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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - January/February 2014– Volume 126, Nos.1&2, Whole No.711
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash for The Lightness of the Movement
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 26 February 2014

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

The March April 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction(#712)has stories by Pat MacEwen, John DeCles, Michael Libling, Leo Valdimirsky, Oliver Buckram, Ron Goulart, Sarah Pinkser, Albert E. Cowdrey, Daniel Marcus, Ted White, D.M. Armstrong, Gordon Eklund, and Rob Chilson, plus the usual features.

The March April 2014issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here and it a great one with a Hugo-worthy story.

The fiction in the issue starts with "Collar" by Leo Valdimirsky -+- Near-future and bad times, Tom works along the shore waiting to escort workers to Chinese ships beyond the limit in international waters. Tonight his client is a young out-of-work IT guy named Jake. But Tom is primarily out for himself in this grim tale. Effective.

"A Struggle Between Rivals Ends Surprisingly" by Oliver Buckram -+- Treya has regular employment negotiating with the species called beetles and, specifically, the Baroness. It takes quite a bit to outwit her, but Treya is familiar with the 3,602 scenarios that the beetles use. Her ex-boyfriend, Neb, has come to town and is stealing her business. At a special night at the Beetle Palace, things come to a head. Delightful tale!

"The Lightness of the Movement" by Pat MacEwen -+- Shannon is part of a study being done on a planet peopled by humanoid creatures they call Neons. She is wearing a suit that mimics a femme Neon and actually interacts with the males. She gets way too involved and the suit seems a bit too magical. How the story ends strains credulity to the breaking point. Even still, the story was pretty entertaining.

"Hark, the Wicked Witches Sing" by Ron Goulart -+- Another adventure of B-movie scriptwriter Hix. It is late fall, 1942, and Hix is trying to sell a script with the same title as this story. He is asked by Polly Fairbairn to help her as she has been hexed by another actress, Nova Carravan, and her agent, Anton Sparber. Despite warnings, he sets out to confront Sparber. Somewhat amusing but the end is a bit abrupt and anti-climactic.

"A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide" by Sarah Pinkser -+- When he was 17, Andy had his left arm tattooed with LORI AND ANDY FOREVER AND EVER. Two weeks later, Lori dumped him when she left town for university. Four years later, his right arm was mangled by the combine in his Saskatchewan farm. He woke up in the hospital with "a robot arm and an implant in his head". One night, after being treated for an infection, he dreams that the robot arm was a highway. That stayed with him. His arm wanted to be a 97 kilometers (actually 60.2758 miles) stretch of two-lane asphalt in eastern Colorado. "A stretch that could see all the way to the mountains, but was content not to reach them." Andy has never been out of Saskatchewan but he knows everything that happens on this stretch of highway. He goes back to work on his farm but has this desire to also be in Colorado. This all gets resolved and in a very poignant way that brings all the aspects of the rest of the story together. Brilliantly done and on my Hugo short story short list for 2014.

"Byzantine History 101" by Albert E. Cowdrey -+- This is a sequel to the previously published "The Woman in the Moon" from the May/June 2013 issue. Professor Threefoot is back and obnoxious as ever dealing with his grandson, Adam, and the man he wants to marry. The professor really is a nasty sort but in this story he gets his just deserts, but story really doesn't quite make it. Looking back, I didn't like the previous story either.

"Albion Upon the Rock" by Daniel Marcus -+- The colony ship Borrowed Time had set off from Sol to Tau Ceti, 22,000 years ago. Unfortunately, it passed too close to a dark gamma-ray source and its AI became damaged. It has been traveling ever since, bypassing Tau Ceti with 500 passengers and is now heading towards a black hole. Meanwhile, a depressingly stable existence is lived by its passengers. Strange little tale/

"Apprentice" by John DeCles -+- Dayfd is a stable boy who is called the Difficult by the people of his town because he doesn't always do what he should be doing. When Dayfd is nine, a wizard comes to his town to deal with a gryphon. When this is done, he takes Dayfd to be his servant and eventually starts teaching him some magick. The title might give you a clue that there might be a problem and this story tells us with a very nice touch.

"The Uncertain Past" by Ted White -+- A man named Stiles has discovered that “time did not ‘flow’ and that all events occurred and existed simultaneously". This means that one cannot change the past. Somehow, a physicist has developed a device to go back and observe events. The problem is that when events are observed, they are changed beyond the range of what could be changed by anyone's presence. The events further change when others go back to the same point. We don't find out why and the end is a bit disappointing.

"Butterscotch" by D.M. Armstrong -+- Arthur and Alexis are having a child but he has his doubts about being a father. Along with this, a traveler has been regularly walking in their yard. These are some sort of supernatural creatures composed of ash that do not talk. Alexis' pregnancy is becoming difficult and she begins to blame Arthur and his doubts. Finally, Arthur decides to take action. Interesting concept!

"I Said I Was Sorry Didn't I" by Gordon Eklund -+- Our narrator begins the story by talking about his apology tour in the media and can't understand why people have not accepted it. Apparently, he did something, we never find out what, that has brought about the end of the universe. His wife kicks him out of the house and he has successive encounters with his three very different sisters. This was mildly amusing but just kind of fizzled out at the end.

"Our Vegetable Love" by Rob Chilson -+- In the village of Edgebetan, sometime in the Middle Ages, there are "soul-suck trees" that can grab the souls of people who are not careful. They are also sometimes, the recipient of souls from old villagers. Such is the tree in our story, who had been Roger Thistledean. His great-granddaughter, six-year-old Agnes wants to go to the annual bonfire where they villagers keep the soul-sucks at bay, but she is told she is too young. When he takes her parents' side, she rejects him. This sets up a situation where he can prove his love and that he still has some of his humanity. Nicely done fantasy.

The fiction concludes with "Draft 31" by Michael Libling -+- Doctor David "Cap" Caplan returns to his hometown to practice medicine. His wife isn't really happy about it, but she agrees when she loses her job. He's been there a while when Allie, an old girlfriend from high school, asks him for help with her son, Josh. It seems Josh remembers people that no one else does, like his father and a teenage son for Cap who only has a six-year-old daughter. Things get a bit stranger when Allie does not even remember their relationship in high school. The end is really chilling and shows why this is a superb dark fantasy.

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