Uncanny Magazine #12 (emag review).

September 16, 2016 | By | Reply More

Uncanny Magazine’ is full of fiction, poetry, articles and interviews with a couple of featured authors. I’ll focus on fiction first.


‘My Body, Herself’ by Carmen Maria Machado is about a young lady killed when a cave collapses. She sees a replica of her body smoking cigarettes and saying ‘chase’ occasionally. It learns to say ‘yes’ about four years later. It‘s the kind of piece that is more about atmosphere and mood than traditional storytelling. In her interview, Carmen says that her stories often start with a metaphor rather than a plot or characters. This approach is popular with some.

Onto ‘Not A Miracle But A Marvel’ by Tim Pratt. The first person narrator and his wife, Leah, along with friends, Camille and her fiancé Gregory, arrive at a cabin by a lake in the woods. A very Walden opening with a hint of B Movie horror film – wilderness, cabin, mysterious footprints, four people who will get knocked off one by one. It’s been done but Tim Pratt does it differently. Everything in the narrative fits neatly, from the open relationships between the two couples down to the waffle-iron. A nice piece of work from one who obviously focuses on plot and characters rather than metaphor.

‘Under One Roof’ by Sarah Pinsker is a fantasy narrated first person by Courtney (I assume as her husband calls her Court) who has moved into an old house with Josh, the husband. He’s meant to be working on his dissertation while she works at the local school. The house is cheap to rent because it’s an old neighbourhood of Baltimore but they are forbidden to enter the attic as the absent owner has locked the door. Obviously, they are mad keen to investigate, especially with the noises emanating from that part of the house. The ensuing crisis leads to them reassessing each other. This was another enjoyable and expertly told tale and, in her interview this issue, Sarah Pinsker gives a bit of extra insight on its creation.

‘The Witch Of Orion Waste And The Boy Knight’ by E. Lily Yu is next. After disappointing careers as a goose girl, a pot-scrubber and a Chandler’s clerk, a young lady takes up the offer of being the witch of Orion waste. The old witch hands over her books and equipment then vanishes into the sunset and our heroine learns the spells by rote so that when the villagers come to her with barter goods, she is able to grant them charms ‘for luck, for gout, for biting flies, for thick, sweet cream in the pail’. Others come from further away wanting crowns or the heart of another or the death of another and those she will not serve. Then she goes off with a handsome knight to slay dragons. This is a fairy story with a dark feel and more complex characters than usual.

As if to prove what a mixed bag is ‘Uncanny Magazine’, the next tale carries a health warning: Some readers may find elements of this story disturbing. ‘Rooms Formed Of Neurons And Sex’ by Ferrett Steinmetz is about Lydia, who works on the ‘Naughty Nurses’ sex chat-line but, being a writer, researches nursing to make her work more authentic. She falls for a caller called Ross, who she’s worked out is disabled and ends up visiting him at home where he lives with his parents. Ross is a brain in a jar. Presumably, this is set slightly in the future. After that, the story gets very bizarre and I can only think of it as a black comedy with graphic sex. That warning wasn’t kidding. Good job, though.

‘Alibhai M. Moosajee Of Mobasa Catalogues The ‘Ogres Of East Africa’’ is the story so entitled by Sofia Samatar. The prose was a pleasure to read but I wasn’t quite sure what the ending meant. Like metaphor, some vagueness is deemed appropriate for truly modern fiction. The same is true of modern poetry but this month’s offerings made sense. I could tell what they were about.

‘(Meat Bone Tea)’ by S. Qiouyi Lu has a friend making a meal for someone coming to visit. The theme is friendship, I think, and the title is in brackets because it’s a translation of the Chinese characters which precede it.

’Million-Year Elegies: Tyrannosaurus’ by Ada Hoffman is a neat piece about a six year-old wanting to be swallowed by the dinosaur in a museum. I liked it best.

‘The Ghost Marriage’ by Sonya Taaffe features a ghost husband. None of them rhyme or scan but that’s just old school quibbling.

The articles in ‘Uncanny Magazine’ can be a bit whiney but there’s a good bunch this month because they focus on ‘Star Trek’.

‘This Is Our Work: What Star Trek Asks of Us’ by Mary Anne Mohanraj is a tribute to the ideals of ‘Star Trek’, especially diversity. It’s a nice essay and I share the author’s love of the ‘Star Trek’ universe but I take the words ‘Roddenberry’s vision’ with a pinch of salt. Like many another media marvel, Roddenberry liked to slap his name over everything and take the credit but much of the vision came from producer Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana, as well as such talented writers as Theodore Sturgeon (‘Amok Time’) and Harlan Ellison (‘City On The Edge Of Forever’) and he was anything but a feminist. However, Roddenberry deserves some credit for starting and steering the whole enterprise and efficiently harnessing the talents of others.

‘All True, Especially The Lies – Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Cardassia’ by Una McCormack tells how she used to sneer at ‘Deep Space Nine’ because she was a dedicated ‘Babylon 5’ fan. Then she watched it and fell in love, yea even unto the Cardassians. She started writing fan fiction which was good enough that she was offered a chance to do it professionally. All fan fiction writers dream of this but it’s rare. As it happens, I missed out on DS9 and am now watching it from the start on one of our minor UK channels and enjoying it, mostly. Jake and Nog don’t interest me greatly but I like the other characters and I love Dax. So I agree with Una, though I still think ‘Babylon 5’ is the best Science Fiction series ever or at least, so far.

‘Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House’ by Aidan Moher is about how parents who are fantasy fans affect a writer’s development first and then having children changes it again. There are contributions from many writers here. My practical father never read books, mom reads romance and they both think SF and fantasy are a load of tripe, so this is not an experience I shared. They did not prevent us enjoying our tripe though, which is good enough.

If there’s a word to sum up ‘Uncanny Magazine’ and, one the editors would probably like, it’s diverse. Different people will like different parts but the sum of them adds up to a fruitful reading experience. I thought this was a particularly good issue.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2016

(pub: Uncanny Magazine. Black & white Kindle edition. 137 page emag 567kB. Price: £ 2.61 (UK). ASIN: B01L626Y7I)

check out website: http://uncannymagazine.com/uncanny-magazine-issue-12-cover-table-contents/


Category: Magazines, Scifi

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