Sunday, May 24, 2009

Staffs & Starships #3

In the world of fantasy and science-fiction publications, there are numerous markets for short fiction, many of which seem to pass unnoticed by the general public. I would like to draw attention to one of the smaller markets that I came across about a year ago. A promising, quarterly magazine dedicated to “traditionally-inspired speculative fiction,” Staffs & Starships is one that I hope readers and writers take notice of.

Issue #3 is a mix of science-fiction and fantasy short stories, as expected. I liked the majority of the stories; the ones I didn’t care for might be more due to preferences than anything else, but I will elaborate further as I review each story in order of appearance. Certainly this magazine was well worth the cost of the issue (a paltry three dollars), so if you’re looking for some extra short fiction to read, try an issue of Staffs & Starships.

“In These Shoes” by Lindsey Duncan – The assassin Rosh returns to Tentril, a city she escaped from thirteen years ago. She struggles with her emotions when she confronts her former lover, Lord Sathren, and her hesitation to complete the job forces her into an undesired encounter with Sathren’s young sorceress.

This was one of the better stories in the issue. The narrative flowed well, and the plot fit together nicely without revealing anything early.

“Devolution of Life” by Tamara Wilhite – Mekah draws near to a world far beyond its home systems in order to establish life forms that its kind desires. Overcoming the obstacles of existing life forms proves to be a difficult task for Mekah and requires much more time than originally planned.

This story seemed to drag for quite a while and then blossomed into something I would either label as expected or clichéd. Mekah wasn’t enough of a character for me to react to in any way, so I grew apathetic towards its struggles.

“H +” by K. E. Spires – Unlike the other transhumans created from the genetic construct, Toymaker has a unique mind, one that allows it to reason and even disagree with the genetic construct. It desires to search for the reason of its uniqueness, but rather than travel alone, it injects a clone of itself into the construct in hopes that one day, the transhuman created from the clone will find its way to Toymaker so that they can begin the search together.

I was unable to grasp this science-fiction world. I could follow the plot, but there were so many strange concepts that I never felt rooted in what I was reading. It was like being unable to participate in a sport because the rules don’t make sense.

“The Kite” by James Bloomer – Over time, Fernando adds length to the string of his kite, allowing it fly to incredible heights. When his sister discovers him with it, he begs her not to reveal the secret to anyone, especially when a message descends to them along the kite’s string.

This was a compelling tale with an endearing protagonist. I enjoyed it.

“The Leftover” by James Hartley – An astronomer detects alien ships and seeks advice from Mentor Bartlo. Bartlo tries to delicately handle their first contact with aliens without upsetting the rest of the cluster, especially Priest Zezno, who reminds him that the very notion of aliens is blasphemous unless they have actual proof of their existence.

There is perhaps a bit too much foreshadowing at points and a hint of cliché, but the humor in the story more than makes up for those flaws. This was a fun read.

“Balesat’s Silence” by Betsy Dornbusch – Cursed or blessed by the god Balesat, depending upon whom is asked, Braedon carries the god’s fire within him and is able to unleash it upon anyone he chooses. Though titled the king’s Lord Virtue, Braedon only desires to stop the Armidian soldiers from inflicting sorrows upon their own country by their lawless deeds. The king desires peace as well and suggests that Braedon reconnect with Balesat, which only upsets Braedon further, for the god no longer speaks to him.

This was my favorite story of the issue. Well-written and engaging, with an interesting protagonist. I’d like to read more stories about Braedon.

“B is for Boy” by David Loel – Colum and his father live on the dirty world of Clarins where his father works in the shipyard, scrapping retired ships. As he approaches his sixteenth birthday, Colum tells his teacher and mentor that he’s ready to leave the planet, even if the best option is to enlist in the Space Corps for a ten year tour of duty.

I really liked this up until the end, where I couldn’t relate to what I was reading. It’s not that there was necessarily anything wrong with the ending; it just didn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the tale from my perspective.

1 comment:

JB Dryden said...

Matthew,

Thank you for the very impartial review. I appreciate that you enjoyed the work. I hope to hear more from you in the future (as well as see more of your fiction).

Cheers,
James Boone Dryden