28/11/2005. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: PS Publishing. 143 page softcover magazine. Price: £ 6.00 (UK), $10.00 (US). ISBN: 1-90461933-9.
check out website: www.pspublishing.co.uk
Once upon a time there were as many Science Fiction magazines on the newsagents shelves as there were women's magazines. The number of the former has decreased, the latter increased. This is a shame as new writers need an outlet for their short stories before embarking on the daunting task of their first novel. For most people, writing a novel requires an investment of at least a year of their time and the number of novels published is small, compared to the wealth of stories looking for a decent home. To that extent, it is good to see another quarterly magazine available.
'Postscripts #4' is the same size as existing magazines such as 'Asimov's Magazine' and 'Analog' but is printed on a higher quality of paper with a glossy cover. As a result, it comes at a higher price. It contains an editorial outlining the contents, seven stories, an interview, some black and white illustrations and a few advertisements.
The first of the stories, 'Zima Blue' by Alastair Reynolds, is probably the most imaginative. It tells the story of an artist whose use of a particular shade of blue has gradually taken over his artwork. It began s a small square on the canvas and gradually began to dominate masterworks the size of planets. It is a quality Science Fiction story.
'Life Beyond...' by Eric Brown is a more traditional alien encounter story. Ed Robertshaw is afraid he will lose the custody of his granddaughter. On the night of the visit from the social worker, an alien spaceship lands in the woods. The alien is collecting books for an intergalactic library and asks Ed to choose three for him. It is a nicely told moral tale.
'Master Lao And The Flying Horror' by Lawrence Person is fantasy and humour. Set in ancient China, Chou Lin is an apprentice to Master Lao with a view to becoming a priest. When a murder is committed in the village, Lao is called on to purify the body. However, the head has gone missing. It turns up, animated, at the temple in the middle of a feast and causes havoc. Lao realises that they are dealing with a demon. The story is fast, action-packed and enjoyable.
'Beyond Mao' by Barry Malzberg and Paul Di Filippo is a different take on Chinese culture and futuristic. Three taikonauts are squeezed into a small spaceship en route for Mars. Halfway into the voyage, He Keung is startled to be contacted by Wu Yuèhai, a taikonaut who died many years before. She tells him a bizarre story and the real question is whether the events are a true state of affairs or whether he is hallucinating. Slow and thoughtful, it is a complete contrast to previous ones.
'And Future King...' by Adam Roberts is a sideways look at politics expressed in interview form. In a world where Replicant Public Servants control government, the aim of Professor Sir Allen Fergus is to create a Replicant of King Arthur. The story contains a lot of good humour.
'Dharma Bums' by Jack Dann is definitely not humorous. In it, he has imagined that James Dean did not die. Dean and Jack Kerouac travel on a freighter to Tangiers to visit William Burroughs who is in the process of writing 'The Naked Lunch'. It is not a story for the sensitive reader as it descends to the basic in places. It laced with drugs and sex and is written very much in the Burroughs style. It is an unlikeable story despite the quality of the prose and not one you would want to leave around for your mother to read.
The final story is 'The Cell' by Zoran Zivkovic, a curiosity concerning a prisoner on death row and the visitors he has during his last day and the stories they tell him. It is translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošic. It is gratifying to see that there is a place for exposing good authors who write in other languages.
The interview is of Richard S. Prather, the creator of the detective Shell Scott. Most of Prather's books were from the 1950s and 60s.
It is good to see another magazine available to writers but the price is likely to put off some buyers. Having some experience of producing books of this quality, I know that £6 is a fair price for this kind of volume. I wish it success and would urge others to buy it - we need more like it - but wonder if lower quality paper and printing would bring down the price sufficiently to allow it to compete with the American magazines and persuade more to support it.
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