The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Nov/Dec 2011 - Volume 121, No. 5&6, Whole No. 698
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 23 October 2011
Links: Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The Nov/Dec 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the best one of the year. Two of the stories are Hugo-worthy and a third would be if it wasn't a reprint from 2010!
The fiction in the issue starts with "Under Glass" by Tim Sullivan. Our narrator has been given the responsibility of disposing of the property of his friend, Bob Krovantz, who has died. He had filled his house with his collections of "rare books, science fiction magazines, posters, obscure recordings, rare films on 16mm, VNS, DVD, and Blu-ray, and abandoned birds". There is one other thing that Bob collected -- souls. They are captured in glass bottles and traded on the internet. Some are very old. Bob had asked our narrator to open and close a Mason jar in the presence of his body within minutes of his death, thus capturing his soul. Our narrator has managed to sell the other stuff. The souls go to former friends who abandoned Bob. Bob's soul goes to our narrator. This was an imaginative, moving, wonderful novelette and one that will be on my Hugo short list for next year.
This issue has a story found in the unpublished inventory of Evangeline Walton, who died in 1996. "They That Have Wings" is set during World War II with Allied soldiers hiding from the Nazis on Crete. In a remote location, they encounter an old woman and her granddaughter who are helpful at first. Our narrator discovers what they really are and knows their lives are in danger. This all plays out for a pretty good story.
I have said in other reviews that I was instituting a policy of not reviewing reprinted stories. I'm making an exception for "Quartet and Triptych" by Matthew Hughes. Why? Well, I don't get to read as many of Hughes' stories as I used to and he's one of my favorite authors. Another reason is that this is a GREAT story and, if I read it back in 2010, when it was published in England as a limited edition hardcover, I would have nominated it for a Hugo. Like many of Hughes' stories, this novella is set in the "dwindled, penultimate age" of Old Earth. It does not feature Henghis Hapthorn or Guth Bandar, but his other hero, Luff Imbry, professional thief. Luff is after a rare piece of artwork called the Iphigenza Quartet. To steal this item, he must enter a booby-trapped maze thousands of years old. To avoid getting killed, he consults the essence (saved memory) of Waltraut Voillute whose grandfather built the maze. Things get complicated and Luff soon finds out about the availability of a piece of artwork that makes the Quartet, a mere bagatelle. The story gets remarkably complex from there. I won't say any more about the details but I will say that Hughes once more shows his ability not only to write a great story but to use language that is a joy to read. Everything about this story is absolutely perfect. As I write this review, this is the first story in this issue that I've read, so I don't know anything about the rest of the issue. That makes no difference. This story is worth the price of the issue alone. I'll say one more thing. Do not be concerned if you've never read any of Hughes' stories before and don't know anything about his universe. This story tells you all you need to know and then some. It is a perfect introduction to the genius of Matthew Hughes' fiction.
"The Klepsydra A Chapter from A Faunery of Recondite Beings" by Michaela Roessner features a Greek scholar trying to find out what she feels is an unusual derivation of a Greek word. She has been working on a book detailing all the words in English that come from the Greek. While still working on this, she is for some reason, recruited to work on the excavation of the ancient library of Alexandria. This all dovetails with her quest for that word. Unfortunately, I found the story a bit tedious and could not muster any interest in it.
"Object Three" by James L. Cambias features a group of adventurers, two human and two alien, that are after an unusual artifact that is related to two other artifacts. In the background of this is how this "Object Three" relates to "Object One". All in all, not a bad story with an okay ending.
I always know that Albert E. Cowdrey is going to give me something unusual but "How Peter Met Pan" does not begin in a promising way. This takes place some 150 years in the future in which much of the interior of the United States has been flooded by the rising waters. Two young men are exploring in the flooded Ozarks and are warned that there is so much that is under the water, "towns and cities and factories" that this has given rise to many strange stories. Our lead character, Peter, is not a very likable person and you might find yourself just feeling contempt for him. The surprise comes at the end where Cowdrey pulls out a great conclusion which make the story very much worth reading.
The issue concludes with the other novella, "The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman. Our narrator is a young girl named Thorn, who lives in a slum of the city of Glory to God. She doesn't particularly like her life. Her mother has gone from one man to another but this has had more than the usual side effect. When she leaves a man, she leaves the planet they were living on through some sort of interstellar portal which transports them light years away. While transport is instantaneous in the time of the person transported, it is not in real time. So Thorn, who is a teenager is 145 in sequential time. Thus, she was alive when a horrible event called the Gminta Holocide happened, even though that was 141 years ago. When her school burns down, she goes off in search of an education and finds an old man to teach her. She learns a lot from him but he is hiding something in his past. While what it is does not come as a surprise that does not detract from the story. What makes this story great is the characters of Thorn and her mother, Maya, and their relationship. This, too, will make my Hugo short list for next year.
If you buy one issue of F&SF, make it this one. Better yet, subscribe!