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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1999
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1999
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 Ken Newquist

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Johnny Cairo -- he's our man and if you like pulp fiction, he'll be your man too. Cairo dominates the retro cover of this issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction and provides the July edition's lead-in adventure: "Lizard Men of Los Angeles."

Johnny is the creation of Lewis Shiner and in "Lizard Men" he's up against a cult of cold-blooded folks intent upon replacing humanity as Earth's dominant species. The story takes place in 1934, and Shiner's characters have all the flair of a serial from that era. The villains have that comic, cartoonish feel to them, and magic man Johnny is able to escape from sudden danger in the nick of time. The story may disappoint fans of grittier fiction, but those who enjoy a good pulp romp will like it.

Robert Reed expertly builds on America's current paranoia in the July edition's best story -- "Winemaster." The technology to transform people from flesh and blood to artificial life is available... and illegal. Those who undertake the procedure are reviled by Americans at large, and are forced into self-contained communities under the nominal protection of the United States government. Militia groups attack these sanctuaries, and the government doesn't do much to stop them -- after all, artificial life isn't real life, and thus has no rights.

In "Winemaster," one of these communities is on the run and hoping to get to the relative safety of Canada, which isn't nearly as paranoid as continental America. Standing between them and freedom though, is the US government, which isn't about to let such a security threat escape. Reed's story is well-paced, driven, and includes a nice twist at the end.

"Floored" by John Morressy is a fun story in a Discworld-ish sort of way. At the urging of his wife, the wizard Kedrigern reluctantly agrees to remove a curse from a petty tyrant -- if the tyrant agrees to reform. The dialogue between the wizard and his scheming patient is hilarious, and the payment he receives for his effort puts a nice spin on the old flying carpet tales.

My enjoyment of "The Rain at the End of the World" is undoubtedly enhanced by the fact that my Pennsylvanian town is in the middle of a drought. Dale Bailey captures the strained tones of a tired relationship and then provides the eerie backdrop of a rain storm that will not end.

A more frustrating story is Richard Paul Russo's "Watching Lear Dream." It's about two old friends, rivals and perhaps even enemies who have the power to make their dreams real. One of them -- Lear -- is losing his mind, the other -- Samuel -- is forced to watch over his dreams. If something "solid" comes out of one of Lear's dreams, Samuel is supposed to destroy it before it can become permanent. Normally this isn't a problem, but one day Lear dreams up the third person in an old love triangle -- a woman whom Lear loved, and whom Samuel stole.

What's frustrating isn't the plot or the characters -- they're fine. The problem is that it is presented as science fiction, when it is really fantasy with a science coating. As a fantasy story, it is a good one. But as science fiction it bothers me. It's one thing to have people dream up incredible weapons; it's another thing entirely for those things to become real by thought alone. To me, spontaneous generation belongs in a fantasy setting, but I am a hard science fiction freak.

That's probably why the cartoon on page 70 bugged me as well -- it depicts two aliens standing outside an Apollo-era lunar excursion module. One says to the other "I think it's safe to say that there used to be life here on the moon, but that it's now extinct." What bugs me is that the LEM is shown with the ascent module still attached to the decent module. It only looked like this before and during missions -- afterwards, only the descent stage remained on the Moon.

If the intent was to say that we went to the moon, and never went back, then the ascent module shouldn't have been there. If it is to say that the astronauts died in the ascent module, and are thus "extinct", then it is inaccurate and in poor taste. Either way, it fizzles.

Rounding out the July edition are S&SF's departments, the gems of which are "Plumage from Pegasus" and "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall." In the first, Paul Di Filippo speculates what America might have been like if World War II's hysteria hadn't ended with the internment of Japanese-Americans, and instead had spread to include artists like Louis Armstrong and Fred Pohl. The "Jazztopia"-style that emerges from Di Filippo's fictional camps is almost enticing enough for one to wish things had gone that way. Paul Doherty and Pat Murphy team up on "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall," which provides the science for the July edition. It challenges readers' understanding of mirrors as it explains how these silvered creations really work.

The July edition has a little something for everyone. Fantasy fans should enjoy most of its stories, and while hard SF fans may balk at some of its content, they'll find that "Winemaster" is worth the price of admission.

Copyright © 1999 Ken Newquist

Kenneth Newquist is a confessed science fiction/fantasy addict living in Easton, Pennsylvania, and working as a webmaster at a small university in New Jersey. He's regular contributor to Science Fiction Weekly and is the editor of the speculative fiction webzine Nuketown.


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