The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Mar/Apr 2012 – Volume 122, Nos. 3&4, Whole No. 700
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: David A. Hardy
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 26 February 2012 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The Mar/Apr 2012 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#700) has stories by Sean McMullen, Michael Blumlein, Albert E. Cowdrey, KJ Kabza, Peter S. Beagle, Tim Sullivan, Robert Reed, Steven Utley, Richard Bowes, Geoffrey Landis, Robert Walton and Barry N. Malzberg, and C.S. Friedman, a poem by Sophie M. White, a Plumage from Pegasus by Paul Di Filippo, and the usual features.
The Mar/Apr 2012 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the magazine's 700th
The fiction in the issue starts with the novelette, "Electrica" by Sean McMullen. This one could be considered steampunk, taking place in the Napoleonic Era with a little James Bond thrown in. Lt. Michael Fletcher is a master codebreaker for His Majesty's Government in 1811 when the fight against Napoleon is at its height. His superior sends him to check on what may be a new invention for "invisible messaging' (as opposed to semaphore) developed by a man named Sir Charles Calder at his home. Fletcher is sent there to check on his loyalty and check on the feasibility of this new invention. He is also warned about Calder's wayward wife, Lady Monica. He travels there and is impressed with this invention. But there is a locked room that he must get into and only Lady Monica will give him the key – for a price. This all develops into a grand adventure. We are told that McMullen is working on a novel with characters from this story. I'd be interested in seeing that!
"Repairmen" by Tim Sullivan starts with Lorna Maillet arriving home to glimpse a man in the dark on her porch. She quickly realizes she knows the man as Edmund, the friend and former roommate of her lover Victor, who committed suicide. Lorna has had a difficult time understanding why Victor took his own life. When she asks Edmund, he says, "He wanted to go home." This, naturally, does not help, but she decides to share a bottle of Cabernet with Edmund to get more of an explanation. The rest of the story is their extended conversation. There is nothing particularly surprising in it but the story is beautifully and poignantly told.
"Twenty-Two and You" by Michael Blumlein takes place in a near future with extensive knowledge of genomes and advanced genetic testing. Ellen and her husband want to have lots of children but Ellen might be a carrier of genes that indicate that a pregnancy would almost certainly lead to cancer. Her husband finds a company called "Twenty-Two and You" that say they can modify her genetic structure to eliminate this gene. There is one possible drawback. A man who had genetic surgery experienced a strange side effect. He forgot that he knew his wife. He was no longer in love with her and they eventually divorced. Things worked out because he met her sometime later in a bar and fell in love with her all over again. What happens to Ellen? You can probably guess there are complications but I won't spoil it. I'll only say that this is another great story from Blumlein.
The setting for "One Year of Fame" by Robert Reed is the small town of German Bluff that's surrounded by small farms, mostly contracted by large companies. In the town lives an old man who used to be a writer but is now more interested in growing tomatoes. He wrote under the name of Cateye Rawdone but is known around German Bluff as Old Kevin. One day, the AI Driver of a UPS truck notices the name, gets a glimpse of Old Kevin, compares it with an old dust jacket photo and makes the connection to the author. The AI instantly reads all of Cateye's novels, articles, short stories, blogs and even his unfinished master's thesis, all out there on the web. He compliments Old Kevin who is uncomfortable with the attention. Soon, with all machines getting upgrades and becoming intelligent, he's the biggest thing since sliced bread, but only with machines. Humans can't finish his stuff. His status in town changes a bit and one enterprising neighbor even gets him to start writing a new book. As you might infer from the title, his fame is fleeting but Reed still gives the ending a great twist. You know you can never be disappointed with a Robert Reed story and this is no exception.
Albert E. Cowdrey contributes one of his classic Southern stories in "Greed". The setting is a town called Bonaparte, Mississippi where Vern Helms is the operator of Mims Castle, a tourist attraction built by his uncle. Ishmael Mims. One night, Vern gets a call from an old college chum he still calls Mojo. Mojo is actually Joe Hoxie, a financier on the run from the Feds. He agrees to let him stay on the top floor of the Castle at a hefty price. Vern has a secret. His Uncle Ish is not actually dead but had himself transformed into an amphibious creature, curing all the things wrong with him. Vern is not satisfied with his life. He's stuck running the Castle forever. What to do? You'll find out in another of Cowdrey's classics.
