The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Sept/Oct 2013

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Hhasalin. Susan Palwick.

Palwick provides an alien perspective to human colonisation, through Llhosi, a protagonist with a somewhat unctious, Harry Potter Dobbie-esque, narrative style.

Llhosi has been adopted by Master and Mistress (or perhaps tones of the early Asimovs Robot stories?), from an orphanage. Llhosi’s race have the ability to shape matter, although her own abilities are much reduced due to ill health, and through her interactions with the family’s children, Llhosi finally finds out about her people, their long-gone civilisation, and the virus that has decimated her race.

Llhosi takes the closing revelation with equanimity, finding in the end that she does have the energy to shape something of which to be proud.

Robert Grossbach. myPhone20.

Grossbach spells out the dangers of increasing reliability on technology, and spending too much time staring at a small screen rather than engaging with others directly.

And in fact he spells it out just a bit too much, using the mechanism of an elderly man able to review the various iterations of the titular technology, and giving him the ageing obstinancy to eschew the technology, enabling him to be vindicated for his concerns.

Rachel Pollack. Queen of Eyes.

Further adventures of Jack Shade, who first appeared in Jack Shade and the Forest of Souls in F&SF last year, where I noted it was an effective urban fantasy/horror.

Here Jack is reluctant to take on a client until he finds out exackerly who her mother is.. although even stuck in a waiting room whilst getting new rear tyres for my car, this lengthy urban fantasy/horror didn’t grab me beyond the opening pages, which ended with “Holy Shit! Your mother is the Queen of Eyes!”, in terms of wanting to invest a fair amount of time in the story.

Mind you, there is an ur-Leprachaun in the rest of the story, which might be an sfnal first.

Oliver Buckram. Un Opera nello Spazio (A Space Opera).

Indeed, the story is just that, a plot summary of a three Act space opera opera. I’m thinking that someone should write the libretto properly, maybe as something like Britten’s ‘Billy Budd’, but for heaven’s sake not a D’Oyle Carte Gilbert and Sullivan ‘opera’.

Albert E. Cowdrey. The Collectors.

A monstrance of monstrous provenance proves too hot to handle for a southern neo-Nazi, who gets more than his fingers burned.

Eugene Mirabelli. The Shore at the Edge of the World.

A god makes a return to a small fishing village, in search of that one thing which even the immortal gods cannot have.

James Morrow. Affirmative Auction.

A story from Morrow which you may find funny if you embrace the concept of aliens visiting Earth and mistaking a slave auction in the early 19th century for a college enrollment that is taking place on the basis of colour and not merit, and mistaking chains and manacles for jewellery. Oh, and Africans just taken as slaves speaking in what passes for contemporary black street talk.

For my money the pun in the title isn’t enough to carry a whole story. Whilst for the opening paragraph or two it had a hint of the Douglas Adams about it, the rest of the story was quite broad humour, and you would need a lot more depth, biting satire, than the one example of that towards the end of the story – a reference to a race committing themselves to socialized medicine and the environment in contravention of the gospel : now that would be a story I’d like to read.

Daniel Marcus. After the Funeral.

A recently widowed woman, having lived in the shadow of her brilliant husband for many years, has trouble adjusting to the new situation, especially with an ex-colleague sniffing around. And especially with that colleague being an ‘accelerated Canid’ – to use the Brin term, and uplifted dog.

It’s a shorter story, and there are more questions raised than answered, especially for me, as there is way too little information about the dog, Professor Sam. He’s called Professor Sam not because that would be a cute name for a dog, but because he’s got academic tenure. He’s evidently got dog eyes (tiny bits of white to the side), and he’s evidently got a rough tongue. But we don’t know if he’s got a wet nose, or walks upright (probably, as there is mention of hands, rather than paws). And, evidently not neutered, as he’s go the hots for the widow (is that a pink lipstick in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?) which she initially rejects, but a midnight jilloff suggests not.

There’s an inconclusive ending to what is a bit of a frustrating read!

K.J. Kabza. The Game Room.

A group of young adults still living in the family home after their parents have died, find that the house AI begins to take liberties and oversteps its duties. Initially just the odd change, things start to get problematic when rooms, then whole floors start to appear and disappear, and new rooms appear in their place.

When new rooms start to appear with their displaced inhabitants, the group of siblings is finally broken asunder, as some disappear in rooms, and others take a decision to leave.

A parable on having to leave the past behind, and the re-uniting (albeit brief) with the long dead family pooch will have your eyes pooling with tears, or barfing. (We’ve had a dog for a year now, so I’m now in the former camp…)

Geoff Ryman. Rosary and Goldenstar.

Ryman provides a nice story based around a meeting between Elizabethan amateur astrologist Thomas Digges, friends of astronomy Tycho Brahe, including Messrs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and one young playwright William Shakespeare, who is sufficiently influenced by the meeting to change the setting of one of his plays.

Marc Laidlaw. Bemused.

Further adventures of the gargoyle Spar and the bard Gorlen. As I have a physician-certified allergy to fantasy stories featuring bards, it’s with a hey nonny-nonny that I make my way-o to the next story in the issue-o.

Rob Chilson. Half as Old as Time.

Chilson closes the issue with a story in his Prime Mondeign series of which I have no ken, but which the intro indicates that he sees Jack Vance as being an inspiration for. Here Wrann travels to a remote place, to The Last City, home of Crecelius, the Last Man.

Crecelius exudes ennui from every pore, gives Wrann the justice which he has travelled far to seek, sets him a task to slay a creature as penance, and indicates he himself is awaiting a noseless assailant.

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