The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2021, Volume 141 #757 (magazine review).
This 757th issue of ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ has a beautiful astronomical image on the cover by David A. Hardy. While it is actually an image of Jupiter from Io it could almost be designed to illustrate Erin Barbeau’s story, ‘Ice Fishing On Europa’. Here, Theo is a one person scientific expedition on Europa looking for signs of life in the liquid seas under the ice crust. The latest supply drop is overdue and Theo is running out of meds.
Setting aside the ethical and risk issues of a person isolated with mental health issues, this is a charming duet between Theo and the alien, the last of its race who was left behind when the rest of the species headed for the stars. It is a first contact story as well as an exploration of diversity.
Another story that deals with difference is the novella ‘The Abomination’ by Nuzo Onoh. In the village where the story is set, children who show any abnormality at birth are left in the forest to die. This should have happened to IHAA, who was born a hermaphrodite. Instead, Widow Gǫlu, who had lost her husband and five children to plague, snatched the baby and brought the child up believing IHAA to be one of her dead children. The Abomination is spurned by the villagers for her difference, as she matures she self-identifies as female, until they need to placate the gods.
For IHAA, this is partly a coming of age story. So is ‘Her Dragon’ by Amal Singh. Misha’s grandmother is a Maker. The wealthy come to her to create impressive mythical beasts. Misha is in training and wants to make a dragon but her grandmother won’t teach her how. When her grandmother dies, Misha travels overseas to begin her apprenticeship properly with another Maker and learn what a Maker is truly capable of.
There is always at least one story that is off-the-wall fun. That is how Lincoln Michel’s story ‘Haunted Hills Community And Country Club’ starts. Ingrid gets a job selling real estate at Haunted Hills. The community is made up of haunted houses that have been relocated into the area. Purchasers buy at their own peril. All is going well until someone starts buy up the properties. Commercialism has arrived.
For those looking for pure fantasy, there is ‘The Forlorn’ by Matthew Hughes. Casco is a discriminator, basically a detective. He is hired to track down a girl wizard who has disappeared into a desert region known as Forlorn, a place where dealers often go in search of artefacts from the past but which they can sell for a good profit. The setting is one where Hughes has set other stories in the past but knowledge of them is unnecessary to enjoy the twists in this plot.
Another author who uses the same setting for his stories is Brian Trent. He also plays with history. With the Romans still in charge in Europe, they are the ones who have discovered the Americas and encountered the Aztec Empire. ‘The Scorpion And The Syrinx’ is a mystery. Decimus is a quaesitor supernaturalis. He is given the task of solving the mysterious death of a Roman stung to death by scorpions.
The Romans are on one side of the river and on the other side are their enemies the Aztecs. The assumption is that Aztec magic killed him. It is up to Decimus to ascertain the truth. What is not given is a century so equating this to our historical line is impossible.
Two of the stories in this issue illustrate the danger of underestimating children. ‘To the Honorable And Esteemed Monsters Under My Bed’ by EA Bourland is written as a correspondence between a boy and the monsters under the bed in which he makes a bargain with them to rid him of a bully.
In ‘Split The Baby’ by Carl Taylor, a couple splitting up both want custody of their son and agree to a procedure which will allow them both to have him. They tell him he is to be cloned but the night before the procedure he reads the small print and discovers what they really intend. Both these stories are cleverly told.
These are the more memorable stories in this issue, which also includes the regular columns on books, films and science as well as cartoons and poems.
(pub: Spilogale Inc. 260 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 9.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISSN: 1095-8258)
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One thought on “The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2021, Volume 141 #757 (magazine review).”
Thank you Pauline for the mention of my cover. It may be of interest to point out that as my first cover for F&SF was in 1971, this celebrates 50 years as a cover artist for this venerable magazine! (Many not astronomical, but illustrating a story.)