"The Tortoise Grows Elate" by Steven Utley is, we are told, another of Utley's Silurian Age tales which he's been writing since 1993. This one isn't very easy to summarize. It involves a team of five on a research trip back to the Paleozoic, the interactions of the research team and a possible reason for it. Pleasant enough, but not much of a story.
"The Queen and the Cambion" by Richard Bowes is a delightful little fantasy that starts out with a young Princess Victoria being given a piece of parchment by her uncle, King William IV. It's something that had been in the hands of every ruler of England. Victoria can understand the Latin words and learns the others, that are Welsh. She reads the words out loud and summons up someone she realizes is Merlin, but she cannot finish reciting it and Merlin disappears. Sometime later, when she desperately needs help, she succeeds in summoning the great wizard. Over her life she summons Merlin a number of times, all to make a fine story.
In "Demiurge" by Geoffrey Landis, an author named Erdemacher writes a fantasy novel, WerldWright about an author, much like himself (except he is adept at languages and fencing) who also writes a fantasy named WerldWright and finds that his fantasy novel is becoming real. The book, not very well-written, is, of course, a smash success and develops a devoted fandom, some who think the book is true. Things go on from there in a clever and, sometimes, amusing way.
"The Man Who Murdered Mozart" by Robert Walton and Barry N. Malzberg is a wild tale about a rich mad man named Howard Beasley, who, frustrated in his quest to play Mozart's music on a violin, decides to use time travel to kidnap the dying Mozart, restore him to health and have him write more music. As the story goes on, his plan becomes even madder. About the only thing madder is the story itself and that's a very good thing. It's exactly what you'd expect from anything even partly written by Barry Malzberg. Just lay back and enjoy the ride!
C.S. Friedman's "Perfect Day" takes us through a day in the life of Stanley Betterman who has implants that affect everything he does. His mind is always hooked into a kind of internet and computer that he constantly consults. He is even susceptible to viruses, like seeing everyone naked. His office is invaded by a man who says he is from Nigeria and needs help retrieving money lost during a recent coup until men wearing body armor labeled MAKKAFIE takes "him" away. This was brilliant satire and fun to read.
In the introduction to "Gnarly Times at Nana'ite Beach", the author, KJ Kabza, is quoted as saying he was tired of all the "punk" stories like cyberpunk, steampunk, etc. and wants to create his own punk. A friend suggests "beachpunk" and that's what we get. In some future Hawaii, the sand on Nana'ite Beach has been infused with nanites, creating a "Smart sand" and a different beach experience. Dusty Yokoyama is a high school kid and a surfer, but not one of the cool kids. He's the "new Mayor of Loser-ville." He is still smarter than his best friend Roderick, who is really clueless. When one of the in-crowd breaks his cheap surf board, he doesn't see how he will be able to enter the Malahini Junior Surf-Off. Like a bolt from the blue, Zhaoping Ho, a surfer, designer of surfboards and the coolest guy on the island offers him the chance to be the secret tester of a mew kind of surfboard that can take advantage of the Smart sand beach. This one does not end as you'd expect but in an even better way.
The fiction concludes with a novelette from Peter S. Beagle, "Olfert Dapper's Day". Olfert Dapper lives a fraudulent life in Utrecht, Holland. He calls himself a medical doctor but he never attended medical school. He published books describing India, China, Persia, and Africa, places he had never been. When his fraud is exposed, he runs from the authorities who have come to arrest him and, eventually, boards a ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean and further escapes to the Territory of Sagadahock, part of the colony of Maine. There he settles in the town of No Popery, once more, fashioning himself a medical doctor. He is able to succeed in this due to his alliance with an Abenaki native named Rain Coming. One day, when gathering herbs with Rain Coming, he encounters a unicorn. A Peter S. Beagle story involving a unicorn? What more could one ask for? This is a great way to end the 700th issue.
In the midst of the regular stories, there's also a Plumage from Pegasus, "Pimp My Read" by Paul Di Filippo. This is a hilarious little piece about authors who have been forced to spice up their personal appearances/readings with more of a variety act. Griffin Seltzer, author of An Anodyne for Atheists has been spicing up his reading with a Houdini-like escape act until a tweet from Penn Jillette makes it old hat. Now he has to come up with something new. Can't say more but this is another funny one.
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