The Colored Lens: Spring 2020 Kindle Edition (e-book magazine review).

I’ve been meaning to try ‘The Colored Lens’ for a while now. Finally, I grabbed a free sample courtesy of the world’s richest man and was impressed enough to buy the magazine. It has stories like this:-

‘The Hero’ by Carlen Vigo is told by the wife of a super-hero who didn’t know he was one, only finding out after his death when her husband disappears. Tracking down his secret life is somewhat traumatic, especially as she often saw him vulnerable. Interesting take on the Superman mythos.

‘There Can Be No Hermits’ by Franco Amati is a scary story of a dystopian future where you’re not allowed to be alone. If the authorities note that you’re not out mixing with folks and keeping busy on social networks online, someone will come to check on you. This was the story that got cut off half-way through in my free sample and made me buy the mag.

‘Cold Shoulder’ by Teige M. Weidner concerns Sarah Stewart who is taken away by the men in black to meet a robot that claims to be her ex-husband, a biomechanical engineer who did work for the US government. The premise is not original, few are, but the treatment brings home the emotional impact of it in a new way.

‘The Tollkeepers’ by Mina Ikemoto Ghosh is one of those fantasies based on a daft premise, completely unexplained, that focuses on how people would deal with it. Roadkill is the price of motorised transport, one we don’t pay but animals do. One day, the tarmac rises up in the shape of various animals, sometimes mingled, and will not let anyone pass until a toll is paid in human blood. How society and one individual in particular cope with this is the story and it’s great. Entirely original and, sadly, true to human nature.

‘On The Rails’ by Danielle Jorgenson-Murray is about Tam, a bureaucrat, a peaceable family man with a wife and child who works in a government ministry dedicated to building a railway. His best friend, Banur, a man he much admires, is with the department for plagues and omens, forecasting disaster. Secondary world fantasies tend to feature muscular heroes, so this quiet tale of a minor official is an odd, low-key affair but I really liked it.

The timing of submission, acceptance and publication for magazine stories probably means that ‘Rivulets’ by Jason P. Burnham was written long before our current viral problem. It’s a touching tale of maternal love in hard times. The notion that archaeological digs can unleash buried plagues is scary.

‘This City Of Spilt Marrow And Silence’ by Aimee Odgen is set in the City of Wolves, which is constantly encroached upon by the World-Woods full of deadly creatures. The Wolves protect mankind but sometimes eat them. Lony loses her baby this way, which sparks rebellion in her soul. The prose barrels along with scarcely a pause and evokes a doomed atmosphere with just a spark of hope.

I enjoy those early pulp boxing stories and I liked ‘The Sisyphus Code’ by John Post. Aris, a black cage fighter, is programmed to succeed and his motto is ‘learn by doing’. Now he has a title shot. His programmer/trainer Dade is in debt. Snappy narrative style here. Cuts excess words. Works for material.

Other stories didn’t hit my mark so much but may hit yours. All were well-written for ‘The Colored Lens’ is literary fare. This issue featured a mixed bag of Science Fiction, fantasy and weird fiction which caters to all speculative tastes except that for pulpish action-adventure. My own taste lies more that way but there are other mags for pulp yarns and it’s possible, nay vital, to try everything. Otherwise, speculative fiction will become like politics with everyone snug in their own ghettos shouting abuse at those with different ideas. We don’t want that, folks. I recommend ‘The Colored Lens’ to readers of ‘Storyhack’ and I recommend ‘Storyhack’ to readers of ‘The Colored Lens’. Let’s keep them both going.

Eamonn Murphy

May 2020

(pub: Light Spring LLC, 2020. 156 page e-magazine. Size: 971kB. Price: FREE issue although you can buy/donate for £ 4.06 (UK). ASIN: B086T6N196)

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