The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2015

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Nick Wolven. We’re So Very Sorry For Your Recent Tragic Loss.

A cautionary, near-future tale from Wolven. In an interconnected world, with an Internet of Things, and with personalisation embedded throughout, having your pillow wake you up in the morning, offering words of condolence on your recent tragic loss, is something that can happen.

It happens to Meg, but the big problem she faces is that she hasn’t suffered any loss. But her friends, and her mom have all been alerted (and she has problems with her friends, her boyfriend, and her mom). And her work has been alerted (except that it’s ‘work’ in that she works as an intern – a role she has had for almost 5 years).

And the messages of sympathy keep on coming, as her tragic losses keep on coming, although she remains at a loss as to what on earth is happening, and has her mom, her boyfriend, her friend, and her boss to deal with.

A clever story with neat touches throughout.

Marissa Lingen. Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water.

Plague has devastated their world, and two sisters are barricaded at home, their only contact with the outside world being letters and food parcels from the masked postman, and conversations through the high garden fence with their next door neighbours.

There’s magic in their world, and that may be a cause of the plague, and it may be the cure for the plague. One sister is studying magic, but far more experienced magicians have failed in finding a solution. And all she has are the stamps that she has taken to collection.

A story in ten stanzas, each describing a stamp. It turns out that the stamps may just have a role to play…

Paolo Bacigalupi. A Hot Day’s Night.

Nice to have a story form Bacigalupi – oh for the days when stories from him were much more common occurrences – albeit a short and fairly straightforward one.

Here he provides a glimpse into the near-future world of a drought-ridden US southwest, as a journalist accompanies a professional scavenger on a 100degree nightime excursion to remove solar panels from abandoned houses, whilst dodging security patrols.

Albert E. Cowdrey. The Lord of Ragnarok.

Lengthy fantasy novella from Cowdrey, a dark, warts and all exploration of how a young boy of low birth became Sir Richard de Coudray (a battlefield and service ennoblement) and his life in court, and what lies in The Hidden Isles (the Master of Tides).

Bo Balder. A House of Her Own.

The first story I’ve read by Balder, and on this form I’m guessing it won’t be the last.

Eleven-year old Aoife is the protagonist, whose mama is about to give birth in her house. All straightforward you might think, but the house is intelligent, and, in fact, organic, and, we soon find out, alien. Aoife finds her own little seedling house in the forest and takes it as hers, as every young girl needs to find and nuture a hice in order to live in when an adult.

Men are notably absent, and exactly what is happening becomes clear when strangers, in spacesuits arrive in their midst. The shortish length of the story means that a lot is explained quite quickly – I would have welcomed a few more pages to the story to stretch this element out further.

The explanation : the woman are part of a human settlement that long ago lost links with the rest of humanity, and has developed a symbiotic relationship with the indigenous race (with little need for men). The spacesuited humans arrive with the best of intentions, but….

Well written by Balder, showing some interesting ideas as well as characterisation and plot handling.

Dennis Etchison. Don’t Move.

Somewhat opaque/obtuse short story featuring a young man stepping off a bus and entering a motel. He has baggage to carry, and not the sort you pack in a suitcase.

Exactly what and why is going on isn’t clear. This works sometimes, sometimes not. I’m on the ‘not’ side of the fence with this one.

David Gerrold. Monsieur.

A clever, entertaining look at the nature of the vampire myth, and how fiction addresses that myth, through a neat plot device.

Elizabeth Bear. The Bone War.

A story featuring Bijou the Artificier, who, the introduction tells us, has appeared in a couple of Bear novels.

Here her ability to animate skeletons is called upon by academia, who have a dinosaur fossil. A complete one. A very, very big one.

There are academic differences of opinion over exactly how the bones fit together, and how the beast would have lived and walked when alive. How can she resolve the differences? She will need to be light on her feet.

Ron Goulart. The Adventure of the Clockwork Men

Further adventures of supernatural Victorian sleuth Harry Challenge.

Richard Bowes. Rascal Saturday

Part of, the editorial intro informs us, of Bowes’ ‘The Big Arena’ story series, started with a Nebula nominee novelette from 2014. I’ll have a read of that and any other predecessor stories before reading this.

Conclusion

Some excellent stories within – a strong issue.

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