The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2013

fsf130506Excellent cover by Kristin Kest.

Robert Reed. Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much.

A clever take on human’s uploading to a virtual state, leaving their physical bodies behind – not always easy as it’s been done often enough before. What Reed does is embed the conceit in a story with strong family relationship issues, a bit of drama, and a more indepth look at one aspect : those uploading being able to work at overclock virtual speeds. So, whilst they experience far more years than they would have had without uploading, it’s only a matter of days for in real time.

Angelica Gorodischer. By the Light of the Electronic Moon.

Translated by Amalia Gladhart, a story from way back in 1979, which is now part of ‘fix-up’ novel ‘Trafalgar’. Good to see a non-English story, but the main character Trafalgar does come across a tad Austin Powers in terms of his attitudes, and the story does itself feel like something from some decades ago.

Rand B. Lee. Changes.

I’m somewhat perplexed to find that I haven’t reviewed this story – it must be a good two months since I read it.

A quick skim through reminds me that I liked the story a lot. It’s a post-apocaplyptic story, albeit with an apocalypse somewhat different to the norm, and Whitsun is a man who can make his way through the devastation of ‘The Great Probability Storm’. The world is stricken by sudden changes to slices of land – replaced by ‘slices of past, future, or alternative presents’. Some of those slices are dark, unpleasant place.

With only his burro as companion, he’s a form of Don Quixote, and he finds himself with some very strange canine companions, only to willing to talk to him about their woes and to work with him to face a chilling challenge.

It’s inventive, and a setting I’d like to see more of.

Albert E. Cowdrey. The Woman in the Moon.

Lengthy ruminations from Professor Threefoot.

Andy Stewart. Wormwood is Also a Star

Engrossing thriller – set in the Ukraine, with internal politics playing a major role against a strange setting in which Chernobyl led to several children having developed strange powers.

Alexandra Duncan. Directions for Crossing the Troll Bridge.

There are five Top Tips.

Dale Bailey. The Bluehole.

An evocative piece of horror, taking the reader to the early 1980s, and a hot summer, with two teenagers with time to spend in getting into trouble – albeit with a soundtrack just a bit different to the American norm (The Undertones, The Jam, and, praise be The Slits).

The protagonist is looking back on those years, some 30 years hence, and you know there’s not going to be a happy ending – and it takes a little while to find out what the Bluehole is…

Paul Di Filippo. The Mood Room.

Only a few pages long, but PDF crams in a lot, as is his wont, in a neat treat of a story. There’s no narrative, it’s by way of a rambling response to a request for information to someone who has played a key role in the development of the technology that enables immersive AI – the ‘mood room’ of the title.

Looking back at one particular incident, Di Filippo takes technology just one step beyond, in his own inimitable style.

Joe Haldeman. Doing Emily.

English Lit professors are able to enter immersive VR, the better to study famous authors. Here Haldeman (or the academic who is the author’s avatar) takes liberties with Emily Dickinson

Ted White. Systems of Romance.

A palpable sense of ennui in a story about a 200+ year old musician, whose early successes gave him the financial wherewithal to be one of the elite who has virtual immortality. A much younger woman becomes one of his many conquests, but the relationship ends in tears (and an enormous meteorite strike turns up at the end to prevent any reconciliation).

Some interesting themes in there, but my major reaction to the story was the rape at the end – “..I sexually assaulted her. I ignored her signals, her responses. I treated her with absolutely no consideration. I did as I wished with her. I unleashed all my inner selfishness. It no longer mattered to me what she thought of me”. I’ve no objection to this preceding text, as it exemplifies the chauvinistic, arrogant nature of the protagonist. But having finished with her, spent himself, he collapses on her and ‘I felt the tremors of orgasm going through her’. Really? Is that how it works, sexually assault and treat a woman in this way, and she has an orgasm??

Bruce McAllister. Canticle of the Beasts.

In ‘Blue Fire’ (F&SF Mar/Apr 2012) an ageing pontiff defended the Vatican against a vampiric attack. Here, a child pontiff, with another child with another destiny, and one who can see some of the future, take the story forward.


Ridiculously good vale for money!

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