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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2004
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2004
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 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and publisher/editor Gordon Van Gelder presents a special 'All-American' issue for the month of July. I am a fan of theme issues because the reader can pick and choose which themes to read.

Van Gelder compiled the stories in a smart way. "Unlike some of our special theme issues, this one did not start out by soliciting material to go with the issue," he says in his Editorial. "Rather, we noticed a strong American theme through a lot of recent stories and we built the issue around them." This method plays to the strength of the stories rather the strength of an editor's conviction that a journal 'needs' such a themed edition.

Here are the stories and the authors, in order of appearance:
"The Battle of York," a novelette by James Stoddard.
"Nine Whispered Opinions Regarding the Alaskan Secession," a short story by George Guthridge.
"A Life in the Day of Eb and Flo: An American Epic," a short story by John Morressy.
"Stuck Inside of Mobile," a novella by R. Garcia y Robertson.
"A Balance of Terrors," a short story by Albert Cowdrey.
"Johnny Beansprout," a short story by Esther M. Friesner.
The collection of stories have little in common, much like the denizens of America. If there is a commonality, it is one of vision, rather than one of style or voice. In "The Battle of York," a novelette by James Stoddard, the author presents to the reader an American history that has become an oral tradition myth, due to the destruction of all paper and electronic records. Stoddard shows a character named Washington, who cannot tell a lie and his quest to find Mount Rushmore in order to save his country.

By taking the proper names of American history and folklore, Stoddard gives a surreal feel to this myth, one whose authenticity is gained through Stoddard's strength of internal validity. The reader forgets all he or she knows about the historical happenings and instead pays attention to the haunted soldier figure in Washington and his journey across America. Stoddard's implied comment is that the name and the places of history are of little matter; the happenings are what are important. Also, heroes never die. Their names live on in the telling of these great stories.

In "Nine Whispered Opinions Regarding the Alaskan Succession," the short story by George Guthridge, the author presents a future of America where the fiftieth state looks to leave the American Union. The people of Alaska have grown sick of the interference by people not of their land, and with the new found energy source of the Aurora Borealis, the people have a foothold by which they can create a new life. The nine vignettes show nine different perspectives from the careful consideration of the state's governor to the insane actions of local who happens to have a WWII torpedo in his possession. Guthridge wrote this story because of the prodding of fellow writer Bruce Holland Rogers. Rogers bet that Guthridge could not write a story with nine vignettes, with specific word counts per vignette. Guthridge won this bet.

The issue's novella is "Stuck Inside of Mobile" by R. Garcia y Robertson. This piece of history and fiction recounts the efforts of the Confederacy to build a submarine, the U.S.S. Hunley, that would render the Union fleet, and therefore its critical blockades of river traffic, obsolete and useless. It's good material and the story's main character of Eugene Beauregard is believable.

However, the story's premise of Jules Verne coming along for a ride (to collect material to write Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), as well as the subplots of the story fall short. In particular, the slave characters that Beau knows are thinly presented, once again making for stereotypical characters, despite the reality of those characters and the role they play in the story. I would have liked better for Robertson to explore the conflicts inside of Beauregard rather than to focus so much of the admittedly cool description of the submarine in question, as well as the specifics of sea battle. In addition, the chest thumping ending does little for the story's purpose or for American pride.

As a final note, "A Balance of Terrors" is a short story by Albert Cowdrey. This short story is also the most terrifying text I have read. Dr. Anna Weiss has a terrible plan. She needs to exact revenge of her former flame while at the same time try to save the Earth at the cost of the humans occupying that earth. It's a simple story that shows even the smartest of humans can do terrific damage to the human race. This story also shows how those few, shallow souls like Anna's former flame Dr. James Parmenter, could save us all by just showing a little love to those that need it. Anna did not get that love, and the results follow. This story does feature a bit of a gimmicky ending that leaves the final measure in doubt. However, the premise is enough to keep the reader from sleeping.

If I had to bring some common feature of these stories, I would say that each talks about the way this tale of America will be told. Some will look to the future, some will look to the past. Some will look optimistically, some will not. Whatever the author's vision, all the stories will be true in the hearts of the respective writers, which is one of the founding traits of this country.

Copyright © 2004 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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