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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction September/October 2013 Volume 125, Nos. 3&4, Whole No. 709
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: David A. Hardy for
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 29 August 2013

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

The September/October 2013 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#709) has stories by Rachel Pollack, Susan Palwick, Albert E. Cowdrey, Marc Laidlaw, Robert Grossbach, Oliver Buckram, Eugene Mirabelli, James Morrow, Daniel Marcus, KJ Kabza, Geoff Ryman, Rob Chilson, plus the usual features.

The September/October of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here and its a great one with two Hugo-Worthy stories.

The fiction in the issue starts with "Hhasalin" by Susan Palwick. -+- Lhosi is one of the few remaining natives of a planet that humans took over. She was an orphan but had been adopted by a kindly family of humans. Her people are called "shapers" because they can pull something called shapestone out of the air and make things with it. Lhosi had been good at making toys for the children of the family. It was rumored that her people could make very complex things at one time. There is also talk of a city called Hhsalin that had been shaped over centuries. It is supposed to be thriving. Lhosi admires the humans but feels inferior to them. Eventually more details emerge about the fate of her people in this well-written bittersweet tale.

"myPhone20" by Robert Grossbach -+- This starts in the year 2016 in which our crotchety old narrator complains about his children and grandchildren always being on their phone devices, here called myPhones. They are even on them during his wife's funeral. The myPhone16, while flawed, comes with a hairnet that, when worn, gives one a neural interface. People can now communicate by "theaking" and there are a lot of new verbs that begin with "th" after that. Our narrator won't even get a regular cellphone and tries to instill a sense of independence in his grandchildren. As you might expect, eventually there's myPhone20 which doesn't need the hairnet and is installed directly into your brain. Won't give away the ending, but it was a real good one. This was so good that it will make my Hugo Short List for Short Story.

"The Queen of Eyes" by Rachel Pollack -+- Another Jack Shade story! We had been introduced to him in the Jul/Aug 2012 issue with the story "Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls". Once again, he is presented with his card and must take action when requested. It is given to him by a woman who says her mother is missing. At first Jack does not think he can help her, until she tells him her mother's real name. Jack realizes she is the woman known as "The Queen of Eyes". As he looks into things, we are again told some of his aliases, different from the last time. We get an incredible look at a world we did not know existed. There are a few major plot twists, but all of those are foreshadowed. You will still be surprised. It's not necessary for you to have read the previous story. Everything you need to know is here. With the previous story, I asked for more. I do again. I added that one to my Hugo Short List. I'll do the same one for this (for novellas). I think we are building towards a resolution of Jack's back story about his daughter. I don't know whether we will get it next, but I bet we will eventually.

"Un Opera Nello Spazio" by Oliver Buckram -+- Presented in three acts, this highly amusing piece presents traditional space opera as if it was really opera.

"The Collectors" by Albert E. Cowdrey -+- Cowdrey gives us another amusing tale, set in Louisiana. Charlie's father has died, but he had struck it rich at the end of his life. He had acquired a lot of stolen artwork and now Charlie must deal with it. One piece is called a "monstrance", an ornate gold chalice that contains a consecrated host. It had been stolen by Hermann Goering during World War II and had never been returned to the Catholic Church, its rightful owners. Charlie's mother, who is a Wiccan, worries that the monstrance has real power and that Charlie must return it to the Church at his own peril. What happens makes for another of Cowdrey's great stories.

"The Shore at the Edge of the World" by Eugene Mirabelli -+- A man comes to a fishing village and says he's a messenger of the gods. He tells them the world will soon be round like a ball. They tell them that is old news. The world's been round for a while. They complain about changes, about dogs losing their ability to speak. He tells them he is not responsible for that decision. When he tells them he has an elixir that will keep the seas (that they fish in) from flowing off the world when it becomes round, they dunk him in it. He is approached by a widow, Lucia, and her daughter, Dawn. She remembers him from when she was seventeen and twenty and twenty-five and knows him as Gabriel. She takes him home to meet her late husband's father, Max, and they have a good conversation. More happens between the woman and the messenger in another fine little story.

"Affirmative Action" by James Morrow -+- A spaceship in the service of the Pangalactic Virtue Patrol emerges at a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina to demand they bring some affirmative action to the slave trade. They get a bigger surprise than the South Carolinians. The story is obviously supposed to be taken as broad satire and it is very funny.

"After the Funeral" by Daniel Marcus -+- In a near future in which there have been some changes, Alice Osseuse has seen her guests out of her house after the funeral of her husband, Robert, a renowned professor. She gets two unusual visitors. One is Sam, who is a Canid, obviously a dog who had been enhanced. The other is even stranger than that. Good story with some nice strangeness thrown in.

"The Game Room" by KJ Kabza -+- Our narrator is a man named Levi who lives with his brothers and sisters in the house they grew up in. But House (as he calls it), keeps changing things. Rooms become other rooms. Things disappear. People disappear and strangers from foreign lands appear and disappear. They call in a medium but she disappears. Levi's siblings start to move out, but one disappears when a room changes. What is going on? Fascinating, unique, imaginative story.

"Rosary and Goldenstar" by Geoff Ryman -+- A fun look at an alternate history in which a young William Shakespeare hangs out with scientist types like John Dee and amateur astronomer Thomas Digges. He also meets the prototypes of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (referred to in the title). His writing takes a different turn but this isn't your faher's Shakespeare from the start. Good fun story.

"Bemused" by Marc Laidlaw -+- Another story about Sir Gorlen Vizenfirthe, the Bard with the Gargoyled Hand and Spar, the gargoyle with the human hand. They got that way because of the spell of a priest of Nardath. All of that is explained in the story as is the black quickstone out of which gargoyles are made. Gorlen and Spar are trying to get a line on the priest and have been in the company of a group of musicians. They wind up at the home of Lord Ardentine Wollox who is a great patron of music. The house also boasts a great library, run by Ardie's sister, Gloxynne or Gloxy. Spar thinks he might find something out there. There is more to this great manor, including a singular organ which includes eight statues of women called the muses. The organ is built upon a cylindrical hole that goes deep into the earth and a great wind comes out of it. There is more going on and a great catastrophe befalls one of the characters in another great story in this series.

The fiction concludes with "Half as Old as Time" by Rob Chilson. -+- In the introduction, Chilson acknowledges his debt to the late Jack Vance. The story is certainly Vancian, and that's a good thing. It is part of Chilson's Prime Mondeign series. A man named Wrann approaches the ancient ruined city of Babdalorn. He seeks Crecelius, who is called the Last Man. What this makes Wrann is not clear, although he is referred to as an ephemeral. He is haunted by the death of a man named Bairon and the face of a woman named Shialda. He meets Crecelius and they have a meal and conversation. Finally, the reason for Wrann's visit is made clear. It's unclear whether this is part of a sequence of stories about Wrann, but this is no matter. It's a fine little story and wears its Vancian heritage proudly.

With issues as good as this, you should subscribe F&SF.

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