The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2004

Mark W. Tiedemann. Rain from Another Country.

Even after her death, Ann Myref is trying to seek closure on her broken relationship with Will. Travelling off-Earth, something she was simply too afraid to do whilst alive, is perversely less of a problem as she has arranged for a temporary upload of herself to travel to the planet Homestead. The host with whom the upload is travelling has her body morphed to mimic Ann, but she does not attempt to fool Will, merely to pass on Ann’s dying wishes. Will has to come to terms with Ann’s death and her desire to make amends, and to understand the reason for their splitting up.

Robert Reed. Designing with Souls.

The fad for TV programmes featuring DIY, and home makeovers is taken to the nth degree – the ‘must have’ features in homes in the near future are the spirits of the departed. Using some new tech and some old-fashioned ghost-hunting techniques, it is possible to have the souls of the dead adorning the most des of des res. The leading TV host finds herself up against a recently deceased grandmother, who proves very resourceful in the lengths she can go to making clear that using dead souls in this way is simply not on. Clever.

Bradley Denton. Sergeant Chip.

The view from the front-line – but with a difference. The correspondent is Chip, a dog in the K-9 corps, who tells how he and his master, Captain Dial, found themselves being used as pawns in a political game, deep in the jungle. Betrayed, and fired on by their own side, Chip has to drawn on his substantial resources. The story is told through his dictating his story to a refugee girl who he is helping. Denton handles the dog’s viewpoint probably as well as it can be done and the story has impact.

Matthew Hughes. Falberoth’s Ruin.

Further locquacious fun for those of you contributing to the ‘strong demand’ for stories featuring future detective Hengis Hapthorn. Here he (or rather this ‘integrator’) is able to solve a locked room mystery, in which a ruthless businessman gets his just desserts.

Alex Irvine. Peter Skilling.

Skilling meets with a fatal accident whilst in the mountains near home, and so should be grateful for being resurrected almost one hundred years later. However, the USA in which he awakes is not the one he left, for the War on Terror is continuing, and in a world in which Bush has been multiply re-elected, the small amount of dope he was found carrying is to be his downfall – a deliciously black downfall, for he is convicted as a terrorist murderer. (You’ll have to read the story to find out how this bizarrre turns of events comes to pass.)

J. Annie Macleod. Gasoline.

Young Jo finds a way out of her dull, Smallsville USA life, through a local character – a woman who can tap into some strange powers. Already struggling with changes in her body, she finds she can shapeshift, and in her wolven form she heads for the lights of the big city.

Richard Mueller. I Am the City.

Local journalist Dave McNary is given the opportunity to meet famous actor Jack Rackham. Except that there isn’t no Jack Rackham – just The Duke, aka Marduk, patron god of Babylon. The conflict in Iraq has woken some ancient forces back at home, and Dave is tasked with returning an ancient piece of jewelry to the city, giving him the chance to get the biggest story of all time. However, imprisoned by the CIA once in Iraq, his future is looking bleak. However, as the awakened godess begins to wreak her anger on Baghdad, the piece of jewelry brought by Dave enables Marduk to return to whence her. (vt whence – to send back from whence they came, created by me as an alternative to ‘kill’ when my eldest boy got into the computer game Heroquest at a very early age.)

Ah, if only the war in Iraq were that simple1

Conclusion

A good range of mostly strong material.

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