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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction January/February 2015 Volume 128, Nos.1&2, Whole No.717
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash's Farewell Blues
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 27 December 2014

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

The January/February 2015 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction(#717) has stories by Matthew Hughes, Dale Bailey, Naomi Kritzer, Albert E. Cowdrey, Bud Webster, Eleanor Arnason, Eric Schwitzgebel, Nik Houser, Alan Baxter, Gregor Hartmann, and Francis Marion Soty, plus the usual features.

The January/February 2015 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#717) has a lot of good stories to start off the year!

The fiction in the issue starts with novelette "Prisoner of Pandarius" by Matthew Hughes -+- Another Raffalon story! As it opens, the thief is not happy. He had been cheated out of his just pay for some items that he had acquired for the purveyor Gaspon Bodlemeyer, and the Ancient Order of Purloiners (thieves) and Purveyors (fences) in the city of Wal had ruled in Bodlemeyer's favor. Raffalon thinks there is something suspicious about the whole affair. He is hired by a man named Cascor, a former provost man turned sorcerer. Cascor had been head of security for the grand magnate of Caer Lyff, one Oliviett Pandarius, and had lost his job when Raffalon had stolen items from Pandarius. Nonetheless, the thief has worked for Cascor to the benefit of both. Now, Cascor wants Raffalon to steal whatever Pandarius has stashed in a secret room. Raffalon does this and finds that "it" is actually a man whose memory has been wiped, but has tattoos that indicate him to have been a purveyor in Carbingdon. All this results in a wonderful story of politics and plots and the ingenuity of Raffalon.

"Lightning Jack's Last Ride" by Dale Bailey -+- Our narrator here is Gus March, who tells us the real story behind the death of Lightning Jack, the best driver in the world who died when his car overturned while stealing gasoline from the New Feds in a future fractured America. He tells us how it all started with NASCAR driving until that ended and wound up with Lightning and his crew becoming outlaws when the country broke apart. Outlaws who killed people, by the way. Makes you a little less sympathetic even though the story is pretty exciting.

"Telling Stories to the Sky" by Eleanor Arnason -+- In "a city long since gone and forgotten, on a plateau surrounded by mountains" is an ugly beggar girl who calls herself Swallow, She has learned to tell wonderful stories but cannot work in that profession which is limited to men. She sends one of them up in a kite and that attracts the attention of the North Wind who is enchanted by it. Swallow's fortunes change in this fine little fairy tale.

"Jubliee: A Seastead Story" by Naomi Kritzer -+- Another entry in this series. This one has our intrepid young heroine Beck Garrison dealing with a breakdown of anything remotely like authority in the Seastead, a cholera outbreak on Lib ... and her mother. Engaging as always and looking to be a game changer for the storyline.

"Out of the Jar" by Eric Schwitzgebel -+- A professor is summoned by God who turns out be a sixteen-year-old boy with Earth an illegal software program. The prof winds up making regular visits to God's house. The novelty drags after a while.

"History's Best Places to Kiss" by Nik Houser -+- Ray and Karen Fox have made a mess of their marriage and want to avoid an even messier divorce. They go back in time to prevent the wedding from taking place but that does not work. Then, they make attempt after attempt to prevent themselves from falling in love. You might have an idea where this is all going but it has a little surprise at the end. Entertaining.

"The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner" by Alan Baxter -+- Our narrator is the cabin boy on a pirate ship called the Scarlet Wind whose captain, the dread pirate Reeve, has been driven mad by a chart showing the way to what he thinks is treasure. What he finds is horrors. An okay entry in the tradition of sea-horror stories.

"The Man from X" by Gregor Hartmann -+- Franden has come to the planet Zephyr to live the cushy life of an artist according to that planet's laws. He comes from a planet so large and so populous (eighty million people) that no one can agree on a name. Outsiders just call it X. Franden has dressed oddly to make it look like he is a writer and has plagiarized the stories of an author dead for 700 years. He must first get through an interview with the Influx Officer and that is trickier than it looks. Fun story!

"Portrait of a Witch" by Albert E. Cowdrey -+- Alfred Engle is hired by the FBI to spy on a British citizen called Lord Pye who lives in a tiny Caribbean island called Little Antenora. This is being done as a favor to the British government. The island is populated mostly by the descendants of slaves. Lord Pye owns an old-fashioned plantation and hires many of the residents to work for him. Alfred discovers that the fantastic photographs take by Lady Pye (the lord's American wife) seem to have an adverse affect on their subjects but he does not know the half of it. A good solid story from Cowdrey with a nice twist at the end.

"The Gazelle Who Begged for Her Life" by Francis Marion Soty -+- Adapted from "The Tale of the Merchant and the Jinni" in A Thousand Nights and a Night translated from the original Arabic by Sir Francis Burton. Kafar Al-Din is a rich merchant of Aleppo, He has journeyed far from the city with a captive gazelle. He is about to kill it when it pleads for its life and he stays his hand. Then, he accidentally kills the son of a Jinni and must buy his life with the story of the gazelle. It involves a jealous wife, sorcery and the transforming of people into animals. A fine tale.

The fiction concludes with "Farewell Blues" by Bud Webster -+- Our narrator is Juney Walker "a pretty fair trumpet player from the mountains of Virginia". He calls his trumpet The Lady and there is something otherworldly about their connection. He is playing in a makeshift band in the summer of 1937, in a little town called Bayou Cane in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, in a bar called Tonton Jacques. The best player in the band is Jake. "a coffee dark black man" who is a tremendous cornet player. Things are going well until the third night when the owner of the place asks them to stop playing for the rest of the evening. Juney thinks it may be the Klan objecting to Jake but it's something much worse. We get a fine, imaginative supernatural tale and a spectacular battle with the forces of evil. I can pay it no better compliment than that it reminded me of Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories.

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