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TaleBones, Fall 2001
TaleBones, Fall 2001
TaleBones
Talebones is the quarterly in-house magazine of Fairwood Press, featuring dark science fiction and dark fantasy from established and up-and-coming writers. It is fiction with a dark slant, stories and poems with punch -- sometimes experimental or psychological, sometimes laced with black humour.

TaleBones Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Talebones is one of the more respected small press magazines in the field, with good reason. It's been published regularly for 22 issues now, it's a very attractive package, with nice covers, nice interior illustrations, nice paper -- a solidly professional look all around. And the stories tend to be sound efforts -- I haven't really been blown away by anything I've read here, but the writing level is solid.

The Fall 2001 issue features seven short stories. As with many small press publications, Talebones restricts itself to shorter pieces -- the longest here is a bit over 6000 words. This is something I've mentioned before in several places, and I suppose it is tedious of me to continue to harp on the subject, but it is my feeling that the novelette and novella lengths are very good for SF, and I regret that so many venues are inhospitable to those lengths. Though I will admit, if you have only some 30,000 words budgeted for fiction per issue, it will be hard to squeeze in too many novellas.

Anyway, on to the contents. The strongest short stories in this issue are "The Yard God" by James Van Pelt; "Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk" by Ken Scholes; and "Harbinger" by Steve Mohan, Jr. Van Pelt seems to be everywhere these days -- he has stories in the current issues of Talebones, On Spec, Asimov's, Analog, and The 3rd Alternative, as well as recent contributions to Realms of Fantasy and other places. He's a solid writer who has been growing story by story. This effort is a quiet tale of a mentally-handicapped young woman trying to care for her ill mother. She as a special talent: she can sense the "minds" of animals (and insects), and even control them. She is driven to use this talent to help her mother, and to protect herself, but at a cost. Ken Scholes' story is about an artificially intelligent toy animal on a starship, who has to make an arduous journey when disaster strikes. The story is predictable and not terribly original, and a bit sentimental, but it's still an effective use of the A. A. Milne source material to colour an exciting space adventure. And Mohan's "Harbinger" examines a comet miner, threatened with unfair treatment at the hands of the company he works for, and with the depredations of pirates. The scenario is familiar, but the rather dark resolution, in the form of the means of revenge the miner finds, lifts the story above the ordinary. The other four stories had some original ideas, and some nice writing, but none of them came together for me.

Talebones is subtitled "A Magazine of Science Fiction & Dark Fantasy". It generally lives up to that subtitle -- often simply by having some SF and some dark fantasy -- but also by often featuring stories that combine the two modes: SF Horror, I suppose. Certainly "Harbinger" fits the mold, in this issue; as do Rhea Rose's "The Lemonade Stand" and James Michael White's "I, Like Alice". At its best, SF Horror can be very effective indeed -- the veneer of verisimilitude provided by an SFnal explanation for horrific events can deepen the horror. However, there is also the risk of promising a truly horrific, but rationally believable, revelation -- only to see it fall flat (which to be honest I felt was the case with White's story). Still, the mix of modes in this magazine works well -- it has a distinct character -- a must for any memorable magazine.

Talebones is also stuffed with features. This issue feature an interview with Dan Simmons, a music review column, three separate book review columns (including a fine overview of The Lord of the Rings and Tom Shippey's Tolkien: Author of the Century, putting the book in the context of past and upcoming films of it, by A. P. McQuiddy), as well as a letter column, editorial, and contributor bios. This is a fine small press publication, worth your attention.

Copyright © 2001 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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