Robert Reed. Reunion.
F&SF regular Reed hit top form with the previous issue’s ‘Five Thrillers’, but in contrast this is a much lower key affair. A young woman attends a school reunion with a difference : the class in question has furnished a dozen high-achievers – extremely high achievers. What is the reason behind this? The group are sufficiently high-profile to attract the media, and there are many who ponder what might be behind the huge odds against such success in such a small group of people. However, the protagonist has a more personal reason for her interest in the group, as is revealed at the end. The protagonist, the daughter of one of the group who died before achieving the goals he had set with his fellow students (or, perhaps, in dying, achieved the goals) gets some resolution in her quest, and also gets the girl in the end.
S.L.Gilbow. Rebecca’s Locket.
A story with a slightly retro-feel, as the central conceit feels like one from the 50s, and overtaken by several new tropes in the area it covers : the locket in question contains an electronic version of her recently departed husband. Recently departed in terms of the mortal coil, but he is as a millstone around her neck, constantly chatting to her. In the end she decides enough is enough, and it’s the bin for him.
Rachel Pollack. Immortal Snake.
This goes back even further than Gilbow’s : it is inspired, it appears, by a very old tale from the Darfur region in Africa, in which a storyteller becomes king, only to find himself subsequently overthrown. From my skimming the story reads as a traditional tale, with the bit of magicke in it presumably enabling it to be categorised as fantasy.
Alex Jeffers. Firooz and His Brother.
The sands of the Middle East are the setting for a story featuring a young child, being protected by a dog, who is found in the wilderness. As with the Pollack story, a historical tale of the type doubtless still told around desert campfires, as it could have been for centuries.
Albert E. Cowdrey. Thrilling Wonder Stories.
F&SF regular Cowdrey finds something very unpleasant in the dark waterways of the city – as a young boy finds that a deep, dark pool does indeed contain the fearsome fish of local legend. Just how fearsome he finds out, at the cost of his best friends, who provides a snack for the creature, and an object lesson for him in dealing with those awkward people in this life
M. Rickert. Traitor.
F&SF regular Rickert provides a dark, disturbing tale of a young girl brought up by a mother who is willing to pay a high and personal price for her beliefs. Young Alika follows the path mapped out for her by her mother, who does show some emotion when higher powers indicate the time is right for Alika to make her (unknowing) sacrifice. However, young Alika is a survivor, as the mother finds out to her cost as the clock ticks down to zero.
George Tucker. Circle.
As residential developments concrete over traditional native American burial grounds, the displeasure of those interred therein is instigated, and a young worker finds himself with an opportunity to call upon his forebears to protect their interests but also to carve out some employment issues for himself.
Rickert the pick of the bunch for me, in providing a darker, more contemporary story than is oft the case for F&SF – more the kind of story you get nowawadys in Interzone. The other fayre is traditional F&SF – well written, but slightly safer that the Rickert story.