Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fantasy & Science Fiction June/July 2009

The June/July issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction was another good one. Great job, staff and authors!

“Firehorn” by Robert Reed – Gabe and his friend Morgan create a myth about an elusive creature called the Firehorn to fool kids in their club. As the years pass, the myth grows into a legend of such proportions that even beings of artificial intelligence believe in it.

I thought this story had an interesting take on future artificial intelligence, that they cling to superstitions or various faiths, becoming odd imitations of humanity. It’s a satisfying tale, in typical Reed fashion.

“The Motorman’s Coat” by John Kessel – A struggling antiques dealer in the future encounters a woman with a rare item for sale, a motorman’s coat used by a transportation company in 1911. Such an item intrigues the dealer, as it might draw in more customers, but can he afford the risk?

A bit humorous and a little quirky, Kessel’s story unfolds rather nicely. I think I was drawn to the protagonist out of pity.

“Retrograde Summer” by John Varley – Timothy lives with his mother on Mercury and awaits the arrival of his older clone-sister, Jubilant, who is arriving from the Moon. Timothy wants to find out the details of the relationship between his mother and sister, but these are secrets that his mother refuses to reveal. His only hope of discovering the truth is to befriend Julilant, and based on her attitude about him and his home planet, it seems a nearly impossible task.

This was the first classic reprint of the issue. The protagonist’s voice is perfect in this tale, really drawing you in. The science-fiction elements seem fairly realistic and plausible. I do have qualms with the gender-swapping themes and the negative ideas about a traditional family, but I could still find entertainment in the story itself.

“Corona Centurion FAQ” by Terry Bisson – This story is literally an FAQ about the Corona Centurion rotary heart that is designed to endure for a hundred years and all of the strange nuances that accompany the artificial organ.

This was a quick spot of levity in the issue. Quite enjoyable.

“Paradiso Lost” by Albert E. Cowdrey – The Councils of State determine to pull back the outer space colonies as a way of strengthening their defense against their enemies from the First Alien War. Robert Kohn’s military assignment aboard the Zhukov is to help evacuate a distant world populated by a colony of religious zealots. After the lieutenant’s commanding officer is murdered, however, Kohn has the additional duty of solving the crime.

The narrative is superb in this novella. I felt included with all of the terminology (military and technological). I enjoyed the mix of humor and tension. Really well done, but given who the author is, I didn’t expect anything less.

“Adaptogenia” by Wayne Wightman – Insects begin adapting in an unprecedented way: they combine to form illusions of reality, such as people or cars. As a writer for Conspiracy Theorists’ Weekly, Eliot investigates the incidents cautiously, but he soon realizes that the motivations for such adaptations are horrific.

I’m not a fan of insects in general, so reading something like this makes my skin crawl. There was an appropriate amount of creepiness to the story’s telling. I’m not sure if it classifies as horror or not, but I think readers who like ominous tales will enjoy this.

“Sooner or Later or Never Never” by Gary Jennings – Missionary Crispin Mobey sets out for Australia to win the souls of the Anula tribe. Though great of heart, the missionary is devoid of reason, such as his idea for taking two trucks full of glass beads with him as a way of gaining their trust and impressing them.

The second classic reprint of the issue is hilarious. I laughed aloud several times. This was a great choice for a reprint.

“Economancer” by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Simon leaves England to interview for a job with Sinoa Bank in the distant land of Nanonesia. Though applying for a much lower-level position, he finds himself meeting the entire board of directors who seeks his help in taking down the United States’ economy through his powers in sorcery, powers he has no knowledge of.

I liked the letter-writing narrative presented in this story. The protagonist is humorous and engaging. I also enjoyed the unpredictability (no pun on the tale’s plot intended).

“The Spaceman” by Mike O’Driscoll – Twelve-year-old Freddie enjoys his younger friend Mouse for his imagination, as does Jenna, the most recent addition to their trio. When Mouse tells Freddie about finding a spaceman, Freddie finds himself wanting to leave the games of imagination behind in favor of winning Jenna as his girlfriend. When the three of them are confronted by the impossible, Freddie finds that he’s less accepting of the fantastical than his other friends, and it drives an uncomfortable wedge between them.

This was my favorite tale of the issue. I felt Freddie’s internal struggles, whether over reality or his newfound feelings for Jenna. All of the characters were quite strong and believable. I hope to see more of O’Driscoll’s stories in future issues.

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