The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2015


Lisa Mason. Teardrop.

A neat story from Mason, almost a quarter of a century since her last story in this magazine.

The story follows NaniNini, living on a planet which us humans have discovered, and you can guess that this is not necessarily good news for the indigenes. She is quite content in having a relationship with one of those humans, but he isn’t typical of his species, and when others turn up with an altogether more business-like attitude to her planet and it’s resources, conflict ensues.

Mason creates a believable setting, and a believable protagonist who isn’t just a human with different skin tone/pointy ears and so forth, and it’s an altogether good read.

Albert E. Cowdrey. The Laminated Man.

There’s some strange evidence unearthed in a strange death in town, as something that isn’t DNA is found. Cairns, semi-retired government employee, heads out to track down just what has been happening. Out in the snowy woods he finds out just what has been happening. But he ends up back at his boss’s desk filing his report, smiling. So nothing to worry about…

Another classy story from the pen (or presumably the keyboard) of Albert E. Cowdrey, whose stories engage you quickly and keep you engaged throughout, which is not as simple as it sounds!

Sarah Pinsker. Today’s Smarthouse in Love.

A tale of unrequited love, with protestations of love falling on deaf ears. There’s a clue in the title of the story, and it transpires that that the messages of love, rather than falling on deaf ears, have been wasted on one unable to make sense, or indeed receive them!

David Gerrold. Entanglements.

A standout story from Gerrold. It’s introduced as being by way of a ‘thematic sequel’ to his multi award winning story ‘The Martian Child’ from 20 years ago.

A quick check on wikipedia, and pulling of my copy of Nebula Award Stories 30 from the shelf, and a skim read of that story gave me the backdrop. That was an intensely personal story, based on his experience as a single adoptive father. And this goes even further, using an sfnal device to consider paths taken and not taken. Gerrold puts forward (unless he has made a lot of it up, like as in fiction) a lot of detail about himself, with some neat references for the SF fan, the IT buff, and so forth, as he explores a multitude of what-might-have-beens, and how his stubborness has brought him to the path he has chosen, and where happiness lies.

This -should- be an award winner as well (obviously there are stories to be written detailing the path to where we are with SFF awards nowadays), and it will appear in a year’s best anthology or two, otherwise TANJ. Well, if nothing else it is on the shortlist for The Best SF Short Story Award 2015. BTW I have a soft spot for Gerrold, due to the Star Trek episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’, or, more specifically, the non fiction book he wrote about the episode, which I bought in the mid 1970s, and is part of my collection of about 175 SF books I bought pre-university, which sit as a discrete mini collection in the house. They sit on a shelf above the TV in the living room in fact, a strong physical link to those carfree days of teenagehood (books, unlike parents, don’t die on you).

Caroline M. Yoachim. Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind.

A shorter piece in four sections (the seasons) in which Yoachim provides us with an intriguing view of humanity coming into contact with alien life forms on a planet they have landed.

The aliens are visitors to that planet, and through the eyes of one human, we gradually find out exactly what the nature of the contact has been, and what that means for humanity. Clever idea, well handled.

James Sarafin. Trapping the Pleistocene.

A hunter/trapper who has opted out of the hi-tech near-future ‘civilisation’ to live in an untouched enclave, gets a call from the government to go back in their time machine to rescue his friend who has gone missing, having been sent back to capture some DNA from a giant beaver.

The time travel gives him time to reflect further on the loss of his daughter ten years ago.

Not a story that really engaged me, with the hi-tech/refusenik aspect a bit obvious, and the time travel element was taken almost as much for granted as if would be a long bus journey, and generally felt like a couple of ideas put together that might usefully have been covered in separate stories.

Robert Grossbach. Entrepreneurs.

I started off really liking this story, the kind F&SF does well (or, rather, one of the many kinds it does well).

It starts off in the 1950s, introducing us to young Morty, an eleven-year old science nerd, fiddling with the crystal set he has just made. For younger readers, that’s an old fashioned radio. For even younger readers, a radio is like YouTube but without picture.

He gets an interesting message from the crystal set, but isn’t able to grasp fully from whom it is (extraterrestrial!) and take up the business opportunity. The stories takes him through his childhood, and youth and sets up a nice xeno-entrepreneurial story. The main problem is that, for my money, in the nicest possible way, the story goes on too long – there’s over sixty pages of it. It’s nicely written, and charming, but it’s like having a nice friend staying way later on an evening visit than you want them to stay, and you’re thinking ‘dude, don’t you have to get up in the morning?’…

Maybe a shorter version, or maybe set up in two installments might have been a better idea?

Amy Sterling Casel.

The protagonist finds that the time machine he is able to make on his 3D printer, based on some design outputs from theoretical quantum cleverness from his tenure-seeking brainiac wife, enables him to a) cheat even more on her and have lots more sex with his hottie girlfriend b) help his wife put in the hours to get tenure and as a consequence c) get his wife to forgive him for a).

I think that in mathematical terms Casel is postulating a-b=c. I’m not being much of a mathematician, but that might makes it a zero-sum equation. My argument with the story having a happy ending is that this a good output for him, but not really one he deserves as he is such a bell-end (US: douchebag). I’d have much preferred to have seen him get some just desserts!

Rob Chilson. A Turkey with Egg on His Face.

A second story to close the issue in which a time travel device is used in the quest for lurve.

Out in the boondocks, Georgie Plunkett finds him plans to woo spinster Chloe are likely to be spoiled by his ‘best friend’ Harry Markeson. Markeson is a particularly unlikeable guy, loud and aware of little except himself, and Georgie has to pull out the stops to ensure it himself, mild-mannered court clerk, who gets the gal.

He has some tricks up his sleeve, and as the title suggests, someone does end up with egg on his face. And how

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