The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction January 2009 - Volume 116, No. 1, Whole No. 679
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Max Bertolini
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 25 November 2008
Links: Fantasy & Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The January 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Two of the stories were exceptional and Hugo-worthy and all the rest got a Very Good from me.
In the introduction to "The Minutemen's Witch" by Charles Coleman Finlay we are told that it is the opening chapter to what will become three novels. This story certainly whets one appetite for more. Proctor Brown is a young man in the colonial militia of Massachusetts, going off to meet the British Army in a town called Lexington. He has powers to "scrye" the future and thinks he sees that the British will retreat without shooting (Non-Spoiler – They don't). His powers seem to be genetic and he is a Christian who thinks they are a gift from God. He's also is in love with Emily, whose family allies with the British. This is a good introductory story and I'll look forward to reading the novels.
You know when you read a story by Carol Emshwiller that it's going to be something really different and "The Perfect Infestation" is a great example of this. Aliens decide to invade Earth by sending seeds down to implant themselves in strategic creatures. No, it's not humans, it's dogs and we have a story from the viewpoint of one such invader. The story is too delightful for me to reveal any more details but I will say I liked this so much that it will be on my Hugo short list when I need to consider the best short stories of 2009.
Albert E. Cowdrey gives us something different in "Seafarer's Blood". For one thing, this is set in modern day Baltimore and Eric Mumford's everyday life is pretty bad. He and his wife are on the outs and his college education has just prepared him to be a waiter in an Italian Restaurant. But since he was seven, he has had visions of the past when he was asleep. Currently, they are of a Viking stronghold besieged by invaders. He used to be able to only see things but now he can hear and smell. Things go further in his dreams and they have an effect on his waking life. Cowdrey gives us another fine story.
"All in Fun" by Jerry Oltion is something of a Christmas tale. Toby is a grown man who has noticed that since he was small that whatever he wishes for on Christmas Eve almost always comes true. He can't think what to wish for this year so he wishes just to "have fun". This sets up an interesting Christmas Day for Toby and his wife in this cute little story.
Barry B. Longyear holds a special place in my heart as he is one of the first authors I ever nominated for a Hugo Award. That was back in 1980, when he did so well and won. Well, I might have to wait well over a year but "The Monopoly Man" is the second of the stories from this issue that will be on my Hugo short list. Cheri is at her life's lowest ebb, She is a drug-addicted prostitute who has been mugged and horribly beaten. Then, she meets a man in the park who looks like the old man on the Monopoly cards and he wraps her in his overcoat. This begins a wonderful story of redemption and repayment. It's got the heart that was always in Longyear's stories and brought me back to them. It's so good to have stories by him to read again.
In "The Boy Who Sang For Others", Michael Meddor gives us a story set in a rural community as a girl looks back on her childhood on a farm. Her brother Bobby has been kicked in the head by a horse and seems to be brain-damaged. Her mother is not with them so her grandmother comes to help. This was a nicely done little supernatural tale.
"An Elvish Sword of Great Antiquity" by Jim Alkin is a brief but effective little piece told by a man who is a guest at a house in which such a sword is displayed. The master of the house has Elvish servants whom he treats harshly. He receives a warning that he should leave the house and does. I'll not give away the ending and will only say that it was quite a good one.
Gordon Van Gelder tells us that "Changeling" by Dean Whitlock is "fantastical", but not "strictly speaking, fantasy" and that's an accurate description. It is a beautiful, little story about Gavin, a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. He has just arrived and knows nobody. He quickly meets a waitress who gives her name as Amanita and whom he immediately thinks is incredibly ugly. Still, they become friends and he also acquires a parrot. The three of them have a life-changing experience.
Finally, in this the 60th Anniversary Year, there a Classic Reprint in each issue and this time it's "Rising Waters" by Patricia Ferrara from the July 1987 issue. Rory is a young boy, living with his grandmother by a river. His grandmother has told him that she used to live in a house that was now covered by the river. He notices on one hot summer day that the river has receded a little and the top of a house is visible way out in the river. As little boys are wont to do, he swims out. All in all, this was a chilling little horror tale.
If you need any more encouragement to subscribe to F&SF, an issue with two Hugo-worthy stories should be enough to get you to do it!