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Farthing #1, July 2005

Farthing #1, July 2005
From the Farthing web site: "Farthing is a digest-sized quarterly, fiction only (no poetry, no reviews), with irregular reading periods. We are currently CLOSED to submissions. When we re-open, we welcome submissions of science fiction, fantasy or horror, including flash and drabbles (100 words exactly) but nothing over 7500 words. Humour is encouraged, as is brevity. Good quality drabbles are in particularly short supply but your word count must be exact and your story not depend on a pun for its conclusion."


Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The first issue of Farthing, a new quarterly speculative fiction magazine from Wales, has made its appearance with nine stories and three short pieces called Farthing drabbles.

Paradise requires palm trees according to Karen M. Roberts's "Good-bye, Paradise." When palm trees all mysteriously leave Los Angeles (for reasons never explained in the story, although blamed on Gilbert McNorton), life comes to a stand-still. Roberts's story is told in two parts, the reactions of a plumber to the disappearance and short quotes from a variety of sources who are responding to the lost trees. The latter, which punctuate the former, are by far more interesting, although they are meant more as background than as plot. The plumber's plot seems mostly to meander without any sort of real resolution.

Peter Andrew Smith presents an interesting way for humans to out-think the aliens in the universe in "The Fine Print," a Campbellian tale of oneupsmanship when the alien races attempt to have the humans make good on the usurious loans they've been required to accept. The story doesn't have a realistic feel to it, instead feeling dated, as if it had fallen through a time warp or was a reprint from several decades ago.

The number of stories about people who seek the inspiration of the Muses is legion. In "Small Inspiration," Melissa Mead turns the story around to the viewpoint of the Muse seeking access to an artist. It isn't clear which Muse Mead refers to in her story (if indeed it is one of the nine originals), but it is one who is not well known and seeks its chance to experience our world. In this manner, the Muse is offering a trade, the inspiration the artist seeks for experiences the Muse can not normally have.

Andrew J. Wilson combines the tall tales of the American west with a ghost story in "That Goddamn Hat." This is the story of a hatter who chases across the west after the evil hat of a half-breed desperado. It seems that only the protagonist is aware of the hat and its legend. His chase after it lacks a certain urgency, yet Wilson has managed to capture the cadences of the western tall tale, making "That Goddamn Hat" and interesting story. The ending, in which the source of the hat's ill luck is revealed, does not fall into the expected, making the story an entertaining one.

"Scream Quietly" is an epistolary secret historical fiction story by Sheila Crosby. Crosby combines many elements, from fairies to time travel to social advancement in this tale, which works quite well, although Crosby never quite gets the tone of Sophie's letter right for the 1840s. Despite this, "Scream Quietly" has a freshness to it which captures the reader until the ending comes as a surprise.

Cherith Baldry presents a short look at lost opportunities in "Dance with Me." Her protagonist meets and apparent succubus on the road and turns his back on the temptation. Baldry revisits their encounter years later when the man is at the end of his life and once again meets the spirit. The encounter doesn't go as expected, but there is a lack of surprise to it nevertheless.

A.H. Jennings's "Owasa," is the longest, and most confusing, story in Farthing. In some ways, "Owasa" is a coming home story, but a more interesting reading of the tale is one in which time and memory are malleable. The protagonist's past is lost to him and, as he comes into contact with a variety of individuals, some with clearly defined relationships, others more murky, his past, and his present is defined by their reactions to him and their knowledge of his circumstances. However, the very things which could make the story interesting fail, as they mostly contribute a sense of confusion to the story.

Kevin Anderson (not Kevin J. Anderson) presents "A Bump in the Road," which has the makings of a good teen horror flick. The story of five college friends on their way to a camping trip who run into something unexpected, has the feel of the outline for such a film, right down to the morality of those who "sin" meeting the unknown horror and the survivors fleeing alone into the woods. The science fictional rationale isn't quite tacked on, as Anderson presents the basis for it early in the story, but it hardly plays a major role and could as easily have been a masked killer.

"I Love Cheese" is a short, and silly, rumination on the phrase of the title by Paul Renault. Renault takes the phrase and its literal meaning in an emotional sense. The piece, which is only half a page long, forms a light-hearted coda to the rest of the issue.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a five-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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