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Albedo One # 40

01/11/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Albedo One # 40 in the USA - or Buy Albedo One # 40 in the UK

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pub: Albedo One, 2 Post Road, Lusk, County Dublin, Ireland. 100 page A4 magazine. ISSN: 0791-8534. Price: 5.95 euros).

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If you ever go across the sea to Ireland, as the song says, you may find 'Albedo One', a big magazine full of Science Fiction, interviews and reviews. However, the crossing can be a bit rough so you might do better to subscribe or get it on pdf from their website.

The fortieth issue is also the 18th birthday of the magazine and to celebrate the fact it is double size. It opens with an interview in which James Patrick Kelly chats about being a short story writer in the age of the Internet and the small press. There follows a tale by that worthy entitled 'Painting The Air' set in a kind of fantastical Japan. Jaya is tired of slaving for Master fan painter Mahir and wants to succeed on her own. She has a djinn lover who kind of grants her wish. A rich vocabulary and a well realised setting made this meditation on art a little gem.

The other interviewee this issue is Colin Harvey who contributed 'The Ghost Station'. Lawyer Keith Venables wins the Lottery, buys an abandoned railway station in the Suffolk Downs and moves there to refurbish it with his sculptor wife Patti and his stepchildren, Amy and Patrick. A realistic portrayal of modern family life is embedded in a gripping mystery with a genuine Science Fiction solution. It was great.

There are two stories which seem to be reflections of the harsher economic life in Ireland right now or rather, a harsher attitude to life in general. The homeless are ill treated in 'Vanishing Tom's Blues by John Maginn and Tom is baffled and worried by the new attitude of people. This is downright mellow compared to 'The Would-Be Adulterer' by Nigel Quinlan which, according to the blurb, is his 'hate letter to the people who have made Ireland what it is today'. The protagonist is a crooked property developer who suffers or enjoys pornographic fantasies about a young girl he sees in the pub. Holes begin to appear in the ground of his new development with brown smelly stuff bubbling out. He will be ruined so he is almost pleased when similar holes appear all over the country. The rising tide of brown smelly stuff is an unsubtle metaphor for the state of Ireland today, I suppose, and I only hope things get better soon in my ancestral homeland.

'Thick Water' by Karen Heuler is good old-fashioned Science Fiction about a group of explorers on a strange planet and their strange fate. It’s very redolent of Bradbury's 'Martian Chronicles' but might have appeared in any 1950s SF magazine so I loved it. There is mileage yet in the old formats for writers of imagination.

Old Science Fiction was bought to mind again by 'Charles And Alice' by Christopher Aylett because Philip Jose Farmer used Alice Liddell as a character in his great 'Riverworld' saga. She appears here along with Charles Dodgson who made her famous in Wonderland. Dead now, in 1934, Alice meets Charon and must sit on a vast railway platform with others waiting for the train across the river Styx, a clever bit of modernisation. Cut to 1898 and Charon is on the same platform with Dodgson. The narration then switches back and forth between the two individuals. Happily, this story avoids the unsavoury implications that have blighted this relationship in our post-Freudian times. It is not now possible to be cleanly fond of a little girl and if you have mates both you and they are all latent homosexuals. Strange days indeed!

'Bridges' by Nick Wood may be the best thing in this issue. It is set in an alternative South African present where apartheid is still in force. A psychiatrist has built an empathy box and longs to connect himself to a black patient with whom he is not making much progress. Ethical dilemmas and the sense of a menacing authority are deftly conveyed and I liked the background material about Obama and Osama meeting with the Russians to negotiate that power's withdrawal from Afghanistan. The fact that the author is a clinical psychologist indubitably helped with the authenticity of this story.

Judith Brown writes like a poet and 'Canus Lupus, Rosa Canina' is a wonderful read. It's a rough tale of the border between the American South and Mexico back in the wildest days of the west. The author loves this landscape and it is lovingly described but the things that happen there are horrible. I believe Sam Peckinpah wouldn't make the film because it's a bit too gory for his taste. I enjoyed it hugely but the ending was vague. I used to find that an unsatisfactory climax made me growl with rage but in my mature years I am not so disturbed by Tantric literature. It is possible just to enjoy the ride. I think a good story has an unambiguous conclusion but there is the alternative point of view that great art should leave you with a puzzled frown. This does.

The also-rans in this bumper issue are 'The Dunce's Castle' by Geoffrey Maloney, 'The Drowner' by Peadar O Guilin, 'Billy Pete' by Alex Jennings, 'Tick Tock Life' by Dom Turner. They all ran very well, too, for there wasn't a bad yarn in these 100 pages. The fact that 'Albedo One' can get such quality stories for its low pay rates is either a testament to editorial flair or a sign that there are now far too many good stories competing for far too few paying magazines. Probably a bit of both and there is prestige in being published in a genuine print magazine of such good quality. Keep up the good work, editors, and may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your faces.

Eamonn Murphy

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