The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2022, Volume 139 #759 (magazine review).

Regular readers will know that ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ is a magazine that covers a wide range of fiction at different lengths and branches of the genre. In the last issue, Nov/Dec 2021, it was noticeable that there were a high proportion of non-US based authors. In this issue, there is a high proportion of authors with their first publication in MF& SF, though many of them are published elsewhere. This shows the diversity of the selections in this magazine.

The striking cover illustration by Kent Bash captures the essence of Nick DiChario’s story ‘Animale Dei Morti’. The story belongs to the ‘be careful what you wish for’ kind of fable. In the village, where it is set, the tradition is that the eldest son of a family is best man at the marriage of the youngest. The problem occurs when Franco is killed on the eve of Marco’s wedding. To prevent the tradition being broken and bring bad luck on the village, Marco asks the local witch to bring Franco back to life, expecting the reanimation to last only the day, only to discover that it is a bit more complicated than that.

MF&SF tends to include a novella within each issue. The one here is a posthumous offering from Eugie Foster. ‘The Art Of Victory When The Game Is All The World’ is effectively a battle between two rival lesser deities vying to achieve true godhead with obscurity for the loser. As technicians, they use souls created with flaws which they have to overcome to become champions. The game is played out through the lives of humans and can be regarded as a contest between the circumstances fate has dealt out countered by the determination to overcome them. It is an excellent consideration of the whims of the privileged.

The manipulators in Karen Heuler’s ‘Bone Broth’ are a group who believe that the Earth was once a refuge of a race of giant aliens and that traces of their DNA still exist, particularly in the bones of dead giants. Their hope and intention is to introduce that DNA into the human race and recreate the giants. The narrator, who was born with two thumbs on one hand, is a waitress at the seedy restaurant where the powdered bones of the giants is added to the soup.

Emotional manipulation is cause of the situation in Joe Bannerman’s ‘There Won’t be Questions’. The pet pig of Harry’s friend Nigel goes missing. Harry has a talent that he has only used once before because of the potential implications. If he concentrates hard enough and pictures the animal clearly in his mind, the missing animal will appear in the empty shoe box he is holding. Mot realising the payback of pain Harry gets when he does this, Nigel persuades him to find other missing pets to claim rewards. Harry doesn’t want to upset Nigel, neither does he want to know what is really happening.

Of the three hard SF stories, ‘Ennead In Retrospect’ by Christopher Mark Rose appears to be a manipulation of reality by the proximity of an exploration station to a black hole. The result is surreal. Of the others, ‘Proximity Games’ by M L Clark is a first contact story.

It is seeing her father’s patience with a feral cat that gives Trudy the clues as to how to approach a totally alien species. In Auston Habershaw’s ‘Prison Colony: Optimization Protocols’, it is human behaviour that is alien to the AI who has been sent to supervise a terraforming prison station. It has been sent there as a punishment as it too is a criminal. But it finds that the humans it is supposed to be organising don’t behave the way it expects. Straight manipulation of data doesn’t always give the desired results as humans reactions are so difficult to factor in.

‘doe_haven.vr’ by Care Mast is almost contemporary with VR game space available for those who wish it. Jenny’s safe space is an isolated corner of a VR world where she can chill out in her avatar, the doe of the title. Then the area she has considered her own is invaded by a kid.

This is a gentle story and a reminder that even the most outgoing celebrities sometimes need a refuge. For contemporary fantasy, there is ‘Salt Calls To Salt’ by Maiga Doocy. Only Zelda’s adherence to strict routines stops the scales forming on her body, a legacy from her mermaid mother. ‘The Gentle Dragon Tells His Tale Of Love’ from J.A. Pak is exactly what the title declares.

Exotic and evocative ‘The City And The Thing Beneath It’ by Innocent Chizaram Ilo mixes the overwhelming movement of life in Lagos with fable to create a vibrant image of a city devoured by the Thing lurking beneath it.

As with every issue there are also poems, book revues and a science column and something for every kind of reader.

Pauline Morgan

January 2022

(pub: Spilogale Inc. 260 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 8.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISSN: 1095-8258)

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