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The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jul/Aug 2021, Volume 141 #756 (magazine review).

August 8, 2021 | By | Reply More

Often, it is the stories by established writers that draw a new reader to a magazine. In this case it is Michael Swanwick for whom Alan M Clark created the surreal cover artwork which complements the story. ‘Dreadnought’ is an excellent portrayal of the lost people in society. Luke lives under an overpass and gets some money by collecting tin cans and redeeming them for recycle value.

Every morning, Reverend Howe and a boy he names Cthulhu arrives with insults and gives Luke stale doughnuts and coffee while ranting about judgement day. To Luke, they seem crazy in different ways. It is an excellent story dealing with perception and truth.

Like all good magazines, this issue has a range of stories to suit a range of tastes. The one with most charm is ‘How To Train Your Demon’ by Lisa Lacey Liscoumb. When the demon Agzmoraxis is summoned, he expects to appear in a dark cave and be ordered to destroy someone or something. Instead, he appears in a kitchen by an elderly widow who bought a damaged grimoire for $5.99 and decided to try it out. She wants him to move some boxes from the attic and then is rewarded with cookies.

As the relationship develops, the two become friends. For cute, try the very short ‘Bridge For Sale’ by D. Cameron David. Marcus is a con man who sells a stranger the Brooklyn Bridge with unexpected consequences.

For the fans of steampunk, there is ‘Woman Soldier, Girl’ by Priya Chand. This mirrors the experiences some had under British rule in Imperial India. In the fantasy setting, when peace is declared, the defeated army have to give up their machines. Janaki conceals the fact that she was a soldier to get a job at the house of one of the colonials. When her identity id is discovered, she has to leave which puts her on a new path as a revolutionary. It is a story of adaptability and change.

Myth and legend are often starting points for speculative stories and the best ones look at the original material from a different angle. ‘Whatever Happened To The Boy Who Fell In To The Lake’ by Robert Costello is one of these. When Tick jumps into the lake, he is found on a beach three hundred miles away. It is a story he finds in a book about a Selke that helps Tick begin to make sense of the events of his life.

In contrast ‘(emet)’ by Lauren Ring is Science Fiction. Chaya is a software engineer working on facial recognition technology. She has also been taught skills by her mother in creating golems. These she directs to do the things she hasn’t time for such as gardening and cleaning. She becomes unsure as to the ethics of the programme and wants to find a way of subverting it. This is a clever story blending modern technology with ancient magic.

Sometimes the problems that our present world faces are reflected in stories. There is a severe issue with plastics in the oceans. ‘Tulip Fever’ by Bo Balder The solution here was to build microplastic processing rigs or slats to extract the plastic from the sea and use it as the raw material for the 3D printers that make most of life’s necessities. Jones is one of the few children aboard a slat that is struggling. When the Australian inspectors turn up, Jones learns that not everything she has been told is true. She is a resourceful child and a delightful character, with ideas of solving some of the issues in the small community.

‘Cat Ladies’ by L.X. Beckett also takes the theme of reduced resources. Zoey is a security officer aboard a female crewed perambulating community. The village salvages what it can from the ruins of deserted towns, razing them as they go. Her day starts badly with her partner calling in sick, then a shed inspection discovers a missing chisel and she is reported for using ‘offence’ language about the perpetrator. When some ingredients for the protein printers are found to be missing, the rumour starts that someone is smuggling cats. These two stories have some ingredients in common but are otherwise very different from each other.

These are just some of the excellent stories in this issue. The best ones have strong, believable characterisation putting the settings, despite the ingenious developments, into the background.

As in every issue, there are regular features. The science column by Jerry Oltion is a brief history of plumbing but you will also find film and book recommendations as well. Something for all readers.

Pauline Morgan

August 2021

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

check out website: www.fandsf.com

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Category: Fantasy, Magazines, Scifi

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