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: The Third Alternative, NFG, Fantasy and Science Fiction (June 04)
I have the brand new issue of The Third Alternative in front of me right now. This British, oversized magazine almost always produces some quality fiction that is both unusual and though provoking. This issue contains “Iridescence” a story by Jay Caselberg which is written in that style where not a great deal is explained to the reader. Tricky stuff this for if the prose is not up to it the reader will decide it’s too much effort. I liked it and while part of me bristles at endings which can be interpreted in a number of ways it did all fit together. Joe Hill’s “You Will Hear the Locust Sing” comes next. This is a story about a young man who wakes one day to discover he’s a locust. Ignore the obvious reference, this story is more entertaining. “Mission Memory” by Karen D. Fishler is a nifty little story about future combat and how the soldiers are both trained and debriefed. She did a great job presenting what could have been pretty complex stuff. Gavin Grant’s “Rhythms and Complications” is a post-apocalyptic tale about some people who’ve survived in Oregon. Using characters who aren’t major players but victims changes the focus on these stories and Gavin does an excellent job of moving his characters in ways that don’t require the macro-explanations. “Terrible Ones” by Tim Pratt was a story that grew on me. It’s an interesting story about the shift from the old gods to the new gods but set in a gritty urban and modern environment. I loved the characters and the way Pratt played out the story. “Relics” by Tim Lees is about a man who’s caught up in a culture foreign to him and about how he eventually ends up dealing with it and what he learns in the process. More complex than that actually but entertaining as well.
I’ve just seen my first issue of NFG. The one I have is Issue 4, volume 2. “Lost Fish” by Jonathan Redhorse is the first piece in the mag. It’s a story which exactly fits the title, about a guy who returns home to find his fish have left. Interesting in an odd kind of way. It was short which worked to the story’s benefit. “Call My Wife” by Tony Moore is the next piece and it’s about a guy who has relationship problems. Not much else happens. I have friends who lead more interesting lives. James Simpson comes next with his poem “Dr. Aufustus Waller and Jimmie” which is about a bulldog and a guy and that’s pretty much it. But then, poetry often escapes me. Cynthia Gould gives us “Seven Haiku from Ohio.” I never knew Ohio to be so philosophically funny. Kaolin Fire’s poem, “Killer Boredom Butterfly (Psychedelic), is about, well, I’m not sure what it’s about but it does rhyme. “The Last Days of Kali Yuga” by Paul Haines is about two guys traveling through Nepal and the experiences they have there. This story is also written in the style which gives you little information about what’s going on and a lot of going on. Not my favorite kind of reading. Perhaps the best feature of the entire magazine is the contest section where they challenged writers to produce short stories which were no longer nor shorter than 69 words. I don’t see whether the title is included in this or not and I’m too lazy to count myself but the stories are just great. Even if they aren’t pretty much anyone can suffer through 69 words. Then it’s on to the next one. But these are very good. Bruce Holland Rogers gives us “A Baker’s Dozen” about a guy who walks into a bakery only to be offered a chance to change places with the baker. He does so, sells some rolls and then goes home. There’s more but it’s obvious that my taste and the magazines diverge quite a bit. The mag reminds me much of the academic press. Lot’s of writing for writings sake and little for the reader, although that 69 contest was pretty darn good.
The June issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction contains 7 stories, the first being “A Little Learning” by Matthew Hughes. This is a reprint from the “Fantasy Readers Wanted—apply Within” anthology published last year. It’s the story of a young man who’s taking the final test to become a traveler of the noosphere. During his test he gets ambushed by another testee and thrust into unfamiliar situations which eventually shake up everything. An interesting story told well. “Zero’s Twin” by A. A. Attanasio is about a guy who meets this girl from the future and she falls crazy in love with him but either physics or something supernatural gets in the way, it’s hard to tell. “Faces” by Joe Haldeman is one of those stories where the neat idea is important and the story is built to show the idea. Unless the idea is a wiz-banger these work only on the weakest levels. Let’s just say that the important point here is not the idea but that it came from Joe Haldeman. “The Zombie Prince” by Kit Reed is an interesting take on zombies but I found the story itself to be too slow for me. Remember, the story is about zombies not being read by a zombie. And like a zombie it ultimately goes nowhere. Arthru Porges presents us with “By The Light of Day” which is about power, how power corrupts and how power changes hands. All this in two pages. What can you say, Porges knows how to write. I’ve always known that Ray Vukevich saw things a bit differently than the rest of us and “By the Light of Day” surely proves it. This is a story about a guy who’s caught in the alternative world stream, unknowing, unable to change, unable to grasp what’s happening to him. It’s amusing too. “After the Gaud Chrysalis” by Charles Coleman Finlay is a fantasy or a dark fantasy or just a quest depending on how you interpret these things. The characters were interesting although the story itself remained a bit too off center and vague to be captivating. I really wanted to like this novelet more than I did.
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. Everything not sent will not be considered.