Issue 42 of Black Static is packed with stories, reviews, essays and an interview.
“Be Light. Be Pure. Be Close to Heaven” by Sara Saab is a tale of a Christian sect that takes Antonietta Meo, the Little Matron, as its guide. Meo lost her leg to disease when she was five years old, and declared it “ballast shed to lighten her ascent to Heaven.” The people in this sect, therefore, submit to voluntary amputation of some sort in order to demonstrate their devotion. Tanta is a young woman whose mother gave up a leg, and whose father gave up his eyes, who is now contemplating her own sacrifice. Though she is extraordinarily devout, in the course of the story she faces substantial temptation, and makes her choice. It’s a creepy story that reminds us of all the oddities that historically occur in every religion. (It’s not part of the story, but: Meo actually existed. She was an Italian girl who died at the age of six from t... 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 42 of Black Static is packed with stories, reviews, essays and an interview.
The sixth anniversary edition of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a double issue, with four excellent stories.
The first is “The Sorrow of Rain” by Richard Parks, one of his Lord Yamada stories. Lord Yamada is a demon hunter in medieval Japan who tells his stories in the first person. On this occasion, he has been asked to stop incessant, late season rains; if the rains do not stop long enough to allow for a harvest within the next three days, the rice will spoil in the fields, leading to famine. Yamada sees a rain spirit almost as soon as he arrives, but she is neither a ghost nor a demon, and doesn’t seem to be the source of the rain. And the headman isn’t telling him everything. Parks tells gentle stories full of an ancient culture, usually involving a mystery, as here. His gentleness usually has a soft sting in the tail, though, a lesson about life that the characters have forgotten and about which Parks reminds us. A Lord... Read More
To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.
The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways, caught in a dispute between the Djinn and the Ghûl. Yet despite the fantasy setting, science has a place in this tale, as Cesium isotopes and radiation poisoning play a role. Kiernan’s language is chosen carefully, turning parts of this story into veritable prose poetry. For ... Read More
The August issue of Nightmare Magazine is exceptionally good, and given the generally outstanding nature of this publication, that’s saying something. All four of the stories this month are excellent by any standard.
The magazine opens with “Dear Owner of This 1972 Ford Crew Cab Pickup” by Desirina Boskovich. It’s a letter from a woman with terrible insomnia to a man who wakes her every morning at about 3:00 a.m. by revving — and revving, and revving — the engine of the titular vehicle before heading home from a night at a local tavern, where he tends bar. The woman has written to the man at least three times before, asking for his consideration, explaining that she is exhausted from tending to her hospitalized mother as well as teaching as an adjunc... Read More
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
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