Fantasy & Science Fiction

September 2005

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 109, No. 3
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

I'm afraid Charles de Lint's book review column this month is again not particularly interesting, but Robert K.J. Killheffer does a fantastic job and more than makes up for it. It's an excellent survey of a wide variety of recent work in the field, presented in the interesting context of the more imaginative nature of some of what's being done in Britain.

Kathy Miao's review of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was also well done. The other columns: eh. Unfortunately, the stories were also eh, even "Magic for Beginners" by Kelly Link.

"A Quantum Bit Exists in Two States Simultaneously: On" by David Gerrold: This is one of those stories that isn't really a story, just a thought exercise. I was somewhat intrigued through part of it; the play on religion wasn't saying anything horribly new, but the dialog format kept the scene interesting. Then it just became stupid. I won't go into the long rant about glorification of begging as a way of dodging middle-class guilt, since this short story and throw-away idea doesn't really deserve the full treatment. Suffice it to say that it ruined the idea exploration for me. (3)

"Age of Miracles" by Richard Mueller: An unobjectionable but not particularly deep story about computers developed under the magical mindset and church-dominated world of medieval Catholic Europe (or at least our modern perception of it, which I expect isn't that close to reality). Not much of a point beyond exploring the possibilities of a different mindset. (5)

"Magic for Beginners" by Kelly Link: Well, that was frustrating. Link completely had me with this story. I cared about the youngsters who built a friendship around a prirate TV show. I was fascinated by the TV show, a wonderful blend of some of the best elements of anime shows, BBC SF programs, and Saturday morning cartoons that I remember from childhood, the ones with an ongoing story and happenings that are far more interesting than cute animals. I wanted to know what happened to Fox. I didn't even mind the adolescent bumbling around love. And then, after all that setup, nothing happened. Er. What the hell? That wasn't the ending I wanted! Where's the rest of the story? (6)

"I Didn't Know What Time It Was" by Carter Scholz: An interesting take on time travel, belief, and what people really want out of the past. I have a feeling that I missed a lot of this one by knowing nothing about jazz, but it has an interesting sting. (6)

"What I Owe to Rick" by Arthur Porges: I really don't understand what the point of that was, but then I've never been much of an Arthur Porges short-short fan. It felt like a random two pages out of the middle of a story. (4)

"The Housewarming" by Albert E. Cowdrey: This is another of Cowdrey's New Orleans stories, although this one was better than most. It's a nice ghost story with a good sense of atmosphere, although I never cared much about any character other than the viewpoint one. The best part was the description of the setting; I felt I could really picture it. (6)

"The Denial" by Bruce Sterling: This started as a ghost story as well, with a rather dim protagonist and a lot of very bad spiritual advice, but it has a cute twist ending, an amusing marital squabble, and a nice bit of perceptual relativism. Mostly fluff, but enjoyable. (6)

"A Quantum Bit Exists in Two States Simultaneously: Off" by David Gerrold: Okay, this partly makes up for the earlier story. This one really did work for me, being a thought experiment about how one would go about altering history in a morally neutral fashion. Other than very similar settings and characters, I never did get the link to the other similarly-named story. My guess is that there's supposed to be a thematic link, but it escaped me. That's probably a good thing, as it let this story rise far above its twin. (7)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-01-12

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