The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction September/October 2016 - Volume 131, Nos.3&4, Whole No.727
Edited by C.C. Finlay
Cover Artist: David A. Hardy
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction Print / eMagazine ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 29 August 2016
Links: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction / How to Subscribe / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The September/October 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#727) is a David Gerrold Special Issue and it's got a Hugo-worthy tale from Peter S. Beagle.
The fiction in the issue starts with "Talking to Dead People" by Sarah Pinsker. -+- When our narrator, Gwen, was in college, she roomed with a rich woman named Elizabeth Mint. Eliza, as she was known then, was fascinated by "murder houses" where notorious crimes took place, like the Borden house in Fall River, Massachusetts. Eliza hits on the idea of doing miniature recreations of these houses with programming that would allow one to ask questions of the former inhabitants and solve the crime. Gwen's part on the project is that she is good at recreating the actual houses. Things are going well and the business is lucrative until Eliza goes a bit too far into Gwen's past. Good story with well-drawn characters. The historical background with the Lizzie Borden case added immensely to the tale.
"The Green-Eyed Boy" by Peter S. Beagle -+- For fans of Beagle's The Last Unicorn, this tale is a treat. The eponymous boy is a young Schmendrick, taken as a student by the wizard Nikos because his father thinks him worthless. He has another birth name, that of a hero who killed a many-headed sea monster, but died in the process. Nikos takes him as a student because he senses a great innate power in him. The young boy asks Nikos to call him Schmendrick, because that is what everyone calls him, not a name but a word for someone out of his depth. Nikos finds that Schmendrick has great power but has trouble putting the right words and tone together for a spell, something which results in, at the very least, inconvenient circumstances. One such is at the conclusion of the story. This was a wonderful story to read, and I was glad that I actually saved it for last. It's the best story in the issue and will be on my short list for Best Short Story Hugo next year. I can't help but make one suggestion. He has given us Schmendrick's origin story. Could he give us Molly Grue's?
"The Voice in the Cornfield, the Word Made Flesh" by Desirina Boskovich -+- An alien crash lands in a cornfield in a very traditional religious community, much like the Mennonites, although they are not specifically mentioned. The alien causes one death immediately and has other far-reaching effects on the locals. Really interesting sense of the locale which makes for a good story.
"A Melancholy Apparition" by Ian Creasey -+- A narrative of James Boswell about an encounter that he and his famous friend, Dr. Samuel Johnson, had that did not make it into his life. It concerns their visit to a man who has ruined himself with gambling and a supernatural event resulting from it. This has the real feel of a traditional ghost story but with a difference. We get a look into the life and mind of Boswell that really makes this something special.
"Those Shadows Laugh" by Geoff Ryman -+- This is based on the 1915 novel Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a country of only women who reproduced parthenogenetically. In this story, our narrator has arrived on the island of Colinas Bravas to help them modernize their reproduction. But she falls in love with Evie, one of the inhabitants which is not a good idea. The details of the society here was interesting but I had a problem liking our narrator.
"Anything for You" by Lisa Mason -+- Willem has become obsessed with an interactive soap opera about a surgeon named Dr. Virginia Isley. He tries to control her life as much as he can but is constantly frustrated. His obsession ruins his marriage and things go even more downhill from there. A real chill at the end in another great story.
"Cupid's Compass" by Leah Cypress -+- In a future in which the "neural basis of romantic love" has been "pinpointed", a business has sprung up that can cause people to fall in love with a suitable mate. With the urging of her sister, Julie agrees to match up with Steve but things do not go well. It's already a good story when the author throws in some nice new twists.
"The Sweet Warm Earth" by Steven Popkes -+- This one is narrated by Larry Mulcahey, a early 60s hoodlum who has relocated from Boston to California to avoid a mob war. There, he has a nice job watching a race track for a mobster. Things go well until he encounters, Antonio Bernardi, a courtly old Italian with an affinity for the horses. This builds up into another great story.
The Special David Gerrold Section has two novellas by the author:
In "The Further Adventures of Mr. Costello", Gerrold uses a character originally created by Theodore Sturgeon in a 1950s novella, "Mr. Costello, Hero". (He got the permission of the Sturgeon estate to do this.) In this story, our narrator is part of a group family on the planet Haven, which has a complex ecology that features a semi-intelligent, mobile plant and a vicious predator. The people on the planet live in these group family arrangements with no real central government and our narrator likes it that way. Costello comes to the planet with the purpose of capturing a large number of the vicious predators and making a lot of money off of them. He is generous with his business dealings with the various families of Haven, but there are some that are skeptical. How the project develops has an effect on the narrator and his family. I won't spoil any more. What I will say is that I had a difficulty with the resolution of this story and the ethics involved. Nonetheless, it was a very interesting read.
The other Gerrold novella is "The Dunsmuir Horror" and it is something of a sequel/companion piece to last month's "The Thing on the Shelf”, which I did not care for. It's another of Gerrold's "Dear Gordon" (as in former editor and current publisher of this magazine, Gordon Van Gelder) and is written as if it were autobiographical. It tells the tale of Gerrold driving to Portland, Oregon for the World Horror Convention and his encounter with the strange town on Dunsmuir on the way. But there is a lot more going on than that and that's what makes this a really good story, with a real twist at the end.