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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction July/Aug 2011 - Volume 121, No. 1&2, Whole No. 696
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Maurizio Manzieri
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 25 June 2011

Links: Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The July/Aug 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has stories by Robert Reed, Peter David, Steven Saylor, KJ Kabza, Peter S. Beagle, Rob Chilson, Joan Aiken, Richard Bowes, and Michael Alexander.

The July/Aug 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is chock-full of wonderful stories.

The fiction in the issue starts with "Bronsky's Dates with Death" by Peter David. Bronsky (his first name "had atrophied from lack of use" ) had been shot in the head during the war and, as a result, whatever stopped most people from discussing uncomfortable things was missing in his brain. One of those uncomfortable things that he talks about is his death and his talking about it more and more as he gets older drives his wife and daughter to distraction. Also bothered by this is Death, himself, and Bronsky has several encounters with that being. All this make for a story that is amusing and also has a lot of heart. It seemed like a Mike Resnick story and I couldn't pay it a higher compliment.

The introduction to "The Way It Works Out and All" by Peter S. Beagle tells us that Beagle wrote this story to accompany a sale of first editions of Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror as a fundraiser for a bookstore. The story starts with Beagle getting some curious postcards from Davidson and continues with Davidson showing him a world both bizarre and terrifying. This worked both as a great story and a nice tribute to one of the genre's great writers. I was glad to have the opportunity to read it.

Rob Chilson gives us a disturbing look at the future in "Less Stately Mansions". Jacob Mannheim has been a farmer all of his life, a family tradition. The tradition is stopping with him. His sons and grandchildren have abandoned Earth for the stars. His remaining family just wants his land for the money. He resists this change even when they hold a hearing on his sanity. This was a sad and moving tale, giving us a great character in Jacob.

The issue's novella is "The Ants of Flanders" by Robert Reed. Bloch is a young man who knows no fear. He is not afraid when an alien spacecraft crashes right near him. It turns out this is part of a battle between two alien cultures with Earth as part of the battlefield. The residents of Earth are as inconsequential as the ants in Flanders were to the soldiers of World War I. The subtitle of this novella is "A Tale of Five Adventures" and is, indeed, told in five parts. Bloch winds up with a more active part in this battle, but because of his lack of fear, things turn out differently than they might have with someone else. This was yet another unique and fascinating story from one of the best in the business.

Joan Aiken, who died in 2004, was one of our great fantasy writers. "Hair" is a previously unpublished story that is part of a posthumous collection called The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories which has five more unpublished tales. Tom Orford had met Sarah in Egypt and had gone on a cruise up the Nile with her. They had fallen in love and were married. While they were traveling the world, she had died. Now Tom has a task to do. Sarah had jokingly asked him that if she died, he was to return the long hair she had cut off to her mother. This starts a perfect little gothic tale. If this is any indication of the quality of the posthumous collection, then it will be well worth getting.

In the introduction to Steven Saylor's "The Witch of Corinth", we are told that it is part of a series that includes historical mystery novels and two collections of short stories. Gordianus is a crime-solving young Roman who is assisted by, his teacher, an older Greek named Antipater. This story is set in 92 B.C. and finds the duo on a tour of the Seven Wonders of the World. They are visiting the ruins of Corinth which the Romans had destroyed. It is rumored that witches had lived in Corinth and that they haunted the ruins. When a group of obnoxious Romans are brutally murdered, Gordianus investigates. This was quite good and might make ne seek out Saylor's other stories.

Richard Bowes contributes "Sir Morgravain Speaks of Night Dragons and Other Things", a look at the old "Matter of Britain". Our narrator is Morgravain a former knight of the round table who, like many of his fellows, wanders the halls of Avalon. We see his conversation with the other knights and learn something of his story and his intentions, all very interesting.

I have liked Michael Alexander's previous stories and this one is another good one. In "Someone Like You", our narrator tells of the death of her mother's first husband, a good man who she wishes were her father. He was mysteriously murdered and the crime went unsolved. Her mother married an abusive man and had her, but they eventually got away from him. As the story develops, we find that she has the power to travel in time and she uses this to solve the murder. That really doesn't spoil anything as the story is much more complex than it seemed at first. Yet another good read in this issue.

The issue concludes with "The Ramshead Algorithm" by KJ Kabza. In the introduction, it is recommended that you "dive headfirst into the story" and not "worry about coming up for air". That is a sensible thing to do. Ramshead is the young scion of a wealthy family who has discovered the path to other worlds. It starts in a hedge maze on his family's estate. He finds out that his father wants to destroy that maze and tries to convince his brother and sister to help him stop it. This is one of those you really have to read through to "get" but when you do, you'll find that it was worth the trip.

There's also a Plumage from Pegasus piece called "A Short History of the ETEWAF Revolution" by Paul Di Filippo. I'm afraid that I didn't find this very funny and did not care for it at all. No matter. It does not detract from the rest of the issue.

You really should be subscribing to F&SF or, at least, buy it at your local bookstore.

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