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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – October/November 2008 - Volume 115, No. 4&5, Whole No. 677 & 678
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Max Bertolini
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 27 August 2008 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The October/November 2008 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here with stories by Geoff Ryman, Robert Reed, Tim Sullivan, Albert E. Cowdrey, Steven Utley, Scott Bradfield, Laurel Winter, Terry Bisson, Carol Emshwiller, M. Rickert, Michael Swanwick and some guy named Stephen King

The October/November 2008 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is another one of their great Anniversary Issues. All the stories got a Very Good from me.

It's always good when an issue starts with an Albert E. Cowdrey story and "Inside Story" is well up to his standards. This one features characters from a previous story, Detective Sergeant Alphonse Fournet (now retired) and Chief of Detectives D.J. Tobin, now both shown in a post-Katrina New Orleans. Fournet is asked by Tobin to come out of retirement to solve the mysterious disappearances of people living in FEMA trailer parks. To make things stranger, one reappears after two weeks with her clothes inside out (underwear on the outside) and speaking backwards. Fournet figures out that there seems to be an extra trailer in the parks where the disappearances have happened. He finds one of these extra trailers and enters it, setting off one of those wonderfully bizarre adventures that only Cowdrey could write.

Steven Utley's "Sleepless Years" is a chilling story of a man whose body and mind have been resurrected but can no longer sleep. He is forever studied and prodded by two scientists who now own him body and soul. The line between his conscious and subconscious has been erased and what this does to him is true horror. The talented writer Geoff Ryman weighs in with another of his unique tales in "Days of Wonder". This takes place in some distant future in which humans have all died or left Earth but they have genetically-altered animals to be intelligent and to have "seeds" in them for special purposes. One of these, an altered horse, has a vision for the future and goes against traditions to put it into place. This was a beautiful, memorable story.

Stephen King shows that he can still write a good little short story in "The New York Times At Special Bargain Rates". A woman is mourning the death of her husband in a plane crash when suddenly she gets a phone call from him. Seems he was just trying to call her when the plane crashed and, now, he's finally got through. This is a touching story for all those that have suddenly lost a loved one and never got a chance to say goodbye.

Scott Bradfield weighs in with "Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter's Guild". Dazzle is an intelligent dog who can talk and they are going to make a movie about him. Bradfield writes a hilarious spoof of Hollywood and had me chuckling all the way through. It wouldn't be an F&SF without a Robert Reed story and "The Visionaries" is a classic from him. A man writes a terrible story about a man named "Merv" and tries to get it published but to no avail. Out of the blue, he is contacted by well-known writer/editor who will pay him 5000 in cash for it but won't publish it. He takes the money with the condition that anything with this character in it will be bought by the people behind this man. The writer becomes successful with other works and eventually finds out what is going on. There is much more to this story and it is well worth your reading it!

Next up is "Going Back in Time" by Laurel Winter. This one is an amusing little short piece about a man who explains quantum physics to a beautiful woman and experience some odd time distortion. You might think that Terry Bisson's "Private Eye" is a detective story, but it's not. A man meets an alluring woman in a bar but we notice something is odd. He refers to himself as "we". We find out that he gets paid to allow people to see what he sees. The only glitch is that he can't touch anyone. The woman has secrets of her own in this decidedly different, but very sexy love story. There is no one who writes a story like Carol Emshwiller. "Whoever" is narrated by a woman who suddenly awakes in a doorway with no memory of who she is. We follow her as she tries to adjust and survive. This is a fascinating look at what it might be like to remember nothing.

M. Rickert is a talented writer and winner of the World Fantasy Award. Her story in this issue "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account" is very well-written and I can admire it, even though I disagree with the obvious politics behind it. In some future in which women who have had abortions are executed in public displays, a young girl copes with the loss of her mother. Is she on the run or will she be executed? Rickert wisely goes into no detail on how such an unlikely future comes about but, nonetheless, this is a compelling story.

Tim Sullivan's "Planetesimal Dawn" features Nozaki and Wolverton whose asteroid rover has broken down. They cannot stay there or contact help and must get moving before the red giant sun of this asteroid reaches them and fries them through their insulation suits. Nozaki is the very competent woman in charge and she gets the pathetic Wolverton moving. What starts out as a straight tale of survival takes an odd turn when they find themselves inside an alien mine. This was a clever, well-told story. Finally, there is Michael Swanwick's "The Scarecrow's Boy". The scarecrow is actually an obsolete housebot put out to pasture and the boy is on the run from those that would do him harm. The scarecrow shows some extraordinary qualities to protect this boy in this gripping yarn.

Once again, Gordon Van Gelder has given us a great Anniversary Issue. This is the 59th Anniversary and Gordon promises to begin the celebration of the magazine's 60th with next issue. I can't wait and you should subscribe.

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