shark. You’ll be surprised to find out who the guilty culprit is. {Spoiler : you won’t if you paid attention to the story title}


Nothing in the issue really grabbed me. On LocusOnline Rich Horton picked out the Rambo and Murphy stories for praise here. All the stories are reviews by Jason McGregory on TangentOnline here.

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