Issue 151 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies opens with “Rappaccini’s Crow,” by Cat Rambo that works with the mythology created by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his marvelous short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Hawthorne’s classic tale is one of the finest American short stories ever written, so Rambo is setting a high bar for herself by recalling it to her readers’ minds. She clears the bar easily in this fantasy about a world at war over phlogiston, a power source that is, ironically, being depleted by the war for control of the stuff. The story takes place in a long-term care facility for soldiers injured so grievously that they can’t be patched up and shipped back out to the battleground. The narrator is a Native American woman who has served in the war disguised as a man; the disguise is natural to her, as she has always believed herself to be a man born in the wrong body. Rappaccini is the equivalent of the medical director of the fa... Read More
Magazine MondayOn random Mondays, Terry Weyna discusses and reviews short stories and speculative fiction magazines. If you want to send Terry a magazine to review, please email her. She can’t promise to review it (she’s already buried under a stack of ‘em), but she will certainly consider it.
Issue Two of Jamais Vu does not fulfill the promise of Issue One (reviewed here).
“Valedictorian” by Steven Wolf is a post-apocalypse story, though there is no hint exactly what happened; we only know that few have survived, none of them adults, and the world is littered with dead bodies. Wolf’s first-person narrator is a high-school-aged boy who, with his friend Gretchen, shows up at the local high school every school day. Gretchen is the one who insists on this, and she engages in serious self-study. The narrator just sleeps, although he changes classrooms on schedule and eats during the “assigned” lunch period. The two of them regularly interact with a group of younger children, around nine or ten years of age, who soon make it apparent that this story is a variant of William Golding’s Read More
New magazines fascinate me. These days they seem to be popping up on the internet like mushrooms after a summer rain. Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar is the latest of these ventures to cross my desk. The first issue, dated Winter 2014, opens with a message from the Editor-in-Chief, Paul Anderson (the one who makes the content decisions, as opposed to the Executive Editor, Eric S. Beebe, who bills himself as a figurehead who pays the bills). Anderson explains that Jamais Vu is an experiment arising from Post Mortem’s start as a publisher of anthologies. Rather than continuing with anthologies, which don’t sell particularly well, or resorting to the $.99 digital “short” that’s all the rage on Amazon these days, Post Mortem decided to try a magazine. If the quality of the magazine consistently matches that of the first issue, this venture ought to be a success.
The first story, “Photo Captions” by Gary A. Bra... Read More
The Spring 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine is as strong as this magazine ever is, and that’s saying a lot. Kat Howard’s story, “Hath No Fury,” stands out as a memorable work about the old gods in the modern age. It is a story about women who are victimized by men, and the women who refuse to allow those victims to go unavenged. Based loosely on the myth of Medea and Jason, the story is told in the first person by one of the Erinyes — the Furies — who in Howard’s contemporary New York are charged with avenging women murdered by husbands, boyfriends, lovers. Kaira is a close friend of Medea, who is a sort of muse to the Erinyes, guiding them when they first are changed from human to this new shape and watching over them as they fulfill their duties. Several other myths are mashed up here to create something new; so, for instance, Medea keeps bees, the Fates are old women knitting in the park, New York becomes a labyrinth that Kaira must explore, and... Read More
The April issue of Apex Magazine opens with Sigrid Ellis’s editorial, in which she explains that the issue is about repair: “It’s an often-broken world we inhabit. Things falter, plans and bodies and hopes go awry. But we, and the world, keep going. Rebuilt, repaired and reformed. The future will not look like the past. It’s out there, waiting for us, anyway.” They are hopeful words, appropriate to the Easter season, and the fiction Ellis gives us this month is equally hopeful.
“Perfect” by Haddayr Copley-Woods doesn’t start out hopefully, though: “Quinn hated everything.” An unhappy soul who includes herself in the everything she hates, Quinn nonetheless attracts would-be friends and lovers in droves, who “mistook her air of biting dislike alternating with weary resignation as intensity, romanticism, and a deep need for help and human compassion.” The one area in which she thrives is sci... Read More
“Sleep Paralysis” by Dale Bailey is the opening story of the April 2014 issue of Nightmare, getting things off to a fine start. Bailey’s first person narrator, a skilled undertaker, has found comfort in his wife, beautiful and young, while he is plain and in the autumn of his years. The wife is extremely active in charity work, gone most days and many evenings, leaving her husband to work and spend nights at his club — a situation that has caused rumors that she married him solely for his money, and is engaged in rather more private charity than she admits to. The narrator refuses to give the rumors any credence, but they begin to weigh heavily upon him despite his resolve. Bailey writes in a formal style appropriate to the narrator’s profession and the time in which his story is set (which is never explicitly stated, but appears to be around the turn of the last century), setting the tone for a classic story with a fine twist at the... Read More
Issue 91 of Clarkesworld opens with “Passage of Earth” by Michael Swanwick. Swanwick is one of my favorite authors when he’s not writing about talking dogs, and this is not a Darger and Surplus story, so I was already inclined to like it. Hank, the protagonist, is the county coroner in a small rural community. One morning, in the wee small hours, an ambulance brings a Worm to his morgue, and Evelyn, a member of the (unidentified) Agency who also happens to be his ex-wife, instructs him to perform an autopsy. The anatomy of the creature, a member of the only other intelligent species in the universe that humans have yet encountered, is so completely different from that of humans that humans don’t know how to combat them — assuming combat is necessary, and the humans appear to be spoiling for war. It’s a tale of interspecies conflict writ small, but with such imagination that the Wor... Read More
Issue 18 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “Have You Heard the One about Anamaria Marquez?” by Isabel Yap. The story is narrated by Mica, a fifth grade student at St. Brebeuf’s, a private school in Manila, the Philippines, but her narration is interrupted occasionally with different iterations of the supernatural, horrific fate of Anamaria Marquez, who once was also a student at St. Brebeuf’s. Depending on what version of her life and death you believe, she was raped, killed and hidden in a tree on the school grounds; locked in a bathroom by a school bully, where she drowned herself; or another half dozen possibilities. In any case, some believe she haunts the school. Home economics teachers who prattle on about opening their third eyes tend to encourage the students in their superstitious fears. The atmosphere of the upcoming school fair is heightening those feelings, as the fifth graders’ part in the fair is to create a haunted house. The flaring emotion... Read More
Issue 142 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a special double issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 2, which, according to the magazine’s website, features “stories that combine the awe-inspiring fantastical settings of BCS fiction with futuristic details like spacecraft, laser rifles, and advanced scientific concepts.” It makes for the best issue of the magazine so far in 2014.
