Fiction Review -
by Steven Sawicki
To have your magazine or short fiction work mentioned here send a copy to Steve Sawicki, 2824 Furbeck Rd., Altamont, NY 12009. Everything received will be considered. Items not sent will not. Publications Index
In this Column: Greetings From Lake Wu / Fantasy and Science Fiction (March '04) / Challenging Destiny (Issue #17) / Nth Degree (Issue #8)
While I was at Arisia I ran into Frank Wu who thrust a copy of Greetings From Lake Wu into my hands after mumbling something about knowing I wrote reviews for someone. Frankly, I prefer the more anonymous method of having things come to me in the plain brown mailing envelope. Makes it easier to not review something that’s really bad or something that just doesn’t quite make it off the pile and into the hands. That’s not the case here although I admit to starting with some trepidation. Frank Wu is the artist who illustrated all of the stories written by Jay Lake. There are 13 stories here, 8 of which have seen publication in previous incarnations. My favorite story of the bunch, and this was a hard decision to make because the stories are so different in many ways, was “Eglantine’s Time.” This is a story about a special girl who’s about to be tested. If she’s found wanting, then death awaits her like it did all of her sisters. If she succeeds then she will be used by those who created her. But, as we have learned many times in the past, we do not always have total control over that which we create. I also liked G.O.D. which is about the search for God and how that search ends up. It’s a very short piece, made better by the length. I also enjoyed “The Trick Of Disaster” which is a story about clowns who come to town to harvest sinners. Lake did an good job weaving this story and keeping you guess about what was to happen next. All of the stories in this anthology are very well done and the illustrations which accompany each piece only add to the work. Nicely done. Definitely worth picking up a copy.
The March issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction leads off with an amusing Matthew Hughes novelette entitled “Mastermindless.” It’s about a detective who suddenly discovers that a certain segment of the male population, himself included, has been rendered ugly, stupid and near broke. He still manages to figure it out but in a truly atypical way. This is followed by Charles De Lint’s and Elizabeth Hand’s book review columns which precede Jim Young’s Novelette, “Ultraviolet Night.” This is a rather odd story about a future where things are going to hell and where employees are given drugs that restrict what they can do or say. It’s a weird future to say the least. “Many Voices” by M. Rickert follows. This horror-tinged fantasy skirts the path of mental illness and spirituality. I’m not sure if I made all the connections in this complicated piece. Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty provide the science column which is followed by Charles Coleman Finley’s short story, “Pervert.” This is set in some future or alternate world where sex is, well, different. Again, I may have missed some of the pieces as I ended the piece in a confused state. Alex Irvine’s novelette “A Peaceable Man” finishes the issue. This is one of those stories where the fantastic element is actually pretty minor. Actually there are a couple of them but they are somewhat tangential to the story. A nice read that wanders dangerously close to mainstream. The cover, an alien sunset (sunrise?) is by Ron Miller,
Issue #17 of Challenging Destiny is chock full of stuff. The lead off piece, once you get past the editorial, is Dark Thread by Mariss K. Lingen. This is a story about a blind performer who, in her spare time travels to another place, at least mentally. This space contains a tapestry where she is able to discern the life paths of others. I found the exercise a bit flat. This is redeemed by the story that follows; “Jack Be Nimble” by Fraser Sherman. Sherman provides us with a kind of fractured fairy tale landscape that is both amusing and poignant. James Schellenberg and David M. Switzer have an interview with novelist Scott Mackay. This is followed by a fascinating story written by William McIntosh. “Faller” is about a world where communities exist on floating islands. We don’t know this until the protagonist falls off his community only to land on another. He soon takes to this ‘falling’ and begins to jump more often. Good stuff. “Frank among the Franks” however, by Brian N. Pacula reads like some frat boy’s fantasy. This no gooder bumps into a deity who ends up giving him control over an enclave of Franks. These enclaves are meant to preserve extinguishing cultures. Of course the frat boy, assuming the role of god, grabs a cutie and mucks things up so quickly your head spins. James Schellenberg follows this with a lengthy review of time travel movies. This is followed by A. R. Morlan’s “Robin Williams, Speaking Spanish which I found to be a hodge podge of themes competing for space. It’s about social workers and idiot savants and space ships. I always struggle with stories where the idiots seem to know more about what’s going on than I do. I’ve liked other issues of this magazine much better.
I picked up the 8th issue of Nth Degree at Arisia. This free, convention issues zine has been pretty consistent in quality. This is great if the contents are high quality and bad if the contents are of the other variety. This issue contains an editors rant by Michael D. Pederson, convention reviews, book reviews, an interview with the editors of Mimosa, short stories by Matt McIrvin (Demons), Claudio Salvucci and Paolo Belzoni (The Annals Of Volusius, Part VI), Michail Belichansky (The Touch Of Hands Beyond The Maze) and James R. Stratton (Meat Bag). I have to admit to hoping that Salvucci and Belzoni are pseudonyms and that their work will be over soon as I really dislike it. There’s also poetry by Rochelle Mitchell, Monique Moate and Talisman. Finally, there are comics.