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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Sep/Oct 2011 Volume 121, No. 3&4, Whole No. 697 by Gordon Van Gelder
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: David Hardy
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 28 August 2011

Links: Fantasy & Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The Sep/Oct 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has stories by Esther N. Friesner, Deborah J. Ross, Chris DeVito, Albert E. Cowdrey, Geoff Ryman, Sarah Langan, Daniel Marcus, M. Rickert, Jon Armstrong, Donald Mead, Karl Bunker, and Alan Peter Ryan.

The Sep/Oct 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is another great one with some of my favorite writers and one story I consider Hugo-worthy.

The fiction in the issue starts with one of Esther N. Friesne's amusing stories, "Rutger and Baby Do Jotunheim". Rutger, his girlfriend, Baby and her dog, Mister Snickers, have been driving cross country in a VW Rabbit and have become lost in backwoods Minnesota. They are out of gas and in the middle of nowhere. They meet up with a very tall young man named Lucky who is wearing a Minnesota Vikings T-Shirt and he offers to take them to shelter. Unfortunately, or not, shelter is actually the abode of the giants of Norse myth. Rutger knows something about Norse myth, but guess who saves the day? Only Esther Friesner could pull this off and does so in her characteristic style.

"The Man Inside Black Betty" by Sarah Langan is actually subtitled "Is Nicholas Wellington the World's Best Hope? Story by Saurub Ramesh, with research by Sarah Langan". Nicholas Wellington is a senior adviser to the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency and a brilliant scientist who came out of the projects and a year at Riker's Island. He is not the most diplomatic of men. "Black Betty" is small back hole that appeared above Long Island Sound in late 2012. Wellington has some ideas about what needs to be done about it, but it would cost eight trillion dollars. Others have different, cheaper ideas. This sounds like some obvious allegory but its an interesting story, nonetheless.

Next up is "A Borrowed Heart" by Deborah J. Ross. Lenore Hasland is a courtesan who accepts a commission from an old patron to help his languishing son. When she meets the young man, he is in the company of a succubus. She rescues the young man and winds up making love to the succubus herself. This does her no harm and the creature gives her a present, the heart of a man. Lenore had been on her way to visit her sister who was ill. Her estranged father had swallowed his pride and asked for her help. Lenore seeks to protect her sister from a heartless predator but finds something else about the value of a heart. This was a beautiful, touching novelette that will be on my Hugo Short List for next year.

In "Bright Moment" by Daniel Marcus, Arun is surfing an ammonia swell on an alien moon when something causes him to wipe out. It takes a lot of regeneration to put him back together but that gives him time to ponder what he saw. Is there an intelligent life form living on the Jovian moon that they wish to terraform? Arun must make an important decision in another great story.

M. Rickert writes some very fine tales and "The Corpse Painter's Masterpiece" is another of those. The sheriff of a small town regularly visits the corpse painter to do special jobs for him. He must keep these a secret. He has brought the corpse painter the bodies of thieves, drug dealers, and murderers over the years. Now, the sheriff has a special personal job for him in this poignant story.

"Aisle 1047" by Jon Armstrong is a wild tale in a future in which people make special careers in retail sales of specific products. Tiffan3 is good at what she does but sales are declining and her bosses have new plans for her in this wildly, entertaining tale.

"Anise" by Chris DeVito is the story of a woman who has become increasingly estranged from her husband since he died. He was revived but things are not the same. He has an increasing circle of revived friends. How this is all resolved is a bit horrifying to me, but I'm not sure that's what the author intended.

In "Spider Hill" by Donald Mead, Gina works at hoeing a pumpkin patch with her grandmother. All this is in preparation for a witch dance that she and her grandmother do three nights before Halloween. Gina likes doing this but she learns more about what happened before she was born and why her grandmother does this dance. She takes action in this wonderful supernatural tale.

Albert E. Cowdrey is a master at the horror story, usually set in Louisiana. However, "Where Have All the Young Men Gone?" takes place in Austria at a military museum in the town of Gmundt. Henry Pierce is touring the museum when he hears the legend of the Milkmaid who haunts the museum. She had been raped and killed by soldiers in the beginning of World War I. The legend is that young men have disappeared from the museum on a regular basis. As is usual in a Cowdrey story, the supernatural element is something very inventive and different and very frightening, too.

The spaceship, Aotea is "Overtaken" in Karl Bunker brief tale. The Aotea is a huge colony ship with its crew in hibernation. There is an A.I. in charge and it finds itself hailed by a curious vessel that has a mass of only a few grams. It calls itself the Rejoindre and tells the A.I. that the ship's mission is now obsolete. Mankind has evolved beyond corporeal bodies and has no need for exploration or this slow way of going about it. What is the A.I. to do? I don't think you'll disagree with its decision in this fine little story.

Back in the eighties, Alan Ryan wrote some great supernatural novels and short stories. Then, he left us for writing about travel in which he was wildly successful. When I heard F&SF had a story in the pipeline, I was overjoyed. When news came of his passing on June 3, I was devastated. Apparently, he completed some horror writing and "Time and Tide" credited as Alan Peter Ryan is one of them. The story is set on the Jersey Shore in the only slightly fictionalized Seashore Park (right near Seashore Heights), located just a bit south of where I sat on a summer day, reading the story. Frank Parsons is asked by his father to move an old wardrobe out of his late brother's room. His brother, called Junior because he was named after their father Bill, had drowned when they were swimming one day. Frank felt guilty for not saving his brother and the wardrobe had become part of that guilt. I can't say more without spoiling the story but will say it has a really good sting at the end. In his absence from the field, Alan Ryan retained his skill at great storytelling.

The issue ends with another writer that came out of the eighties. I'll never forget reading "The Unconquered Country" in one of the very early issues of Interzone and Geoff Ryman has written some great fantasy ever since. In "What We Found", he sets his story in Nigeria. Patrick is preparing for marriage and he tells us about his family, the madness of his father, the abusive behavior of his grandmother, his relationship with his brothers. He is a scientific researcher who has been having difficulty replicating the results of a groundbreaking experiment. All this Ryman weaves into another of his brilliant tales.

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