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The 3rd Alternative, Issue #30
The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative is published quarterly. This high-quality production contains cutting-edge speculative fiction, features and interviews. The 3rd Alternative has won several awards, including the prestigious British Fantasy Awards for "Best Magazine" and "Best Short Story" (Martin Simpson's "Dancing About Architecture," from TTA #11).

The 3rd Alternative Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

Besides its very cool illustrations and graphical layout, one way to figure out whether you're likely to enjoy the kind of stuff that appears in The 3rd Alternative -- a British mag edited by Andy Cox that also has as extensive web site [www.tta.press] containing content far beyond what most print publications attempt, in itself worth checking out -- is whether you can swallow the premise of Robert Wexler's "Tales of the Golden Legend" that loaves of bread can talk and certain people can hear them:

On the way home from work, I stopped to buy a loaf at a bakery near the office. I tried not to be overwhelmed by the bread sounds around me. The fat loaves of country white complained about the skinny onion baguettes, while a basket of whole wheat rolls laughed at its own jokes. I selected a loaf of something called struan. The label on the shelf said it was made from wheat, corn, oats, brown rice, bran, buttermilk, and honey. It laughed and talked at the same time, a lusty, world-loving voice full of confidence and mirth. I saw it entertaining the other loaves, whistling like the sound of a baroque flute. On the way home I bought a newspaper and some fresh mozzarella.

"You don't need cheese with me," the bread said from within the bag. I ignored it. We can't always do what the bread says.

Now, if you're scratching your head wondering if the aliens are kneading the dough or if there is some sort of molecular device in the yeast that has developed a crude borg-like intelligence, maybe you'd better go pick up a copy of Analog, instead. On the other hand, if you find this an intriguingly strange idea, you're in for a hearty repast. Because this story is sandwiched among some equally tasty morsels of outright bizarreness, served up with gusto.

Speaking of "aliens taking over," Neil Williamson tackles this hoary SF trope in "Amber Rain" and manages to put a quite interesting new spin on it in providing a metaphor of how we sometimes move in directions differently from those we care about.

Christopher Kenworthy is also concerned with relationships that even in the context of magical practices are realistically depicted in "The Edge of England." In particular, here's a sentiment we may all feel at one time or another, but haven't perhaps had the nerve to express in this conversation between former boyfriend and girlfriend:

"Nothing ever happens any more. And I hate being nostalgic."

"Why?"

"Because you can't remember what you once felt for somebody, without feeling it again."

"The Subliminal Son" by Douglas Lain considers another kind of alien within. In this tale, an advertising graphic artist seems to be suffering from some sort of Alzheimer's, but is actually finding a way to communicate with his speech-impaired son by recovering a frame of mind lost from his own childhood.

Despite it's none-too-original ending, "Care in the Continuum" presents a quite intriguing assortment of characters and an original situation in which aliens are psychiatric nurses taking care of disturbed patients exiled to other parts of the universe, in this case, Earth. Author Paul Meloy is himself a psychiatric nurse by profession, which I'm sure provides him with all sorts of weirdly unbalancing inspiration.

The main course here is Ian Watson's "A Free Man," about a seeming amnesiac who struggles to recover his identity with the help of a girl through a sexual ritual performed under a drug-induced state:

Is it love at all? Or simply sex? Or the making of magic -- what kind of magic? I'm emotionally confused.
Hey, you don't have to been an amnesiac or otherwise uncertain of your origins to relate to that. And there's much more of this sort of insight to be found here as long as you're open to ideas of fantastic reading that go far beyond the limitations of standard-issue wizards and dwarves and little green men.

Copyright © 2002 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.


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