Here's my take on the issue:
May-June 2010 issue -- contents(85 posts)
I've received it today in Split, Croatia.
I like the cover, I hope I'll like the stories as well.
But since I am only halfway through the previous issue, and there are two Asimov's, two or three Analogs and one Black Static waiting somewhere around my bed, and I'm halfway through Anderson's To Outlive Eternity collection, it may take a month or more for May F&SF to come to my attention.
Has this blog been posted here yet?
Yes, you posted it here about a week ago. Been staying up too late with that slush pile? =)
Been out of town attending the Nebula Awards.
From the latest blog post:
"Now, I know (even if I have not read them) that the Martian Chronicles are a swashbuckling adventure series like Conan on Mars."
It has been years since I DID read them, but I honestly don't remember them being a swashbuckler.
The Martian Chronicles is the farthest thing from "swashbuckling" I can imagine. Not even close by any stretch.
Chip Delany wrote in one of his nonfiction books about how important are those big literary works we know of, but never read. They're like skyscrapers we pass every day, but never enter. (Marc Laidlaw riffed on this notion in his essay on not reading DHALGREN [published in ASH OF STARS].)
This blogger says he has not read Bradbury's MARTIAN CHRONICLES. I suspect that in his mind, they're akin to Burroughs's Mars novels.
I apologize - I am the reviewer in question from NJOE.com, and yes I meant Burroughs's Mars stories - which for some reason I assumed/believed was called the MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Perhaps I should not have made the comparison at all, but at the very least I have corrected the error in the review.
I'd have to go with "A History of Cadmium" as my favorite in the May/June issue. I'm no artist, but I liked the way the painting was worked into the story continually. Unfortunately, it ended in tragedy, but since the element Cadmium is poisonous, it couldn't have been otherwise.
"Why that Crazy Old Lady Goes up the Mountain" had a good ending even though it was also tragic. I finally understood the title at the very end.
I must have liked "Dr. Death vs. the Vampire" because I actually went to the website mentioned in the classified ads. Of course, it didn't exist.
Good on you, Kirrmistwelder, for acknowledging your error. If you get a chance, you might try both Burroughs and Bradbury and see if you like either of 'em. Burroughs's Mars books are going to be everywhere soon as there's a film version of A PRINCESS OF MARS in the works.
(My own anthology of Mars stories, FOURTH PLANET, tries to trace the evolution of Mars stories over the last 60+ years, but it only includes one of Ray Bradbury's Martian chronicles. http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/anthfourth.htm )
SpaceMonkey, why were you trying to buy lots of garbage bags? No, cancel that, I don't want to know.
Steven Popkes's story "The Crocodiles" is available online at http://www.suvudu.com/freelibrary/index.html#crocodiles
I read another story, "Forever", which didn't show much content. Down on life, down on marriage, down on everything. I was really surprised to learn that the Blessed Lady had a blog.
Dale Bailey takes on the big one with believability, a been there, done that attitude which none can gainsay. I've not only read the story he cites within it, but the Perelman article which may have been the only other use of "Hey presto!" ever.
The intro for the story reminds me of Laurie Mann's A FANNISH HOME PAGE.
Gordon Van Gelder wrote:
"SpaceMonkey, why were you trying to buy lots of garbage bags? No, cancel that, I don't want to know."
The first rule of project Mayhem is: "You do not talk about project mayhem."
This was an excellent issue. I enjoyed all the stories. These stood out to me as being exceptional -
2. "The Gypsy's Boy"
3. "Why That Crazy Old Lady Goes up the Mountain"
4. "Dr. Death vs. the Vampire"
Onopa's story reminds me of model train sets, the way a story about one should do. I only saw one such, a Lionel I saw after several of us were visiting a fellow named Teddy after Christmas. He told me how it was when he saw it under the tree and looked up at the colored lights. Now it was on tables with a landscape. I looked out the windows above it and saw the church they were near, off in the distance. The others wondered what use it had and a fellow named Curt compared it to a doll house. His father told us Teddy enjoyed hoodoo and would doubtless do it over the train. I told him no one would be able to consider me jealous over what he'd gotten. Nevertheless, I'd recall it on subsequent Christmases, even after I'd moved to another town.
The story reminds me of science fiction of earlier days when things had a meaningful and substantial plot, and a surprise twist creating a total effect. This is meaningful as it shows a boy with a hobby toy that makes a god of him, as many toys as well as games do. Then there's the irony of what might happen to a god. But I have a tip for the author: science fiction readers like problems to be solved. It isn't too popular to leave things in dire straits, not even these days.
But it's the most effective story I've read lately.
