Fantasy & Science Fiction

July 2006

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 111, No. 1
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

A rather average issue overall, with some solid entries from several repeat writers and two decent book review columns. Special notice is due to Kathi Maoi's overview of nanny-related movies and TV shows, which I quite liked. I'd like to see more overviews like that rather than reviews of single movies.

"Kansas, She Says, Is the Name of the Star" by R. Garcia y Robertson: This neatly constructed bit of allusion-filled space opera is the best story of the issue. A girl escaping an arranged marriage of a very misogynistic society discovers, with the help of a tin man (robot) and a cowardly (or at least self-interested) lion that she's not on the sort of world she thought she was at all. A nice bit of slow reinterpretation and reorientation, and I quite liked the play with Wizard of Oz references. (7)

"Holding Pattern" by Steven Popkes: An interesting conceptual piece exploring the idea of a deposed third-world dictator hiding himself by creating multiple copies of his personality, only one (or none?) of which is truly him. I could see someone playing this sort of game with Western justice systems, were the technology possible, and it's a neat bit of psychology. (7)

"Billy and the Unicorn" by Terry Bisson: Another of Bisson's very short demented fairy tales told about a completely amoral child and rather adult fantasy creatures. I think the unicorn is my favorite so far; the idea of a unicorn fascinated by Playboy cracks me up. As with the other stories, sometimes the humor works and sometimes it falls flat, but good for a chuckle or two. (6)

"The Meaning of Luff" by Matthew Hughes: Hughes moves away from his standard heroes, although not his setting, and tells a different story about the penultimate age of Old Earth. This time, a gangster learns of a device that will tell the user the purpose of another being's life. It's a fairly typical story about a magical device that has far more drawbacks than it might initially appear and is better left alone, but Hughes's dry, witty style makes it enjoyable. (6)

"The Lineaments of Gratified Desire" by Ysabeau S. Wilce: I have to give Wilce credit: there's style here in abundance. "His lover is shouting upwards at him, words that Hardhands can hardly hea, words he hopes he can hardly hear, words he surely did not hear a-right." The story is full of this sort of language, riddled with alliteration and parallelism, made-up words for style and a keen disregard for the constraints of grammar when they get in the way of the rhythm of a sentence. The story, that of a combination demon summoner and rock singer (demons make the best drummers, apparently) tracking down a spoiled child who is wandering the streets on the most magical night of the year, is full of children's monsters twisted adult and dangerous bargains and chases in surrealistic worlds. I never particularly cared about the characters (although I did like Pig) and the style was a bit much for me, but I think the story accomplished what it set out to do and I expect some readers will quite like it. (5)

"Republic" by Robert Onopa: This is a first contact story that never clicked for me. There's the standard confusion, difficulties in communication, something going horribly awry, and tragic consequences, but I never mustered much ability to care. The first contact story is so shop-worn at this point that I just don't find it interesting unless the execution is notable or it brings some new twist, and I don't think this story did either. (4)

"Memory of a Thing That Never Was" by Jerry Seeger: I liked this story, even though the ending didn't make sense. It's a Cold War spy story, a story about detente and the ending of the game, except that the two sides aren't Russians and Americans and the SF twist gives the game an entirely different perspective. Structurally, it uses short sections that entwine two different narrative streams in a way that worked for me. I didn't buy the concluding revelation and didn't catch on to where the author was implying the story would go, but I liked the world-building and the conversation. (7)

"Just Do It" by Heather Lindsley: Lindsley picks up the already disturbing concept of chemical marketing, advertising that makes a product near-irresistable, and then gives it an even nastier twist towards behavior control as part of a strange political struggle and love affair. The tone is light and playful, but the thematic material is darkly satirical and disturbing in its implications; the contrast makes the point better than a more didactic treatment. The story made me angry more than entertained me, but the game it plays is well done. (6)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-10-19

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