The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/Jun 2021, Volume 140 #755 (magazine review).

The first thing you notice about this issue of MF&SF is the distinctive cover by David A Hardy. Atypically, it doesn’t quite illustrate any of the stories in this volume.

The lead story, a novella, ‘Refugees’ by Robert Grossbach, is a tongue-in-cheek invasion story. Eeps are small, doughnut-shaped sentient aliens from the planet Narsuto. Qui-Phess is their spokesman and has persuaded Morton Rushman to give them sanctuary by building a bunker under his back lawn. They breathe hydrogen sulphide and two million of then arrive in spaceship the size and shape of a baked bean can.

They reproduce at a fantastic rate and they are discovered after extending their habitat under neighbouring properties. The result is a court case, which forms the framework of the story. It is best to just wallow in the story and take the scientific rationale behind it with a pinch of salt.

A more serious and scientific story is ‘The Plus One’ by Marie Vibbert. This is set on Mars where there are a number of settlements. Colonists employed there are allowed to take their partner with them, the plus one. When Denise Milgram is found frozen to death in an emergency shelter, it raises the kind of question that wouldn’t occur on Earth.

Her partner died and, as a plus one, she had no job and effectively became homeless with no-one willing to take the responsibility of turning someone out into an inhospitable environment. The story is hard-hitting and points up corporate selfishness carried on into an environment without resources.

By contrast, ‘A Father’s Hand’ by Stephanie Kraner shows the compassion an AI can have. After a war, most people have been killed. Logan is a child who has been in the care of a teaching AI but it is not functioning properly and his hand has been trapped in the grip with the AI having no way to free it. Only when he is discovered by more advanced AIs can the problem be resolved.

There is also fantasy in the traditional mode of societies set in alternative worlds. ‘The World, A Carcass’ by Rich Larson is a tale of politics, ambition, redemption and revenge. Daxla is the daughter of a local ruler. When he dies and her mother becomes an oracle, Daxla is shut away in a small suite of rooms by her uncle with a disgraced warrior as a bodyguard. When she discovers that her uncle poisoned, her father and it was not her mother’s choice to be incarcerated, she is determined not to go along with the plans to marry her off to a local lord. Instead, she plans he own brand of justice.

‘Drunkard’s Walk’ by James Enge also falls into this category of fantasy but the main character is very different. Morlock is a self-confessed drunk but, when he arrives in a town, he discovers that it is rapidly running out of food and drink. When he tries to leave he finds he cannot. The town is caught in a spell and Morlock needs to lift it if he is to go on his way.

‘Molly Whuppy’ by Corey Flintoff follows the trend of retelling folk tales, in this case from the Scottish Borders.

For an unsettling story, try ‘Goodwill Objects’ by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Cody’s ex-girlfriend sends him the face and hands of a plastic baby doll. Startling enough, but the face starts to speak to him and when he puts the pieces on a stuffed teddy bear, the toy becomes alive and has a message for him.

There are four other stories in this issue, along with poetry, some of which are written in honour of the late Octavia E. Butler.

Magazines such as this have a number of regular features, including recommended books. Although most of the contributors are unfamiliar names there is plenty to enjoy.

Pauline Morgan

May 2021

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

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