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Electric Velocipede #11

Electric Velocipede #11
Electric Velocipede
Electric Velocipede is available by subscription ($10US -- USA, $15US -- Canada, $20US -- elsewhere) or by single issue ($3US -- USA, $4.50US -- Canada, $6US -- elsewhere). Send you order to and make money orders/cheques payable to:
John Klima
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Electric Velocipede

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jakob Schmidt

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The design of Electric Velocipede evokes a certain nostalgia -- I hope you will forgive me if I dwell on its visual qualities for a moment. Electric Velocipede #11 is a slightly oversized booklet, held together by two staples. It looks quite fannish, and not in a bad way. The cover artwork is simple but intriguing, a drawing that literally incorporates the magazine title (there is aesthetic continuity to the EV cover designs, but it's not provided by anything that would act as a logo). The interior design is plain, with no illustrations and few ads. The only element of visual frivolity is the tiny bicycler that separates the double paragraphs within the stories. In short, it very nearly looks like something that could have been put together back in the old days with Word for Windows™, a good Xerox™, and hours over hours of painstaking editorial work. There's even a small, superimposed sticker on page 28 bearing the title of one of the stories, probably to correct a typo that made it into print (I didn't have the heart to remove it and find out). In these days, such a plain design achieves a very special kind of beauty. It's also a statement: once you have opened EV #11, there's nothing to distract you from the text content.

Not that it would be that easy to get distracted. EV has featured accomplished writers, and issue eleven keeps up the high standards. It offers 13 pieces of short (occasionally very short) fiction and four poems. The stories range from vaguely weird realism (Marly Youmans's "The Geode") to straightforward science fiction ("The Duel" by Tobias Buckell). Most of the pieces in EV #11 are short character studies, utilising whatever technological or magical element appropriate to make their point. "The Duel" is the most science-fictional in the lot: it is about Toad, a character who works in holodeck-style museum and gets obsessed with a long outdated notion of romantic love. It's a bittersweet story, that longs for the drama of two men duelling over a woman and deconstructs this romantic hyperbole at the same time; Buckell presents the whole thing in a very sober tone. It's my favourite story of this collection, funny in its depiction of Toad's obsession and yet utterly compelling in transporting his dilemma.

Another favourite of mine is "Quitting Dreams" by Matthew Cheney and Jeffrey Ford, an identity-crisis story about someone who's addicted to another persons dreams, set in a vaguely post-apocalyptic world. The dream sequences are quite convincing and unsettling, symbolically unravelling a traumatic event that might be part of the life of the protagonist -- or of a totally different person. The whole story is a little reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, especially in featuring an enigmatic businessman who seems to be villain and benevolent patriarch at the same time.

"Moon Does Run" by Edd Vick is a sad little robot story that's not so much another variation on Asimov's laws but more a metaphor on the unravelling effects of political upheaval on people who are stuck in the bureaucratic machinery of changing regimes -- another powerful piece of short fiction.

While these three stories are the most memorable of the lot, most of the other stories are still well above average. Liz Williams opening story "Tiger, Tiger" is a funny and pleasing little parody on the romance genre, but slightly marred by being pretty foreseeable. "Milk and Apples" by Catherynne M. Valente, on the other hand, is a haunting, strangely distanced retelling of the story of Snow-White which finds quite an interesting twist to turn the evil stepmother into a compelling main character. "How to Get Rid of Your Monster" by Scott William Carter is a darkly humorous psychopath story that works quite well, but offers little new. "Bar Golem" by Sonya Taaffe is more of a prose poem and mystified me at first reading; However, a closer look revealed it to be quite and interesting variation on the archetypical Golem character who's searching for love, although in this case the tables are turned... "Sweetness and Light" by Nicole Kimberling is a very convincing story about how children perceive the mysterious rituals of the grown-up world. While it is strangely paced, falling into two only loosely linked parts, it is among the most beautifully narrated stories of EV 11.

Even though the remaining stories weren't that convincing to me, all of them are still very much worth reading. "Nine Billion and Counting" by John B. Rosenman is based upon a good idea, but has little more to offer besides its gimmick. "Sometimes I Get Lost" by Steve Rasnic Tem was impenetrable to me (another case of prose poetry), "The Geode" has its moments, but it ends in a comparatively long, tiresome introspective. "Last Bus" by Jennifer Pelland has an enchanted, dream-like atmosphere, but I disliked its rather simplistic ending. And "A Punctuated Romance" by Mary Turzillo is basically a series of more or less witty puns, which get kind of old after the first few paragraphs.

I'm not a great poetry reader, so I'll only provide some very general impressions on the poems featured in EV 11. Two of them are by Christina Sng, both darkly humorous, but also a little melancholic; these are non-pretentious and quite accessible. Then there are the two slightly longer poems by Catherynne M. Valente: "The Inkmaker's Wife" has some very powerful imagery, but it seems a little unfocussed and unnecessarily complicated. "Anatomy of a Yes," on the other hand, works much better -- even though it's yet another variation on the exodus from Eden, it finds an interesting new perspective.

If you're in any way interested in the fantastic genres in a broader sense and you can get your hands on EV 11, you shouldn't hesitate to invest the necessary dollars. Even if you don't fancy the more experimental stuff, you'll still find a lot of good, solid story-telling here.

Copyright © 2007 by Jakob Schmidt

Jakob writes and translates reviews, essays and short stories, most of them for the German magazine Alien Contact (www.alien-contact.de) and its publishing house Shayol. That's in his spare time, which luckily still makes up the bulk of his days.


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