Paradox - The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction - Issue 13 - Spring 2009
Edited by Christopher M. Cevasco
Cover Artist: Hope (1886) by Frederick Watts (1817-1904)
Review by Sam Tomaino
Paradox ISBN/ITEM#: 1548-0593
Date: 20 May 2009
Links: Paradox Magazine / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Paradox :The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction, returns with issue #13 and, sadly, reports that this is its last issue. The publisher hopes to put together some anthologies and maybe resurrect the magazine with an online version. But, alas, #13 looks to be the last we'll see for a while. all the stories got a Very Good from me.
When an issue begins with a story from Steve Rasnic Tem, you know you are starting off well. "The Artist and His Mother" is another one of his beautiful little pieces. Pak is a young Korean whose mother wants him to be an artist. She always tells him things about his deceased father that seem to contradict each other. He struggles with his art until he meets a young woman. Or is she a fox? He takes her home to meet mother and things become clearer. I've been reading Tem for more than 20 years and he once more shows what a great talent he is.
"Beautiful Calamity" by Maura McHugh is the story of a man who initially identifies himself as James when he steps into a night club in the East Village. He is a private eye investigating the husband of a friend to see if he's cheating on her. He meets a young woman named Mel who is a talented writer. The bar is the kind of place where people read "works in progress" and she reads from hers. Things happen and she disappears but he want to find her, knowing only that her full name is Melpomene. She has had a profound effect on him in this well-written tale.
T.L. Morganfield contributes "The Place That Makes You Happiest" which takes place in a world in which the Aztec Empire never fell and dominates North and South America. It's ruled by a Emperor and still practices human sacrifice to curry favor with the gods. They have, nonetheless, developed a space program and women have equal rights with men enough so that a woman named Malila is piloting the first mission to the "red planet" that they call Huitzilopochtli. But this is a sad time for Malila as her childhood friend Nochuetl-tzin, whom she calls Noc, is dying of cancer. He should have been accompanying her on the voyage. Now, it is unlikely that he will be alive when she returns. How he manages to contribute to her mission makes for a good story, even though I'm skeptical that this world could exist.
We get another classic alternate history in "Like a Stone Wall" by Danny Adams. It is 1872 in a world in which the South won the Civil War. Maryland joined the Confederacy and a surrounded Washington, D.C. has become the seat of the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee had been President but died and James Longstreet is President now. George McClellan is in his last year as President of the U.S.A. The Confederacy will be having presidential elections in the next year. Probable candidates are Vice-President John Bell Hood, Senator Nathan Bedford Forrest and a still-living Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, now president of Washington College. McClellan would like the next C.S.A. President to be Jackson as he would be most likely to continue the reconciliation with the U.S.A. that Longstreet had started. Jackson is unpopular with Confederate diehards, who think he might also abolish slavery. Our narrator is a man named Chapman who had been a Union spy but was dispatched by McClellan to prevent an assassination of Jackson. He does this and begins to get to know Jackson. This was a well-researched and well-told tale of the kind we are going to miss when Paradox is no longer published.
"Salt Feels No Pain" by Marie Brennan takes less than 300 words to give us another look at a story from the Old Testament. I can't say more without spoiling if but I can admire how Brennan is able to tell us such a perfect story, so succinctly.
The narrator of Natasha Simonova's "Last Voyage" is a carpenter named Alexis. He tells us that he is the youngest man on a ship because he was born "too late" for "the war". The ship's captain is the king of his homeland and had been a great captain in the war. Alexis's late Master Carpenter had been one of his crew and when captain and crew come looking for him, Alexis volunteers to go in his place on a long sea voyage. There are hints that the captain is Odysseus and he seems to be haunted by some purpose for sailing. The purpose becomes greater when they reach land and a big mountain. This was a well-written story but I ultimately found it a bit unsatisfying.
It's sad to say that I also found "For Want of Sympathy" by Ernesto Brosa not very satisfying either. Martha and Elizabeth live along the Concord River and keep house for their father, brothers and baby sister. Martha is obsessed with taking long swims in the river and their neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story wanders this way and that and, ultimately, I had no clue as to what Martha's problem was.
Even though I did not care for the last two stories, the others more than made up for it. Paradox is an attractive, literate magazine and I am sorry to see it go. Still you do have the chance to order this issue and I suggest you go to their website at www.paradoxmag.com and do so.