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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction November/December 2013 - Volume 125, Nos. 5&6, Whole No. 710
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Mondolithic Studios for
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 30 October 2013

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

The November/December 2013 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#710) has stories by Michael Blumlein, Tim Sullivan, Albert E. Cowdrey, KJ Kabza, Matthew Hughes, M.K. Hobson, Brendan DuBois, and James Patrick Kelly, a Plumage from Pegasus by Paul Di Filippo, plus the usual features.

The November/December of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here and itís a great one.

The fiction in the issue starts with "Through Mud One Picks a Way" by Tim Sullivan -+- Uxanna has returned to planet Earth after sixteen years on a planet called Cet 4. She has traveled back and forth by a process called assimulation in which your body is disassembled but your mind is intact. Uxanna does not worry about her soul. Also, while only sixteen years have passed for her, some four generations of time have passed on Earth. Cet 4 is a planet being settled by humans to the detriment of the intelligent indigenous population. Uxanna, who has learned to communicate with the Cetians has been hired by a man named Hob to talk with three Cetians in his basement. Can Uxanna help them? What is Hob's plan? There is more going on than even that. Good solid story but I want to see more with these characters.

"Hell for Company" by Albert E. Cowdrey -+- Two men are sitting in a club in the early part of the 20th century. One is Mark Twain, the other our narrator. His name is revealed at the end so I won't spoil it. They turn to the subject of ghosts. Our narrator has written some ghost stories, but Twain disparages spiritualism. Still, he tells our narrator a story that begins in New Orleans in 1882. Twain is visiting the city in the company of a friend of his named Goodman. Goodman is seeing to the care of a man named Maurice Lemoyne. Lemoyne's older brother had committed suicide. When talking to Maurice, the two learn from him that Maurice killed Jean in a duel. More important, Jean's soul had entered Maurice and they were actually talking to Jean. As the story develops, things get spookier to a great ending. The framing device returns to Twain and our narrator with some more very familiar things about the both of them. Cowdrey at his best!

"Success" by Michael Blumlein -+- This begins with Dr. Jim losing his position at the University when he is thirty-six years old because he refused to publish or do anything else the University wanted him to do. When asked why, he says that he cannot spend time doing anything else because he is researching his Unifying Theory of Life of which he has had glimpses. His increasingly erratic behavior results in him not only losing his job, but his money, "his home, his professional standing, his friends and, finally, his wife." He actually winds up institutionalized, which really makes him a 'mad scientist'. No treatment works on him and one night, before he is to receive a drastic new treatment, he disappears from his hospital room and can be found nowhere. Three nights later, he reappears in the same room and seems completely rational. Five years later, he has a new home (with significantly, a fenced-in yard and basement) and a new wife. He is still after his Unifying Theory of Life and is exploring the biological sphere, specifically, "in the molecular biological sphere, to wit, the gene, the epigene, and the perigene, the so-called holy trinity of creation and life." His new wife, Carol, is supportive, at first, as he writes his big book. She ignores what is going on in the basement. There is a creature in the basement. We are not told where it came from any more than where Dr. Jim was those three days. He is also building some odd structure in the backyard. Carol, is a scientist herself, an anthropologist with a minor in biology. She has a position at the local university and is working towards tenure. She sees a study of the epigene as a way to get it. Epigenetics, in simple terms is the study of "heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence" (according to its Wikepedia entry). Carol has her head on much straighter than Dr. Jim and plays an important part in this story. A generally good story, but one wonders how Dr. Jim supports himself without working, when his wife isn't with him.

"The Soul in the Bell Jar" by KJ Kabza -+- Lindsome Glass is a young girl in what is similar but different to Victorian England. She is sent to live with her great uncle Albion who is known as the Stitchman in the area. This is because he vivifies the bodies of animals by stitching souls to them. He creates chimera by stitching souls of one animal to the other. This is something of a known and accepted practice as even Lindsome has read of it. The holy writ in this world is different from ours as their god is a being they call the Ghost. Her uncle is brilliant and Lindsome finds that he is meddling in the classic things he shouldn't be. Nice little classic horror in a very interesting world.

"Stones and Glass" by Matthew Hughes -+- Another tale of the thief Raffalon following "Wearaway and Flambeau" in the July/Aug 2012 issue. Raffalon has arrived in the Freeborough of Tattermach to sell his bag of weft-stones at the Lapidarion's Fair. Unfortunately, he finds out that the fair has been canceled, due to lack of interest in the gemstones. This is bad news because Raffalon's gems are bogus, changed from regular stones by a wizard for whom Raffalon had stolen some items. He can renew the spell but it only lasts a few days. He concocts a scheme to revitalize the Lapidarions interest in weft-stones, but is dogged by a man calling himself Cascor, a former provostman for a man that Raffalon had stolen from for the wizard. They actually team up for one of Hughes' typically fun stories. I hope to see more stories of Raffalon and hope that the team-up with Cascor continues, too.

"Hard Stars" by Brendan DuBois -+- A group of people holed up in a house in the Catskills. They have destroyed devices that might be used to track them, including chips in their own wrists. Upstairs is a sick man they call Harrier. We find out that he is the President of the United States. Drones up above are killing everyone. They are the Secret Service, pledged to protect him. Most dedicated is a man called Trenton. Much is discussed about duty, how things got this way and other topics. Good solid story.

"Sing, Pilgrim!" By James Patrick Kelly -+- On "a Thursday afternoon on the sidewalk in front of the Dollar Bank and Trust on Lancaster Street in Pulaski, Kansas", a chair appears out of nowhere. It's an ordinary-looking chair "in the Windsor style". The second most extraordinary thing about is that it cannot be moved. The most extraordinary thing about it is that if someone sits in it, they get a peaceful expression on their face and begin singing some beautiful, transcendent song. Then, they shimmer and disappear. Over the years, this results in a religion, government action, and many other things. Perfect little story, just perfect. Can't say any more.

The fiction concludes with "Baba Makosh" by M.K. Hobson -+- This is a rich wonderful fantasy set during the Russian Civil War in 1920 when the Red Army was brutally extinguishing all resistance, included the so-called Kulaks, the prosperous peasantry. Pudovkin is part of a Red Army group of three (with the foolish Blotsky and Lvov) looking for a place called Hell. They are under the orders of Commander Tchernov who has used scientific methods to pursue his war. Pudovkin remembers the ways of his grandfather, executed as a Kulak, who venerated the old gods of Russia. He still plays his zhaleika (a flute). Starving, they are welcomed ("to Hell") by an old woman, plump, dark, kind-looking and dressed in old-fashioned rich clothing, giving them bread which Blotsky and Lvov wolf down. She leads them through the woods as Pudovkin leaves a trail like his grandfather taught him. They reach a mountain with a huge tree next to it, a an enormous cave leading into it. In the cave, they see a huge feast which Blotsky and Lvov fall to. Pudovkin sees twelve strange men who the woman calls her sons. Then, he sees the woman's "winter-husband" whom he knows to be Lord Veles "the great dragon, the god of cattle and of merchants". Veles calls the woman Baba Makosh. This all sets up a clash between the forces of the rationalist Communists and something much older, with some surprises along the way. Great story!

Great way to end the year! Don't let 2014 start without subscribing to F&SF.

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