The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/Jun 2022, Volume 142 #761 (magazine review).

Magazines are a good place to sample the work of new writers, but it is also good to be able to catch up with new work from familiar, quality favourites. Norman Spinrad is a respected if controversial writer who has been regularly publishing novels since 1966. This issue of MF&SF contains his story ‘The Canopy’.

When the elevator in her block breaks down, Christine can walk up fifty-nine flights of stairs, wait for it to be fixed or find another way to her apartment. An off-duty cop agrees to take a few of them across the rooves to their apartment block. Christine discovers there is a different way of life in the canopy.

This isn’t the first time roof living has been suggested, for example, Christopher Fowler’s 1988 novel ‘Roofworld’ has a community living on the roofs of London. Spinrad’s story us an updated solution to the housing crisis in Manhattan.

‘The Voice Of A Thousand Years’ by Fawaz Al-Matrouk is a story of perseverance. Discovering a spirit inhabiting an old musical instrument, elderly clockmaker Ibn Hashem resolves to make a mechanical body for it to inhabit and give it freedom of movement. Despite failures, the old man is determined not to give up.

Someone else who does not want to give up is the narrator of ‘Cold Trade’ by Aliya Whiteley. As captain of a trade ship, Filli’s job is to find what aliens have to trade and make a deal. On a water planet, the aliens are huge, whale-like creatures and the first problem is trying to find a method of communication with them.

Ai Jiang’s story ‘Give Me English’ also has trade and communication at its heart. In this society, language is used as currency. When you buy anything, you give away words. The narrator is a Chinese immigrant and when she spends an important word she always asks for English words in her change. She hasn’t got many words left and if she spends all of them, she will be mute. Like Norman Spinrad’s ‘The Canopy’, this story is also a comment on society and the way ordinary people are marginalised.

Over the years there have been stories about places that exist outside the usual street plan, places that are glimpsed from the corner of the eye or appear only when they are needed, ‘Green Street’ by S.R. Mandel recounts some of the evidence that lead cartographers to believe that Green Street exists but cannot pin down enough to put it onto the map.

One of the problems with prophesy, is that often no-one believes the warnings. The story of Cassandra who prophesied the fall of Troy is the legendary example. In ‘Modern Cassandra’ by Julia August brings the story up-to-date. But since she is imparting her visions through the internet recipients do what most of us do with unsolicited adverts: delete them.

On a grander scale is ‘The Big Many’ by Albert E. Cowdrey. Mathematician Rudolph Schpiegal sees within Chaos Theory the idea that global disasters come in clusters. They do not necessarily cause each other, it is synchronicity that brings them together over a short time span. Even when the Californian fault system ruptures and an asteroid is heading for Earth, his ideas are disregarded. The story itself only has this as a background but focuses on the people who are caught in the series of catastrophic events.

Many of the stories in this issue are very short, which means that there is space for more which is always a good thing.

One of the regular features is a science column from Jerry Oltion. This issue, it is on asteroids. Jerry highlights some of the myths early writers and some film makers perpetuate about the topic under discussion. All potential authors of SF who do not have a scientific background would do well to read these to prevent reviewers from picking holes in their plots.

Again, something for everyone here.

Pauline Morgan

May 2022

(pub: Spilogale Inc. 260 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 9.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISSN: 1095-8258)

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