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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 2005
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 2005
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each 160-page issue offers compelling short stories and novellas by writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ben Bova, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mike Resnick, Terry Bisson and many others, along with the science fiction field's most respected and outspoken opinions on books, films and science.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

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The January 2005 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction offers writing from Alex Irvine, Esther Friesner, Paul Di Filippo, John McDaid, Arthur Porges, Lucius Shepard, and Bruce Sterling, among others. The results are mixed, though some bits are worth the price of admission by itself.

Sterling's "The Blemmye's Stratagem" is an alternative history of the Crusades, where an alien kingpin runs a tremendous business of any assortment of trade, illicit or otherwise. The main characters, a former concubine turned Chief Financial Officer and a bloodthirsty assassin cum general, journey to their alien master per his orders. Incidentally and of little consequence to the story, the general writes poetry. Bad poetry.

"The Blemmye's Stratagem" is a simple story of lost love and losing the will to live because of that lost love. There's a bit about hordes of hungry offspring that could annihilate the Earth, but that's just the sideshow. Sterling weaves the complex happenings of world events (there is a Crusade going on, after all) with the personal interplay of CFO and general, alien and (even more alien) life partner, as well a side story of a simple maid and her lover, forever destined to be tragic.

Sterling's use of tight plot and dialogue push a complicated series of events into that simple theme. The result is highly readable and at some point enjoyable. One does wish (OK, I wish) for more substance to the subtext, but it's a satisfying read, nonetheless.

A second story offering, "Last Man Standing" by Esther Friesner, is another sprawling alternative history that pushes the simple theme that -- try as one might -- one cannot cheat death, at least, not ultimately. The setting is ancient Urak on the day of Lord Gilgamesh's funeral. There's a good dose of humor, some of it appropriate, as Friesner weighs death, who deserves it, and who can cheat it, at least temporarily.

In the story, hapless Namtar is among a succession of doomed sacrifices in honor of Gilgamesh's death. Through happenstance, Namtar is freed from his station, only to go on a cosmic journey where he meets, among others, the Goddesses Inanna and Ereshkigal. As Friesner recounts, "Inanna descended into the land of darkness, her dainty gold-sandaled feet itching to kick her sister's butt..."

Again, some of the humor of this story works, much of it does not. While I like Friesner's structure of book-ending this story with that of Lord Gilgamesh's, whose own power could not stave his death or the death of those most close to him, Friesner's tone does not match the material. I'm not asking for less funny rather than more subtle. A goddess who wants to 'kick her sister's butt' is more appropriate for an episode of Xena and not inside a story whose imagination and originality deserved better.

Turning an eye to the non-fiction offerings in this January edition, Lucius Shepard writes about Michael Winterbottom's Code 46, which he describes as featuring "a detective, a romance noir, a genetic crime, and a gloomy near-future dominated by corporate interests."

Shepard pointedly and correctly points out that Blade Runner did the same work as does Code 46, and so one does wonder why Winterbottom might have bothered. Shepard's commentary is concise and full of specific examples from the film. This is a good read for aspiring script writers on what not to do in the work of creating unique films.

As per the usual, it's a mix of good and questionable in the January 2005 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Happily -- and again per the usual -- the good outweighs the bad in good fashion.

Copyright © 2005 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.


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