Short Fiction Column by Sam Tomaino
(SFRevu 12/15/04 / ) - This month, I correct an oversight from previous months and review a lot of great stories from www.scifi.com! John Grant & Suzette Haden Elgin have especially good stories. I also review stories from Interzone (Nov-Dec 2004) for the first time. Of course there are the usual reviews from the three major magazines for January 2005!
SciFiction by Ellen Datlow (ed)
(SciFi.com October-November 2004 / ) - In my last two columns, I only reviewed one story from scifi.com's SciFIction (www.scifi.com/scifiction). This month, I am reviewing stories published here from October 6th - November 24th, which are: "Q" by John Grant /
"We Have Always Spoken Panglish" by Suzette Haden Elgin /
"Of Imaginary Airships and Miniscule Matter" by Gary W. Shockley /
"Ruby, in the Storm" by A.M. Dellamonica /
"Hula Ville" by James Blaylock /
"Soho Golem" by Kim Newman /
"All of Us Can Almost?" by Carol Emshwiller
My favorites of the group are "Q" by
John Grant, in which is an ominous but thought provoking piece and "We Have Always Spoken Panglish" by Suzette Haden Elgin which was in a lighter vein. The quality of writing is very high throughout.
As usual, I'll start with the stories that I liked best. The first is "Q" by
John Grant. The story is set in a future United States in which the
President has been elected four times and freedom has been lost. Grant does
not really tell us how this happened but that's not important. In it, a
scientific program has discovered something about the "creator" of life. I
won't spoil the story but what impressed me was that, despite the fact that
I did not agree with the explicit theology or the implicit (as far I can
tell) politics of the story, I was very impressed with what Grant feels
would be the logical consequences of such a world view. This was not a fun
story to read but the end was chilling and powerful.
The story "We Have Always Spoken Panglish" by Suzette Haden Elgin was a bit
lighter but even better. Alyssa is a representative of the U.S. Corps of
Linguists and she is posted on the planet Estrada-Blair. One part of the
planet is an area called Sheffa in which a wall separates the Hisheffans
(the rich) and the Losheffans (the poor). There is no middle class and no
upward mobility. In talking with a Losteffan, she is told that they have
always spoken "Panglish" - the combination of all the English languages of
Earth. She cannot believe that because people from Earth had not been there
forever. She meets an "eldress", an old Losheffan woman, who finally
explains things. The end makes this one of those perfect pieces of short
fiction which I will always remember.
The other stories that I read were all very good. "Of Imaginary Airships and
Miniscule Matter" by Gary W. Shockley is a wonderful story taking place in
1899 dealing with a debate over the mutability of truth. "Ruby, in the
Storm" by A.M. Dellamonica tells of aliens living on Earth and how people
react to their presence. "Hula Ville" by James Blaylock tells of a man?s
travel in the desert and his encounter with an angel. "Soho Golem" by Kim
Newman takes place in 1970s Soho and an unusual murder that takes place
there. "All of Us Can Almost?" by Carol Emshwiller is as unique as any of
her stories. The "Almost" is followed by "Fly". "Super 8" by Terry Bisson is
about a group of old friends who have a bittersweet reunion. Scifi.com,
under the editorship of Ellen Datlow, publishes a new story every Wednesday.
It should be checked out every week.
Analog Science Fiction & Fact by Stan Schmidt (ed)
(Penny Press January 2005 / $40.50) - Analog's January/February 2005 issue includes the first part of a serial by Jack Williamson but that, alas, falls out of the purview of this column. I liked the stories I read, even though none of them would make my Hugo list.
"A Few Good Men" by Richard A. Lovett tells of a young woman who winds up in a future in which they need to kidnap men from our time. How this is explained and how she works things out make for a classic Analog story. "The Supersonic Zeppelin" is a satiric story by Ben Bova about the rise and fall of a SSZ project. "Rough Draft" by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta deals with a one-hit wonder science fiction writer who must confront a novel written by him in an alternate universe. "Nova Terra" by Jeffrey D. Kooistra is a nice little story about a man who builds an "impossible" motor. Also very good is "Seventy-Five Years" by Michael A. Burstein which starts out mundanely about a Senator's bill to extend the release date of census information but goes in an unexpected direction.
