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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction December 2009 - Volume 117, No. 5, Whole No. 686
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kent Bash
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 27 October 2009 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The December 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here with stories by Alex Irvine, Matthew Hughes, Tim Sullivan, Richard Bowes, Alexandra Duncan, Terry Bisson, Brendan DuBois, Kit Reed, Sarah Thomas, Nancy Springer, and Harvey Jacobs.

The December 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is still a double issue, Gordon Van Gelder labeled it "December" so that it would not span years.

The issue starts with "Dragon's Teeth" by Alex Irvine, a High Fantasy related to his "Wizardís Six" in the June 2007 issue. Paulus is a captain of the King's Guard sent on a mission to open a tomb. When that happens, the spirit in it is freed and all those with Paulus are killed. He loots the tomb and returns to his superior with a congratulations for a job well done. He is directed to go to a seller of magic, the man who requested the opening of the tomb and tell him what happened. The story does not end there and Paulus goes on a further mission, this time for his Queen. Irvine writes a rich, imaginative tale here and I hope we see more from him.

Alexandra Duncan's "Bad Matter" is set more than 500 years in the future. In this future, much of the transporting of good across the galaxy is done by crewes, close knit family cultures with their own religious beliefs and a distrust of modern methods of communication. Our narrator is Saraih, whose father, Dr. Vikram Hertz had written the definitive study of these people. She receives a written letter that had been sent to her late father from the head of the crewe of the ship Parastrata about someone named Ete who has something to do with her father. She contacts the ship and arranges to come aboard. All that sets up a fascinating story of a very different culture.

You can always count on Terry Bisson for something unique and "Farewell Atlantis" certainly fills that bill. It begins with a woman named Stella watching a movie. She is accosted by a man named Frank who calls her attention to their surroundings. There is no one else in the theater, which is very small, having only ten empty seats. He asks her if she remembers anything before she was in the theater and she does not. He convinces her to leave and explore what's outside. They find out they are on some sort of spaceship and are quite alone. Bisson spins a nice little story here about what they find out about their situation and shows again his great talent.

I always like Matthew Hughes' stories, and even though "Hell of a Fix" is not one of his Penultimate Earth pieces, I still enjoyed it immensely. Chesney Anstruther is an introverted little man who works as an actuary. One day, he hits his thumb with a hammer and the nonsense syllables that he uses for profanity accidentally summons a demon. The demon insists that he must make a deal to sell his soul. Chesney is not religious but the memories of his strict upbringing are enough for him to know not to make such a deal. Eventually, he gets the demon to leave and is later reading one of his favorite graphic novels when another demon appears to argue with him some more. He sends that one packing, too. When he sends a third demon away, that has consequences that neither he nor the reader can imagine, so I won't spoil it by giving it away. This was a wonderfully satiric tale and a real lot of fun.

In "Illusions of Tranquility", Brendan Du Bois shows us a moon colony in a near future. Life isn't easy on this colony and everyone needs to pitch in for menial tasks and those of another kind. Eva Lindsey is a young woman who is asked to greet a rich visitor from Earth. She goes reluctantly and makes him a special offer. No, it's not what you think but the visitor, a man who was nine years old when Apollo 11 landed, is quite nice and things might turn out pretty well for Eva. This was a poignant, touching story.

Kit Reed has been writing her unique kind of story for F&SF for more than fifty years and "The Blight Family Singers" is another worthy addition to that canon. The story is told from multiple viewpoints beginning with Tifney, a teenager living in a small town in a remote part of Minnesota who is dismayed that the powers that be have hired a very old-fashioned group called the Blight Family Singers to entertain at their Midwinter Bash. The group is famous for having escaped a repressive regime and a classic movie was done about their story. If that sounds familiar, well, let's just say that things are a bit different here. Reed makes use of satire and fashions a truly startling tale.

"The Economy of Vacuum" by Sarah Thomas is also set on the Moon. This time, it has only one colonist, a woman named Virginia Rickles. Things go well at first but events on Earth cause her to be isolated for a long time. Things do not get better when visitors arrive after many years. This one was all right but I could have used a little more detail about just what had developed on Earth.

In "Iris" by Nancy Springer, our narrator is a lonely, old woman whose husband has died. Their daughter, Iris, died when she was a child but the woman still misses her. She is quite poor and has taken to collecting any odd item which has been discarded by others. One of these is what she calls a bottle-brush tree, an artificial Christmas tree so crude that is branches look like something you clean bottles with. Nonetheless, this an her other items have an affect on her in this beautiful piece.

Tim Sullivan weighs in with "Inside Time". Herel Jablovis a famous scientist who finds himself on an odd kind of station, populated only by a woman named Mae. She tells him that he is 'inside time' and will eventually be picked up. This was another interesting tale.

"The Man Who Did Something About It" by Harvey Jacobs features Colin Kabe, a genius of an automobile mechanic, a man who has always wanted to do something about it, that which "is always talked about and roundly condemned". One day he is confronted with a unique opportunity. Does he finally "do something about it". You decide.

The title, "I Needs Must Part: The Policeman Said" in the story by Richard Bowes might remind you of Philip K. Dick and he is acknowledged in it. The narrator has the same name as the author and is a man visited by spirits in his dreams, a nun and a policeman. He remembers something from his youth and all this comes together is something quite different.

Gordon Van Gelder has put together another great issue. You should subscribe!

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