The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction May/June 2010 - Volume 118, No. 5&6, Whole No. 689
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash for
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 26 April 2010 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The May/June 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here with stories by Michael Libling, Fred Chappell, Aaron Schutz, Steven Popkes, Elizabeth Bourne, John Sladek, Alex Irvine, Hilary Goldstein, Dale Bailey, Rachel Pollack, Robert Onopa, and Lokiko Hall
The May/June 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has a lot of good stories and one really exceptional one.
The issue starts with "Why That Crazy Old Lady Goes Up the Mountain" by Michael Libling. Sara Marie Sands is a young girl whose father committed suicide. Her mother tried to kill herself but failed and is brain dead. Sara has moved up to stay with relatives in the town of Gideon, which I assume is in Canada. She is very self-assured , pretty, intelligent, and drives the boys of her new high school crazy. One boy, in particular, stares at her all the time and says nothing. This is not unusual for Kevin Akers as he talks to no one. He has secrets that he cannot share. But he shares one secret with her. Libling puts together a story like you've never read before but are glad you read here.
The title, "Thief of Shadows", in the story by Fred Chappell, might lead us to believe this is another in a series of delightful tales of the shadow-trader Astolfo and his assistant Falco. Well, we would be right. The story begins with a flashback recounting Falco' first meeting with Astolfo and his mute servant Mutano and, then, gets to the current adventure. Astolfo (accompanied by Falco) are called to the house of a rich old man named Pecunio. He wants to know about a singular shadow that has come into his possession. He has been told it is the shadow of the dread pirate, Morbruzzo, who might enact swift revenge on anyone who would keep it from him. Once more, Chappell gives us a grand sword and sorcery adventure. I hope we see more.
I don't always read the stories in an issue in the order that they occur in an issue. Usually, I start with the longest stories first. This time, the first story I read was "A History of Cadmium" by Elizabeth Bourne and that was a great way to begin the issue. In the introduction, we are told that Elizabeth Bourne is an accomplished artist who has done work for NASA and that this is her first fiction sale. Well, I'll say from the start that this is one of the most impressive debut stories that I've ever read. The Cadmium of the title does not refer to the element and only tangentially to the dye which has been used for colors from yellow to red but is not used as much now because of its high toxicity. The title really (in part) refers to a young woman named Cadmium Ross. She is the daughter of Cassandra Ross, a very talented artist who has died. Caddie (as she is called) is asked to bring one of her most mysterious paintings, a landscape also called "Cadmium" to a special exhibition. Cassandra was supposed to do a series of Rare Earth paintings but abandoned that idea before Caddie was born. The picture has a haunting, mystical quality and is only rarely put on display. Another important character in the story is Julia Katz, Cassandra's best friend. As the story develops, we learn the history of cadmium, painting and woman. All this is done in a beautiful, lyrical story and is, I think, the story that only a painter could write. It is also what I would call a quintessential F&SF story. I loved this story and it just blew me away. It will be on my short list for Hugo nominations, next year, and Elizabeth Bourne will be on my John Campbell Award for Best New Writer short list, too! .
When I saw that this issue had a story by John Sladek, I was amazed. Sladek died in 2000, but this story, "The Real Martian Chronicles", we are told was recently discovered in his papers. Also in the introduction, we are told that "he was one of the greatest parodists ever to work in the SF field". Well, the story proves that right. It is an all-too-brief journal recounting the first week on Mars of a family that has just moved there. Our narrator, a man named Broxbum (we assume), is the head of the family and recounts their fitting into the Martian society. This was just a delight and it makes me miss Sladek even more.
In "Dr. Death Vs. The Vampire" by Aaron Schutz, we never learn our narrator's real name. He just calls himself Dr. Death. He has empathic powers that allow him to not only feel the emotions of others, but feel what it's like to be in their bodies. He uses these powers to decide which people might be better off dead. For that reason, he is shunned by other people with powers, minor powers. He calls them The League of Almost Heroes. They call themselves The Fellowship. They do agree on one thing and that's the danger of psychic vampires. While taking a bus through the Eastern Oregon desert, our narrator finds one. Their battle makes of a very interesting story, even though I don't approve of Dr. Death's methods.
"Remotest Mansions of the Blood" by Alex Irvine is set in a village in South America called Caracol. The story begins with a earthquake that our central character, Arthur Lindsay, survives. He is obsessed with a beautiful woman, Maria Rios, who is 20 years younger than him. She finds him attractive but is also thinking about men who died in the earthquake that she thought could have been potential lovers. The people of the village believe that when you die, you stay for a time in a mansion of the blood and both Maria and Arthur regard these as real. My problem is that I did not find this story very compelling and could not understand the motivations of the lead characters.
The next story is "Seven Sins for Seven Dwarves" by Hilary Goldstein. It takes the story of Snow White and does something very different with it. Each of the dwarves has an important task they are charged with and the appearance of Snow puts that in danger. This was a very imaginative take on an old story.
"Silence" by Dale Bailey is the remembrance of our narrator whose name we know only as Phillip. He is thinking back to when he was 14 years old and bullied by a thug named Junior Starnes in high school. Running through the woods, he finds a wounded alien and tries to help it. I found this story okay, but not exceptional.
In "Forever", Rachel Pollack gives us the story of the Blessed Lady of Dark Forever, a supernatural being who is called Heartless about Death. She loses a bet with her sisters and must inhabit the body of a human for a day. As Karen, she forgets who she was and learns all too well about being human. This was a beautiful, lovely story.
Robert Onopa gives us the ultimate toy train set in "The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe". Matt loves his Christmas present and is fascinated by the AI personalities that inhabit it. But things start to go a bit wrong in this effective little horror story.
"The Gypsy's Boy" by Lokiko Hallis is a beautiful little fairy story of a boy literally sold to the gypsies for a horse. When an illness makes him blind, he is bought by an old gypsy woman who raises him with love. When she dies, a new life begins for him which I won't spoil.
The issue concludes with "The Crocodiles" by Steven Popkes. In the introduction, we are warned that this is not cheerful and the appearance of words like "Gestapo" and "Buchenwald" in the opening pages confirm that. Our narrator is a chemical engineer in Nazi Germany named Max. Thanks to the influence of his wife's uncle, a member of the Gestapo, he gets a "good job" working with a Doctor Weber in Buchenwald. Weber's work is not any of the horrors we have heard of. He has come into possession of creatures he calls "tote Männer". They are probably what we would call zombies, living dead who bite their victims, infecting them with their condition. The story of their development as weapons of war is told in such a cold, clinical way that it is positively chilling. Popkes writes a very good horror story here and the horror is not limited to the "tote Männer".
This issue of F&SF shows that it is still one of the leaders of the field. Subscribe!