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The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction Mar/Apr 2012 Volume 122 # 700

01/04/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction Mar/Apr 2012 Volume 122 # 700 in the USA - or Buy The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction Mar/Apr 2012 Volume 122 # 700 in the UK

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pub: Spilogale Inc. 260 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 7.50 (US). ISSN: 1095-8258.

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‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ is a venerable and well respected American magazine, renowned for the quality of its short fiction. Here is some more.

‘One Year Of Fame’ by Robert Reed is about a writer called Kevin, pseudonym Cateye Rawdone, who lives quietly in the small town of German Bluff. It is the future and robots do a lot of the work but if they are upgraded enough to become sentient then they become legally free. This happens initially to the robot servants of billionaires but other robots soon catch up. A UPS delivery robot has read all of Kevin’s works and spread the word in the AI community so they start coming to German Bluff to see the famous author who has written so tellingly about the human condition. They look on him as a sage and a guru, though he admits he can’t remember much of what he wrote and may have been drunk at the time. An odd but enjoyable tale. The preamble says that ‘MofF&SF’ has been accused of printing too many stories about writers but the editors are not apologetic.

A regular feature of this magazine is historical tales with a fantasy twist and there are three in this issue. In ‘Electrica’ by Sean McMullen, a brave British lieutenant investigates the work of a half-mad inventor who may have something to defeat Napoleon. The mission is complicated by the inventor’s lusty wife and another soldier who gets jealous but the core of it is genuine Science Fiction. It was a bit long-winded but basically sound.

‘The Queen And The Cambion’ by Richard Bowes is a fantasy in which the kings and queens of England are handed down, from generation to generation, a magic spell by which they can summon Merlin for advice, for long ago he pledged to help the British monarchs in perpetuity. Queen Victoria is the heroine of the tale and there were allusions to a future Henry X and a quick mention for one dead princess of recent vintage. The whole thing was well researched and very entertaining.

Another tale set in the past is ‘Olfert Dapper’s Day’ is by Peter S. Beagle, whose work I have previously enjoyed and whose name is odd enough that I remember it. There are many good short story writers filling the pages of magazines today but due to the sheer quantity of works it’s hard to stand out and be remembered. Like Isaac Asimov, Mister Beagle has a name that sticks in the mind. Of course, it helps that his stories are usually pretty good. Anyway, Doctor Olfert Dapper is a Dutch con artist forced to flee Holland for the New World where he settles in the town of No Popery, in Maine, and befriends an Abenaki Indian called Rain Coming. Most of the other settlers have fled the England of Charles II and while they respect the ‘doctor’, he does not have much time for them. One day, he and Rain Coming see a unicorn in the woods. Later, he gets involved with the Reverend’s wife. This rather fey, inconclusive tale was not entirely to my taste but the narration was pleasant. ‘Show, don’t tell’ has been the catchphrase of creative writing classes for decades now but lately, especially in fantasy, telling seems to be allowed. As I like old-fashioned narration, I do not object to this.

‘Twenty-Two And You’ by Michael Blumlein is a love story. Ellen and Everett are very much in love and desperate to have loads of kids. However, Ellen has faulty genes and if she gets pregnant it will probably trigger a life threatening cancer in her. Science fictional gene surgery can fix this but there may be unexpected outcomes. My main quibble with this well-written and moving story is that it did not need to be Science Fiction. These circumstances could have arisen with present day technology. There is a school of thought that says unless the basic premise absolutely has to be science fictional then it is merely a story dressed up as SF because that’s the best market now.

Similarly, ‘The Tortoise Grows Elate’ by Steven Utley, although it is set in the Silurian Age, did not need to be Science Fiction. It concerns a group of graduate students on placement with two learned professors who have a little fling. In fact, it’s barely a story at all in some terms, having no real crises or challenges of any kind. Our protagonist sneers at men a lot and learns that Jane Austen is a splendid writer, so there is some character development. I enjoyed it, though. I suppose every story does not have to be gripping or moving. Sometimes amusing is enough.

Another comical yarn herein was ‘Greed’ by Albert E. Cowdrey, in which a man living in his wealthy uncle’s mad castle is visited by an old college friend turned billionaire fraudster seeking refuge from the law. It might have been possible to do this as a straight story without the Science Fiction trappings but it was fun as presented. I probably only guessed the ending because I spend (waste?) so much of my life reading stories. Hopefully you won’t.

‘Repairmen’ by Tim Sullivan is about a woman and a man and that whole love thing but it is based on a very science fictional premise indeed. The chaps in question repair faults in the multiverse to stop bits of it colliding together and destroying each other. The story takes a fantastic premise and explores it in terms of its impact on human beings, the basic formula for a good Science Fiction story.

Two writers, Robert Walton and Barry N. Malzberg, combined to give us ‘The Man Who Murdered Mozart’, a time travel tale. Beasley is a pleasure seeker in a decadent future age who adores the great composer, though he doesn’t play the works very well despite his best efforts. He gathers some friend together and plots to rescue and clone Amadeus on his death bed so that the young genius can finish his ‘Requiem’ and produce brilliant new works, too. The narrative style of this was a bit odd and I found it quite hard to follow.

Two stories feature futures where humans are enhanced in various ways by software and apps. ‘Perfect Day’ by Celia Friedman is a day in the life of Stanley Betterman who is an ordinary chap with a job and a family but in a future where apps rule the brain. An app warns him he is putting too much salt on his scrambled eggs and gives him one Bad Health Choice point on his account. If he gets four in a month, his medical insurance will go up. A virus makes him see everyone else as naked until his cleaning programs sort it out. He can get a discount on his fuel allowance by driving to work through zones where he is bombarded with adverts. It’s not a future I much fancy but it takes all sorts.

The other future gadgets tale was ‘Gnarly Times At Nana’ite Beach’ by K.J. Kabza, a surfing story set amidst sands that are smart nanites containing a matrix of information. Dusty Yokoyama gets bullied by a local gang but then has an opportunity to kick sand back in there face, as it were, by riding a super surfboard that a local specialist wants to try out. The characters are a bit irritating but the concepts were good.

I’ll say one thing for ‘Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’, there’s a lot of it! If it came out monthly, I would have little time to review anything else. This issue offers another varied mix with something to suit all tastes and enough quality stuff to make it worth a few pounds, dollars or euros depending on where you live. It’s available as a kindle download, too.

Eamonn Murphy

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