“The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard takes place at the end, or at least near the end, of a war, on Voc, the planet on which the story is set. The characters in the story do not appear to be human. Rechan, the viewpoint character, is pregnant, and she and her family are engaged in their usual spring migration to the mountains. But their flyer breaks down and strands them halfway up the mountain, and finding repairs or a replacement is difficult. Rechan must meet up... Read More
Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye
Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack than its earlier sister volume, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors. Whereas the editors of that earlier collection chose to select one story from each year of the magazine's celebrated 32-year run (1923-1954), Kaye has decided here to not just limit himself to the periodical's classic era of 279 issues, but to also include tales from each of the four latter-day incarnations of "The Unique Magazine" (from 1973-87). The result is 45 pieces of generally superb speculative fantasy and horror, including six "Weird Tales Reprints" by such luminaries as Dickens, Poe, Flaubert and Stoker, as well as Otis Adelbert Kline's "Why Weird Tales?," an article that clearly delineated the magazine's goals and intentions in its first anniversary issue, the one dated May/June/July... Read More
Issue One of Lackington’s begins with “A Long Foreword with a Long Title to Introduce Our Fond New Venture.” There’s a good reason for such a foreword: Lackington’s contains prose that is unlike that to be found in any other speculative fiction magazine. The magazine isn’t interested in telling stories, as such, but in beautiful prose with a speculative bent. “[Y]ou may find the odd slice-of-life vignette in these pages, or the odd meandering reflection, and you will find a lot of prose poetry, or at least prose written by those who are poetically inclined, because aesthetics matter here,” writes the editor, Ranylt Richildis, as if prose and aesthetics are of no concern to those who are interested in plots. Perhaps I should have taken the foreword as a warning and ceased reading immediately, for I found the offerings largely opaque and far too precious for my taste.
Richildis also mentions in her foreword that the pieces... Read More
The January 2014 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death” by Adam Howe. Gibbons is the proud owner of Eddie Gein’s car, a genuine relic of the murder on which Alfred Hitchcock based his movie Psycho. Gibbons has a carnival show built around the car, a regular “Disneyland from hell,” and he can’t figure why it isn’t the huge success he expected when he spent his inheritance from his mother on the thing. But not only don’t people flock to see his show with a two-bit carnival traveling from town to town; he is frequently shut down by the local police in response to a citizenry that finds his show too grotesque. And the rest of the carnies don’t like the police nosing around, because there’s a lot going on behind the tents that the cops shouldn’t know about. Even though the carny is all Gibbons has ever known, it looks like he’s not going to last more than another town or two before this... Read More
The most recent two issues of Apex Magazine give us a chance to say goodbye to one editor and hello to the next, and offer an interesting contrast between two strong voices.
Issue 55 is Lynne M. Thomas’s last issue of the 26 she has edited. It is a strong issue, with stories that are beautifully angry — at disease, at societal expectations, at clichés.
The first story, “What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley, is about the losses everyone suffers when a man is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. Joe has been caught eating Proust, dipping the pages into his tea and devouring them. His wife, Bette, is enraged, because when they were first married he had said he’d sooner walk into the snow shoeless than live without the full use of his brain. Now Joe not only doesn’t remember that, he doesn’t even remember ... Read More
“In Her Eyes” by Seth Chambers is the novella in the January/February 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and it’s a doozy. It’s one of a number of stories and movies I’ve seen lately that address the question of what it is we love when we love someone. Do we love a mind? A body? Both together? Must they be unchanging? They can’t, really, can they, because we all age and grow; change is actually the only constant. And the question goes deeper, to the nature of the mind as an organic, chemical, electrical entity. Chambers examines all of these questions in a love story about a man and an unusual woman; I won’t say more so that you can discover her secrets for yourself (and she is very secretive).
There are five novelettes in this issue. The first is “The New Cambrian” by Andy Stewart, a science fiction tale about an expedition to Europa to study life beneath the surface of the iced-over water world. As... Read More
The Winter 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine was edited by guest editor Jonathan Strahan, the editor of a popular year’s best anthology and a number of other anthologies. He has good taste, as the stories chosen for this issue demonstrate — with the exception of the longest and last piece, a snarky bit of irreligious, virtually plotless prose by Bruce Sterling (about which more below).
“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason is structured as a fairy tale often is, with three daughters each setting out on an errand prescribed by their father. This father wants his daughters to be writers of stories, a goal of his own he has never achieved because, he thinks, he lacks the divine spark necessary to such an endeavor. When his daughters are grown, he takes them to a famous critic, who reads their stories, which they had written reluctantly, fearing th... Read More