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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction October/November 2009 - Volume 117, No.3 & 4, Whole No. 685
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: David A. Hardy
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 24 September 2009 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The October/November 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is their Sixtieth Anniversary issue with stories by Lucius Shepard, Elizabeth Hand, Albert E. Cowdrey, Robert Silverberg, Ron Goulart, Charles Oberndorf, Carol Emshwiller, Geoff Ryman, Robert Reed, Joe Haldeman, M. Rickert, Ron Partridge, and Kate Wilhelm.

The October/November 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is a special one, their Sixtieth Anniversary issue and Gordon Van Gelder has put together a worthy issue with some splendid stories.

The issue starts with "The Far Shore" by Elizabeth Hand. Philip is a ballet dancer and instructor whose injury has forced him to take an early retirement. He is invited by an old friend who owns a camp up in Maine called Camp Tuonela to spend the winter looking after the place while she and her husband go to Florida. He accepts and enjoys the isolation. After a couple of weeks, he comes upon a unconscious and naked young man. He takes him back to the lodge and gives him some clothes. The boy leaves but returns and rewards him with a special gift in this lyrical tale.

It almost wouldn't be an issue of F&SF without an Albert Cowdrey story in it and "Bandits of the Trace" fits the bill nicely. This one is not set in Louisiana but Mississippi. Kendall Keyes is a professor at Central Mississippi State College. He has been researching the story of Robert Tole, a vicious bandit and murderer from the early days of the frontier. He and his band waylaid travelers, killing them for all their possessions. Tole and his wife, with the inappropriate name of Justice, stashed their loot away. Tole's prized possession was a huge snake named Shadder who even Justice feared. Keyes thinks he has found the key to where the treasure is and enlists the aid of an unscrupulous student and his father. Cowdrey gives us a fine sense of history in this truly wonderful tale.

Robert Silverberg returns to Majipoor, the setting of his novel Lord Valentine's Castle and all its sequels in the story "The Way They Wove the Spells in Sippulgar". The narrator of the story is a merchant, native to the city of Sisivondal who has always wanted to visit the distant, golden city of Sippulgar but has never had the time. When his beloved wife Thuwayne's elder brother, Melifont Ambithorn, disappears in the city and is presumed dead, she begs him to investigate. He travels there and becomes involved with the strange cults in the city. Silverberg gives is a rich story here and reminds me that I have stayed away from Majipoor for way too long.

Carol Emshwiller is another fine writer of short stories who I have associated with this magazine and "Logicist" is another good example of her work. The story is told by an overly pedantic teacher who takes her young students on a field trip to see a real battle. Things go badly but the teacher does not falter in trying to put things into a logical order. This is another of those quiet but disturbing tales which Emshwiller has made her specialty.

I am more accustomed to finding Geoff Ryman elsewhere but was pleased to see him here with "Blocked". Like much of his work, this is set in Cambodia. The teller of this story dreams that he has married a Danish woman named Agnette, who had been abandoned by her Cambodian husband, leaving her with their four children. Cambodia is, again, invaded, but this time by non-humans from another planet and they flee to Singapore. This was another very unworldly tale from a masterful writer.

The issue boasts one novella, "Halloween Town" by Lucius Shepard. Clyde Ormoloo is a construction worker who, after being struck on the head, finds he can see deeply into people and has suddenly become more intelligent. He finds he must leave his home and immigrates to Halloween, "the spindly, skinny town that lies along the bottom of the Shilkonic Gorge". Shepard goes into some detail about the strangeness of this town and its people. Clyde meets a woman named Annalisa who is a "willow wan" and involved with a former rock star named Pet Nylund who runs much of the town. The story develops into quite an imaginative fantasy with a lot of invention.

Another stalwart of the magazine is Robert Reed and he is represented here by "Mermaid". Reed never writes a normal story and this one is as different as any of his. A man turns away a disreputable-looking stranger who wants to use his telephone but becomes interested in the man's young female companion. Reed weaves a fascinating story as we slowly begin to understand what is happening.

In "Never Blood Enough" by Joe Haldemann. Travis Dobb is a "xenobiologist without portfolio" who is the closest the planet of Runaway has to a doctor. He is brought the body of a woman who has been drained of blood and tries to determine what has happened to her. He finds out in this grim, atmospheric tale.

As you might determine from the title "I Waltzed with a Zombie" is not a serious story. Ron Goulart gives us a darkly, humorous piece about a filmmaker in the Hollywood of the 1940s who finds out what lengths a studio will go to complete a picture.

Much darker is "The Presidentís Book Tour" by M. Rickert. In a future in which the country has been ravaged by war and the children have become horribly mutated, the residents of a town welcome the President who has come to sell his book and his vision of the future. This one was truly unsettling.

Ron Partridge contributes "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot LXXI". I certainly won't reveal the pun but will only say that it is kind of an ultimate Feghoot.

Next is "Another Life" by Charles Obemdorf, which features a man who has been revived from death but cannot put together details of his former life. He thinks he was a soldier and is searching for his lover, another soldier named Noriko. The details slowly emerge in this very different story.

The issue ends with a piece by one of the great writers of the genre, Kate Wilhelm. In "Shadows on the Wall of the Cave", the death of Ashley's grandmother brings her back to a farm that she visited with cousins as a child. While exploring a cave, her younger cousin disappeared and was never found. I won't spoil what happens next but only say that this made for a great way to end the issue.

Gordon Van Gelder has produced a great Sixtieth Anniversary issue for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Let's hope the magazine lasts (at least) 60 years more!

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