While a magazine is a useful sounding-board for new voices, sampling newcomers to a long established field, it is also useful to have something by established masters/mistresses to encourage new readers to pick up the issue. In this issue of ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’, the only recognisable names to me are those hosting the regular columns such as Charles de Lint and Alex Jennings. All the fiction is written by unfamiliar names. This is not always a bad thing because there are always gems within such volumes once the decision has been made to read it. As with any magazine, there are some stories that stand out.
The lead story, ‘Starblind, Booklost And Hearing The Songs Of True Birds’ by Rudi Dornemann is an unusual fantasy. The protagonist, Vitalius, regularly visits the prophesary. It is a row of birdcages where prophets are housed for their own safety. They continually babble nonsense and one is Vitalius’ brother. In order to change the situation, he is persuaded to revive a long banned festival by stealing masks and distributing them. It is a well-conceived novelette.
While Vitalius is trying to put right a situation he feels guilty about, the group in ‘The Garbage Girls’ by Nick Wolven do not realise the harm they will do by what they consider a prank. Four friends are volunteering at a refugee camp to gain credits to give them a better chance of getting into an Ivy League university. Also working there is a Noomie. This is someone who has had implants to supress emotions. The plan is to find a way of turning off the Noomie’s implants. They fail to consider why she may have wanted them in the first place.
Another group of girls who act before they think appear in ‘Ceremonials’ by Robert Levy. At a summer camp, the girls find a strange stone monument in the woods. After a group of ‘arsehole’ boys carry out a ‘panty raid’ on the girls’ cabin, they discover that the monument is not just a stone and they lure the boys to it as an act of revenge. This story is very much horror, as is ‘The Collection’ by Charlie Hughes. The locus of this story is a collection of eight stories on audio tapes. Listening to them is prophetic and the effect causes people to act out of character. Another horror story in this issue is ‘The Monster I Found In Third Grade’ by Paul Tobin. In this case, the cause is an eight year-old boy who is the narrator. He get mad easily and it is easier to give in to him. When the class is playing in the snow, he discovers a monster in a snowdrift that swallows the people who have upset him.
For more fantasy, ‘Trapping Fairies’ by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is delightful. When fairies migrate from the Summer Lands to the Winter Lands, they are caught in mist nets like migrating songbirds and tagged and sent on their way. These fae are small but one larger than the rest is the cause of the trouble that ensues.
‘Ciccio And The Wood Sprite’ by Nick DiChario is a new Italian folk tale, not a retelling. It is the story of Ciccio who rescues a wood sprite from a trap and she gives him a gift of a bee in a box. When the bee is released, it will grant Ciccio a wish. He is warned to use it wisely. Like all good folk tales, this has a morel bound within it. Ciccio gets his wish because of an act of kindness but also shows the importance of the choice of words.
The stories with SF elements use them as incidental to the story, such as in ‘The Garbage Girls’ because they are more about the people than the technology. ‘We Are Flying’ by Alexandra Munck, where an engineer is using technology to search back through previous lives to find traces of the person they loved in other incarnations.
The only alien entity is in ‘The Song Of Lost Voices’ by Brian Trent. In this case, it is sand that is found at an excavation site in the Gobi Desert. Developed by aliens millions of years before it is composed of nano-machines that can recreate anything in their memories.
Along with the other stories, regular columns and poetry, there is enough here for any reader to find something to enjoy.
(pub: Spilogale Inc. 260 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 9.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISSN: 1095-8258)
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