The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March/April 2011 - Volume 120, No. 3&4, Whole No. 694
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 23 February 2011
Links: Fantasy & Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The March/April 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and itís got a bunch of great stories, one Hugo-worthy.
The issue starts with "Scatter My Ashes" by Albert E. Cowdrey, one of his stories that does not take place in New Orleans, but the West Coast. Harry Angleton is described as a "hack writer, wandering scholar, rootless man" and he is currently ensconced in an old house on the Pacific called Cormorant House. He is writing the history of a family that has had its share of scandal, sorcery and murder. He has a amorous relationship with Kathryn Cross, a young member of the family and is constantly talking the matriarch, who everyone calls the Queen. She has a mysterious manservant called Mogel and tells tales of her father, a truly evil man. We eventually find out the whole story and it's a good one.
In "A Pocketful of Faces" by Paul DiFilippo, we see a future in which people can duplicate the faces of the famous or the obscure, for usually nefarious reasons. Isham Smoke is a detective with the Aspect Protection and Enforcement Squad, who tracks down those illegally using the face of others. He transfers to a division tasked with hunting down those that create these faces and gets involved in a mystery with the rich and the powerful. DiFilippo crafts an imaginative and interesting story here.
Ken Liu writes a beautiful bittersweet tale of a boy and the man he becomes in "The Paper Menagerie". Jack, when he is young is fascinated with the origami creatures his Chinese mother creates. He does not realize it's unusual that she can breathe actual life into them. As he grows up, he becomes ashamed of her, because she can't speak English and has different ways. I wonít say more except that this has an especially poignant ending.
"The Evening and the MorningĒ by Sheila Finch is the novella and cover story for this issue. Sheila Finch has been writing her lingster stories for more than 20 years. She has written many fine stories of the Guild of Xenolinguists and their adventures in communicating with alien species. In the far future in which this is set, they have not found any new species in a while and are becoming obsolete. Xiankang Pei (called Crow by his friends) is Eruditis Emeritus of the Mother House of the Guild on the planet Qing and is 200 years old and weary of life. He is given the chance by the Venatixi race to return to Earth and visit the Mother House of the Order in Geneva. The Venatixi hope he can learn about the Sagittans, the oldest race of the galaxy that had disappeared "before Humanity had come doen from the trees". With a medtech, a lingster, an AI, and a Venatixi, Crow travels to Earth. I won't go any further to say what they find there but will say this is a fitting conclusion to the series. Itís also such a great story that Iíll add it to my Hugo Short List for nominating next year.
"Night Gauntlet" by Walter C. DeBill, Jr., Richard Gavin, Robert M. Price, W. H. Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb is a round-robin tale, written by all those authors. You have no idea where one left off and the other began, but you do get a good little horror story, very much in the H.P. Lovecraft tradition. The story takes place at the University of Texas at Austin where a young graduate student has become involved with a brilliant professor of physics named Susan Derby. There is a tradition of weird things at UT and the professor has an office that displays postcards with familiar place names in the Cthulhu Mythos. Our narrator is a fan of Lovecraft and when he sees a night gaunt near the professor's office, he knows what it is. This was a very entertaining tale.
In "Happy Ending 2.0" by James Patrick Kelly, a married couple is headed to a cabin in the White Mountains. Their relationship has soured, but they are traveling there to stay with a cousin of the woman. When they get to the cabin, they don't find the cousin there, but things come to a turn which make for a nice story.
"The Second Kalandar's Tale" by Francis Marion Soty is subtitled "A story of the encounters between Hassain Mohammed al-Shehr, a Prince of Arabia and the Ifrit Jirjaris bin Rajmus, in A Thousand Nights and a Night; translated from the original Arabic by Sir Richard Burton Ė Retold by Francis Marion Soty". This is nicely told in the Arabian Nights tradition and the core story is about a young man who has the temerity to make love to the mistress of an Ifrit and is turned into an ape. How he escapes the curse, and the surrounding setup makes for an exotic, beautiful piece.
"Bodyguard" by Karl Bunker is set on a distant planet in which our narrator, Javid, who is four hundred years old, having undergone much rejuvenation, is living. He is assigned to a world in which humans are unpopular and he must have a bodyguard. There is a lot more going on than that, but this story didn't really pique my interest.
Kali Wallace gives us a very unsettling tale with "Botanical Exercises for Curious Girls". Rosalie appears to be a young girl living in a mansion owned by a Professor Lew. She is under stern control by women called Miss Morning and Miss Day, but the really scary person is this professor. We get hints as to what is really going on and they add to the sense of unease in this quiet, but effective tale.
"Ping" by Dixon Wragg is reprinted from a humor contest in The Washington Post and is a clever variant on the old Fredric Brown "last man on Earth...knock at the door" story.
Finally, we have "The Ifs of Time" by James Stoddard. Enoch is the Windkeep of in the ancient house of Evenmere and his task is keeping the time in the house. He happens upon a room with four people in it. They are "an association of tale-tellers" and he convinces them to allow him to stay. He listens to all their tales and then tells one of his own. This was a richly told piece and quite a good read.
This was another great issue of F&SF. Seek it out at your local bookstore, or, better yet, subscribe!