The remaining story was one I liked a little less. "Uneducated Night and Strange Shadows" by James Gunn completes his "Gift From The Stars" series published previously in Analog. Characters from the previous stories arrive on the world from which the plans for a spaceship were sent. Unfortunately, the story is a bit too talky for my tastes.
Asimov's Science Fiction by Sheila Williams (ed)
(Penny Press January 2005 / $40.50) - The January 2005 issue of Asimov?s Science Fiction has one exceptional story. "The Fate of Mice" by Susan Palwick features a brain-enhanced mouse who suddenly has memories of being a horse. It takes a little girl to identify that he is "remembering" Cinderella. He has memories of other fictional mice and he learns their stories but he always wants to know what happened to these mice after they had played their (usually small) part in the story. Then, he remembers a mouse called Algernon. Literate science fiction fans know who this is. The conclusion is an unforgettable one. (more...) (see review)
Interzone #195 by Andy Cox (ed)
(TTA Press Nov/Dec 2004 / $6 / ?3.50) - The November/December issue of Interzone, an excellent magazine from the UK, leads off with "Enta Geweorc" by Nicholas Waller which I expect to put on my Hugo recommendations list. The other four stories: Problem Project by Hugh A.D. Spencer, Redemption, Drawing Near by Michael J. Jasper, When You Visit the Magoebaskloof Hotel, Be Certain Not to Miss the Samango Monkeys by Elizabeth Bear, and Cry of the Soul by David Memmott are also worth reading, and even the odd entry that didn?t grab my fancy is well crafted, if not to my taste. (more?) (see review)
Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction - January 2005 by Gordon Van Gelder (ed)
(Spilogale Inc January 2005 / $3.99 / $3) - Website (hosted by SF Site): http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/current.htm / Cover Artist: Max Bertolini. - The January 2005 issue features a great fantasy story by Esther Friesner. The other stories by Alex Irvine, Arthur Porges, John G. McDaid and Bruce Sterling are also very good.
"The Lorelei" by Alex Irvine is a "magic realism" story that takes place in the art world of 19th century New York City. A struggling artist comes to New York and meets an established one with the perfect name, Alfred Pinkham Ryder. We get a real feel for the time period as the young artist finds a way to succeed. ?Born Bad" by Arthur Porges is very short story about what "Young Nicophemus" will grow up to be. "Keyboard Practice" by John G. McDaid is a story about a Piano Competition in 2023. This competition is contrasted by a previous one and the story of its founder. The story (which has a longer title) is set up to mimic Bach?s ?Goldberg variations? which are intgral to the tale. I think I?d have enjoyed it more if I knew more about music but it was very good, nonetheless. "The Blemmye?s Strategem"by Bruce Sterling is set in the time of the Crusades and tells a very different story of a Christian , a Moslem and an alien. But the Moslem is the founder of the Assassins and the Christian the founder of the Hospitallers. Sterling has fun with these historical characters and what they must do to combat a common enemy.
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction?s January 2005 issue has four very good stories and one excellent one. That one is "Last Man Standing" by Esther Friesner. As with many of her stories, it is very amusing but it rises above mere comedy. Namtar is a slave (working as a potter) of the great Sumerian king Gilgamesh. When the king dies, he and 31 other slaves are to die with him. He manages to escape this fate but the story does not end there. He takes a trip to the Underworld in a quest to save others. How he succeeds is very ingenious. Friesner rarely disappoints and certainly doesn?t here.
Nth Degree #12 - Dec 2004 by Michael D. Pederson (ed)
(Big Blind Productions Dec 2004 / Free) - As Nth Degree is a quarterly semi-prozine, I guess that means issue 12 finishes their third year. It's an increasingly ambitious pub, with celeb interviews (Bruce Campbell), fresh fiction (five new stories), con coverage, reviews, and more SF comics than anyone else is running. There's even a Poetry/Filk section...but that's probably more information than you wanted.
Challenging Destiny #19 by Dave Switzer (ed)
(Crystalline Sphere December 2004 / $5.00) -
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