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Albedo One # 41

01/05/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Albedo One # 41 in the USA - or Buy Albedo One # 41 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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This issue features winners of the Aeon Award for 2010 and winners of the Brainfood ie competition for students at Irish schools. There is also an interview with Iain M. Banks of ‘The Culture’ fame.

The first story you come to is ‘Aethra’ by Michalis Manolios, translated from the Greek by Thalia Bisticas. It is set in a near future with electric cars, robot gardeners and advanced cloning techniques. A police inspector goes to visit Aethra on the island of Folegandros where she lives in a splendid villa surrounded by art and furniture in her own image. Her cloned and admirable body is bent into table and chair forms and fixed to walls as well. What do you call a man nailed to a wall? Art. The joke probably doesn’t work in Greek. This story, on the other hand, works quite well, though it is rather dark for my taste.

‘Lost Highway Travellers’ by Judy Klass is narrated in the first person by a would-be country music star who is doing odd jobs in Nashville while trying to break into the big time. As he is a left wing radical Jewish/Italian from New York, he doesn’t quite fit the classic country singer profile but does love Hank Williams. A ghostly moment in the last paragraph shoehorns this into the fantasy genre where you can still get short stories published.

‘Pinocchio’ by Jacob Garbe is about a wooden man who wants to escape the factory in which he works and become flesh and blood but the Clockman won’t let him or any of his colleagues do so. This was a parable about getting away from the nine to five grind to find yourself and was quite moving in a big nosed clockwork kind of way.

‘Demon’ by Bruce McCallister is a vague, moody piece about a man who sees a beautiful Angel and doesn’t know why. I didn’t know neither at the end.

Far more impressive were the winners of the Brainfood ie fantasy writing competition for students of primary and secondary schools in Ireland. Lauren Mulvihill deserves praise for ‘Ways Of Making Maths More Interesting’. A bored student falls asleep on her maths book and wakes up in the land of numbers. Very ‘Alice in Wonderland’, very entertaining and with a neat ending. A deserving overall winner in the junior secondary category. ‘Null World’ by Aaron Elbel was winner of the senior secondary category and has an intriguing approach to worlds without magic, something hard to imagine for some. Clever and original again. The winner of the senior primary category was ‘The Glowopolis Rebellion’ by Kathy Cronin in which the eponymous city is illuminated by dragon-powered light bulbs. They are very small dragons but not too small to rebel. Imaginative stuff again. Each of the prize winners may have a future in the genre but I would advise them to switch to novels if they want to make money. Clever short stories in obscure magazines are great for your artistic kudos but they won’t pay the rent.

‘Differences’ by Eric Brown is set in a peaceful and very Asimovian world where people do not go outside and have names like Arkinen 88 and Daniels 347. I’m sure the similarity is deliberate as Brown’s point is that this situation is awful and his character rebels against it. Asimov’s sunless caves of steel are not to everyone’s taste, though to be fair, there are other elements to Brown’s world that the good Doctor would not have been in favour of neither.

‘Blavatsky’s Knee’ by Jan J.B. Kuipers is translated from the Dutch by Roelof Goudriaan. These translators names would be given to aliens in American Science Fiction but it is worth noting and praising the distinctly European flavour that this enlightened practice gives ‘Albedo One’. In fact, this historical fantasy about the founder of the Theosophical Society might have sold to ‘Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, which has a penchant for history as I have noted in my reviews. I mention this because the author could get a second sale and I am keen to help authors. Anyway, Madame Blavatsky and a few other real life characters associated with her are wandering the Arabian Desert at about the same time that Richard Francis Burton is looking for the source of the Nile. They mention him. This sometimes witty tale is about a Djinn getting involved with madam.

'A Room Of Empty Frames' by Robin Maginn is the story of Alistair O'Shea, an artist who gains a strong reputation by vanishing and leaving behind a room full of paintings. Dead artists are always more highly prized than living ones, so vanishing mysteriously is a great career move. The narrative is clever, quoting a scholarly work on the missing painter and the denouement is suitably inconclusive.

If Francisco Mejia did not dream large parts of 'Nathan Swindle And The Citadel' after a late supper of cheese and pickles, he has an unusual mind. Nathan and another plant-like humanoid strive to survive in Giogöla, the living city on the mineral rich world of Marvælen, which has emerald wastelands, an onyx tundra and seas of molten gold. It's like Michael Moorcock to the power of ten, utterly strange, completely fantastical and a welcome dose of the sense of wonder that the genre is supposed to foster. There's a lot of magic realism around nowadays and very little magic in it neither. Hurrah for the wacky world of Francisco Mejia!

In a sort of monastic setting called the Enclave on the world of Hubris, a great artist, Master Luciens, creates works for the Sensorium. Brother Weaver is a particularly empathic fellow and is sent to help Luciens with his creations. Peter C. Loftus delivers an intriguing tale about art in ‘Reflected Glory’. This is fitting in the short story magazine world of today which increasingly seems to be leaving the general reader behind and focusing on stories about the wonder and pain of being an artist. I fear only writers and would-be writers studying markets read the magazines nowadays which is a shame because ‘Albedo One’ provides a varied mix of beautifully written stories. I don’t know if the men and women who write them are starving in garrets doing art for art’s sake but there are certainly lesser talents making a lot more money, for God’s sake. It’s enough to make you take 10cc’s of something deadly. However, as Uncle Geoff rightly points out, short story credits look good on a writers CV and could help a lot when it comes to flogging your novel to those hard-nosed publishers.

Eamonn Murphy

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