The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 2007

David Marusek. Osama Phone Home.

Published earlier in MIT’s Technology Magazine, and it reads like a story that you would expect a high quality writer Marusek would provide that kind of magazine, as opposed to writing it as an F&SF story. It’s OK, but some what short of his best, which is a pretty high standard to match of course.

Here he posits an underground ndetwork of Americans who decide that rather than trusting in the Chief Dufus in the White House, to oppose the terrorist threat, they can put their technological expertise to challenge the war on trr. The title relates to a plan to set a truth virus loose in the mountains in which Bin Laden is hiding, with a plan to monitor his cell phone when the urge to confess his sins becomes to much bear. However, the plan does not work.

It’s not a great story, and rather falls on the misapprehension, in many post 911 stories, that because they are seen as ‘terrorists’, that those people ergo are doing wrong, and will feel guilt at what they are doing, and will see the error of their ways, and ‘fess up.

Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert. Stray.

Subtle story in which we follow an immortal, no less than a prince of the immortals, who fetches up in midwest America in the depression. He is taken in by the daughter of a black doctor, who at first thinks he is white. There is little detail of the past that he has left, or how he has arrived, and it is more a story of integration and becoming part of a community. Ivan marries her, and there are subtle lines to be trod, and relationships and acquaintances to be established, and he finally has to decide whether to eschew his powers and fully integrate into this life.

Frederic S. Durbin. The Bone Man.

A chilling horror story – a very mean dude, hired killer, is heading back home after successfully completing his latest job. He takes a back route home, and finds himself driving through a small, anonymous, town with no name kind of place. He himself prides himself on his chamelion like skills, going unnoticed, but this town has this in spades. We follow him, supremely assured at the beginning, as the secret of this small town, their Halloween Carnival, and the titular Bone Man, begin to gnaw at him.

He has arrived on the day of the Halloween Carnival, and finds himself intrigued at first by the suggestion of a visit from a capering skeleton, but as the evidence mounts that perhaps this in more than just a local tale to gather tourists, he becomes drawn like a moth to a light. And, true enough, his confrontation with The Bone Man is a chilling one, and you just know what is going to happen once he has used his heavy duty handgun on the skeleton. Because the town needs its Bone Man.

M. Rickert. Don’t Ask.

On the face of it a fantasy story about the loss of the nice young boys in a village, who come back as lupine young men. Its an allegory though, as the parents mourn the loss of the sweet young children, as they change to hairy-arsed, uncommunicative teenagers. Tell me about it!

S.L. Gilbow. Who Brought Tulips to the Moon?

The second story of Gilbow’s in F&SF. A clever one in which the downside of healthy longevity is explored. Mr Hudson is in his nineties, fit and healthy, which is good news, but perceived as a burden by his daughter (although not by his son-in-law). Society has come up with a solution to the growing numbers of elders – a one way trip to the Moon, and a peaceful passing arranged by Smooth Passing Inc.

As the story unfolds we find out what is planned for Mr Hudson, and his resigned acceptance, and his daughter’s enthusiasm to see the back of him. But the forms have been filled in – the son in law took the lead on this, and Mr Hudson has a final night in a virtual pub with a fellow nonogenarian who is heading for an urn in the morning.

Rather delightfully, we follow Mr Hudson through his last night, and his hangover in the morning. The waking in the morning was not in the contract, but as he struggles to the chapel of rememberance where he was to have been incarcerated, we find out that the contract has been fulfilled, but that the name on the contract, as completed by the son in law, was not that of Mr Hudson but his daughter.

David Moles. Finisterra.

A cracking piece of visualisation – a gas giant, but with a breathable atmostphere, high in which fly large, gas-filled creatures which join together to form huge floating islands. The story sees a young woman, struggling in a society which appears set against her, to support herself. She uses her skills and knowledge of aircraft manufacturing, built on those of the family business, to head to the planet Sky.

It transpires, however, that the job she has taken on is far from what she expected, and she is working for a group of men who are happy to kill to ensure that they plunder the riches from the bodies of the creatures that make up the floating islands. She has to find a way to save her own life, and also the many hundreds of thousands of people eking out a living on these islands, who those she is working for are putting in mortal risk.

The setting is a doozy, but the story doesn’t quite match the same standard.

Conclusion.

A nicely balanced issue, without a fantasy codpiece in sight. Nice front cover by a pair of Ench’s to illustrate Finisterra, but I felt honour bound to mention to my wife, who looked at the back cover advert for a novel, that the content of the issue wasn’t along the lines of ‘Drizzt is Willing to Let the Orcs Begin a New Chapter’.

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