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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction April/May 2009 - Volume 116, No. 4 & 5, Whole No. 682
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Bryn Bernard
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 26 February 2009

Links: F&SF Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The April/May 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here with stories from Sean McMullen, Ellen Kushner, Deborah J. Ross, John C. Wright, Jack Skillingstead, S.L. Gilbow, Henry Garfield, and Classic Reprints from Thomas M. Disch and Edward Jesby.

The April/May 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the first issue in its new bi-monthly double issue version. It has some fine new stories (one Hugo-worthy) and a two classic reprints.

The issue begins with "The Spiral Briar" by Sean McMullen, set in 1449, in the town of Keswick. Sir Gerald of Ashdayle keeps a watch for his sister Mayliene who disappeared after being cursed by an elf lord for rejecting him. He is approached by an armorer named Tordral who says he has a way to attack Faerie. Sir Gerald agrees to fund such a project and Tordral and his crew get to work. McMullen creates some great characters and weaves a fine story.

Jack Skillingstead contributes one of his unique stories in "The Avenger of Love". Norman Helmcke is 62 and suddenly notices that his memory of his first love had disappeared. It's not the details of her but her "vital presence". This sets him on a quest for a lost childhood in a beautiful story, one of his best yet.

In the introduction to "A Wild and a Wicked Youth" (the title is a quote), Ellen Kushner tells us that she wants to write of the early life of Richard St. Vier, the hero of her first novel, Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners. What follows is a fascinating tale of Richard as a young boy, living with his unwed mother, Octavia. He is learning swordplay from an old knight and having fun with his best friend, Crispin, son of Lord Trevelyan. I have not read the novel and don't know if any of these other characters are in it, but this story made them real. I liked it quite a bit.

"Andreanna" by S.L. Gilbow is the story about a robot that is supposed to give briefings on the base on the Moon. The problem is that "she" has been loaded up with many briefings, including one on Mount Rushmore. When "she" falls, things go awry. This was another nice little story from Gilbow.

I always love stories that combine science fiction and baseball and "Stratosphere" by Henry Garfield is a delight. It's the story of Joe "Stratosphere" Stromboni, who is a baseball player on the Moon. The locale makes for different rules and "small ball" is how most play it. But Joe likes to hit home runs and this is the story of one that was really "out of sight".

"The Price of Silence" by Deborah J. Ross is a classic science fiction story, set on a ship called Juno. Devlin is a doctor who had just joined a very tight crew. The other outsider is a security officer named Archaimbault March, who everyone mistrusts. Devlin falls in love with Shizuko and all are on their way to a planet that has ceased communications. What they find makes for a good, well-told story.

The issue concludes with the novelette, "One Bright Star to Guide Them" by John C. Wright, which turned out to be my favorite. Thomas S. Robertson has just turned 40 and has been promoted at work. Arriving home late one night, he finds a black cat at his door. He recognizes it as Tybalt, a magical cat of his youth. When he was a boy. He and three friends, Richard, Sally and Penny had entered a fantasy world called Vidblain, "and broke the Black Mirror of the Winter King, and restored Prince Hal to his throne at Caer Pendewen". Tybalt warns him that England itself is menaced by the Shadow King and he must do battle again. But Thomas is now an adult, didn't he put away "childish things"? I loved this story for the hints we got of a story that never existed, mentioned, in passing, in a way that makes it real. We get a great story here of Thomas, his childhood friends and how he does battle as an adult. I'll be putting this on my Hugo short list for next year.

The issue is rounded out by a Plumage from Pegasus piece, "The Art of the State" by Paul Di Filippo. It's a hilarious look at the Poet Laureate of a state who is not exactly up for the job. I laughed out loud at this one.

In keeping with the 60th Anniversary tradition, this double issue had two Classic Reprints. The first up is one of my all-time favorites, that I nominated for a Hugo back in the day. "The Brave Little Toaster" by Thomas M. Disch, features five appliances (vacuum cleaner, alarm clock/radio, electric blanket, tensor lamp and the titular toaster) who have been left in a summer cottage and feel abandoned by their owner. They set out to find his year-round home. This was a wonderful story, then, and it still is. The other classic is "Sea Wrack" by Edward Jesby. Greta rescues a man from the sea and brings him home. As the story develops, we find out more about the man's culture and hers. This was an interesting story from the past

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction needs your support and I hope that the new bi-monthly schedule works. You should all subscribe.

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