Uncanny Magazine # 11 (e-magazine review)

July 15, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘A Hundred And Seventy Storms’ by Aliette de Bodard has The Snow Like a Dancer facing another storm. The Mindships that get the ore on this harsh planet are built to be tough but are not indestructible and over time get pretty battered. The Snow Like a Dancer is controlled by a human woman in a fortress-like control room but she is so tied to the ship that if it is damaged she is too, although her pain receptors are dulled. This was a complex Science Fiction story that took some getting into but was probably worth it in the end. An early info-dump might have made it easier to catch on to what was happening but these are forbidden by the lords of fiction now. ‘Show don’t tell’ is the first commandment of the moderns. Telling is not so awful really. The fact that the ruling culture seems to be Asian makes a nice change from those American imperialists who always used to run the galaxy.


‘El Cantar Of Rising Sun’ by Sabrina Vourvoulias is an epic poem about a shooting in Philadelphia. A common occurrence, unfortunately. The fact that nearly everyone carries guns probably has a lot to do with this but for some reason many United Statespersons won’t accept that. Well, in a violent situation I guess a gun is the ultimate Trump card. Elements of fantasy and magical tattoos were hinted at but basically it’s a story of nice people in a bad neighbourhood trying to survive or get out. It’s either a prose poem or poetic prose though there are certain sections that rhyme completely. Clearly a lot of work went into it and while not an easy read – ‘Uncanny’ doesn’t seem to do easy reads – it is an interesting one. The author is one of those interviewed in this issue and comes across as a committed, passionate and intelligent woman.

No skinwriting without a licence is a strict law in the world of ‘The Words On My Skin’ by Caroline Yoachim. More tattoos! As one of the older generation that don’t ink ourselves, I find it strange but it’s definitely popular. Here the protagonists mother is a skinwriter. As a baby, our heroine steals the pen and writes ‘fun’ on herself. Later, aged fourteen, she writes ‘passionate, sensitive, flirty’ on her inner thigh. The pen has power and the words influence character. This wild child was bound to get pregnant and does. An original fantasy that shows you can get a vivid story into a few pages. Nicely done. The author’s name rings a bell somewhere in the distant caverns of my fading memory so she must have impressed me before, possibly in the pages of ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’ which I used to review.

Gudrun is the illegitimate daughter of a senator from Minnesota who is raised near a village in Hawaii by her crazy mother who bought an isolated run down house so that she and Gudrun can avoid the irradiated air, the polluted food and many other toxins of sixties America. The house contains many books, including the previous owners large collection of erotica, carefully catalogued. ‘Snow Day’ by Catherynne M. Valente is divided into sections and each is headed by an erotic novel title with publisher details. We open with ‘22. Tea for Three, Published 1934, Harem House Press, 128 pages. Next is ‘21. The Sultan’s Wayward Daughter, Published 1949 and Belladonna Classics, 157 pages. Then ‘20. The Butler Did Me, Published 1960, Eros Inc, 98 pages. Notwithstanding the many modern poisons mother says can kill her, it turns out that Gudrun is allergic to only one thing: bad art. Literally. She almost dies watching Oliver Reed in ‘The Curse Of The Werewolf’. Then things get weird. A long story, not without enjoyment but an odd one that frankly made no sense by the end. You might prefer to read Love Robots From Planet XX, Published 1954, Harem House Press, 154 pages. Except it doesn’t exist and nor do any of the other titles cited here. Trust me, I checked.

Isobel Yap wrote ‘An Ocean The Color Of Bruises. It’s a fairly straightforward yarn about a gang of young people from Manila who know each other from school going for a holiday at a resort where there was a mass drowning a few years ago. For a while, I didn’t think it was a fantasy at all and the only odd thing was the unidentified narrator who spoke of ‘we’ all the time, describing what all the others were like and what they did but never identifying his or herself. It gets fantastic at the end, in a way that’s currently trendy, but the actual conclusion is inconclusive, in a way that’s currently trendy but I am never going to like.

‘Travels With The Snow Queen’ is written in the second person and the present tense, a combination as endearing to me as the story without a clear ending. A woman, Gerda, and her lover have a row in which glass gets broken. He walks out and she is told he got into a sleigh pulled by thirty white geese with a beautiful woman on board. The woman sets out in pursuit of him, afoot. The narrator telling ‘you’ what’s happening to her interrupts the story occasionally to chat about fairy tales in general. It’s quite amusing in places.

The fiction is the best thing in ‘Uncanny’. I’m tempted to say it’s the only thing worth reading but that would condemn me as a member of the white heteropatriarchy. (My spellchecker doesn’t like that word. Nor do I.) The poetry is okay as long as you don’t want rhythm or rhyme but the non-fiction is obsessed with diversity and the woes of minorities. The concerns expressed by Sabrina Vourvoulias in both her epic poem ‘El Cantar Of Rising Sun’ and her interview strike me as unselfish and relevant, particularly with the news from the U.S. this week about cops shooting black people again. She is not whining about her own problems but trying to raise awareness of other peoples’. Sarah Kuhn’s worries about Asian Americans being underrepresented as heroes in film, television and comics have some truth but no urgency. How many white heroes are there in Chinese films? I think Sigrid Ellis is celebrating diversity comics in her article but I don’t care. Thoreau said something about the campaign against tobacco being a cause for ex-smokers not for him and the campaign for LGBT and similar groups is for them, not me. My favourite political essayist, Gore Vidal, thought that identifying yourself solely by your sexual preferences was crazy and would have no truck with it.

The experimental but often interesting fiction in ‘Uncanny’ deserves to reach a general audience but I fear those kind of readers will be put off by the non-fiction. Redneck racists probably don’t read much fantasy and Science Fiction so lecturing the tolerant, modern, intelligent readers who do about sins they don’t commit might be unwelcome. I sure as Hell don’t like it.

Eamonn Murphy

July 2016

(pub: Uncanny Magazine. Black & white Kindle edition. Price: £ 2.61 (UK). ASIN: B017AT4OFU)

check out website: http://uncannymagazine.com/issues/uncanny-magazine-issue-eleven/

Category: Magazines, Scifi

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who writes a bit too.

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