I'll have to agree with Brian Crowley that "Dr. Death vs. the Vampire" is an exceptional story--though I'm tempted to make a joke and say that I made an exception for it in the matter of reading it. No, really, I read it, and though it seems at first to be a description of the woes of public transportation, it did settle into being a story with a great deal of relevance to matters of life and death, reminding one of such archetypical tales in the folk tradition as "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "Death and Jock Hornbook", or "The Devil's Nine Questions". There's been a lot of folk traditional stories in F&SF over the years; perhaps they should be culled into an anthology of wily folk tale fantasies. I find absent from the tale any real accounting of how Dr. Death became Dr. Death, which is unnecessary in the case of the vampire. Good flights of writing, too, as "The day felt empty of possibility, as if we were poised in some alien space aslant of real life", and the description of both characters was realistic and convincing.
Another blog post: http://mxmossman.blogspot.com/2010/05/fantasy-science-fiction.html
I'll start a separate thread for the Libling story because of length; it'll take two separate posts to accommodate the message length constraint.
Chappell: Thief of Shadows
In his "Shadows" tales, Chappell builds his world around an intriguing concept: that shadows bear with them many of the properties of the things that cast them, and that a sufficiently skillful thief can, with appropriate tools and training, separate a shadow from its caster and use it for purposes ranging from the benign to the malevolent.
In this installment in the tales of Falco, the long-suffering apprentice, we learn the origin of his apprenticeship with Master Astolfo, a semi-retired thief who continues to make his living in the shadow trade, though usually by less (ahem) shady means, and his relationship with Mutano, Astolfo's manservant and the bane of Falco's existence. It's a classic tale in the mode of the rural bumpkin who turns out to be at least as wise as (and often substantially cleverer than) the urban sophisticates who mock him, as well as a tale of the apprentice growing towards mastery.
There are many pleasures in this series: the clever banter among a cast of roguish schemers, rich but never cloying and rhythmic yet never obtrusive language; lovingly embellished details; and exploration of the implications of the shadow concept that provides background and plot for the stories. (The shadows are said to have mass but not weight. One can imagine, 1000 years of scientific progress into the future, they might become the source of antigravity.) It reminds me of Matthew Hughes' work, with a dash of Jack Vance's "Cugel the Clever" thrown in for spice.
Here, the tale appears simple: Astolfo's colleague Pecunio presents him with a shadow whose origin must be identified. It may be the dread pirate Morbruzzo, or it may be someone else entirely, and only an expert of Astolfo's skill can tell for sure. But there's a time limit: if it's Morbruzzo's shadow, the pirate will waste no time descending upon Pecunio to regain it, leaving only enough of Pecunio behond to be identified through his dental records (DNA analysis not yet having been invented). The plot within a plot is whether Astolfo can turn the tables on Pecunio, transforming a situation that endangers all our protagonists should the shadow indeed prove to be Morbruzzo's into a lucrative opportunity (Astolfo being the cleverest double dealer you never want to cross wits with).
[Spoilers] In the end, the element hidden in plain sight, Pecunio's big-booted but waifishly slim blond servant, is revealed to be the prime mover of events, hinted at when Astolfo hints to us that big boots oft conceal slender feet. Astolfo has correctly inferred this servant to be a woman in disguise, and the source of the stolen shadow, and so it proves: she's a fellow shadow thief, one Fleuraye, who tore the shadow not from Morbruzzo but from her faithless paramour Belarmo, who she is punishing for his infidelity with a tavern wench. A confrontation ensues, Fleuraye fences with and overcomes Falco, and at the last instant, Astolfo saves his apprentice by throwing the malevolent shadow over her, lifting it only once she has been cowed into submission. Astolfo escapes the situation doubly enriched: by Pecunio's payment for saving his life, and by Belarmo for being united with his stolen shadow. In doing so, however, he earns himself a deadly enemy.
It's not a story that pushes the boundaries of the rogue's or apprentice's tale. But it's clever, witty, stylish, and a thoroughly pleasant read. What more could we ask for?
Bourne: A history of Cadmium
Bourne shows her artist's sensibility in a tale both visual and visceral: we have garnet wine and cadmium-yellow leaves, but also the deliberately flat "yellow" skin of her dying "aunt" Julia. The visceral touches include cold rain, smooth clay, and the loose joints of pregnancy. As in a great painting, the colors are all there if you look, but they never draw your eyes from the narrative unless you focus on them to inspect the craft. I'm not sure what the painterly equivalent of "poetic" is, but that's how the writing often felt.
I found but two descriptive mis-steps: Fallen "moon-colored" maple leaves doesn't work if, like most people, your primary experience of the moon is silvery white or grey (its most common colors); "harvest moon–colored" would have solved the problem by hinting at the ruddy or golden cloak the fall moon sometimes dons. Describing a painting as having "razor sharp" images also fails. "Vivid" is certainly possible, but paint is never really "sharp"; what separates painting from photography and line art is how the images are always soft around the edges, and how the mind nonetheless imposes form and meaning and vividness upon them. That's what gives paintings their magic.
Our narrator is Caddie, daughter of Cassie, a painter famed for vividly realistic paintings that have an almost magical ability to show what the painter saw; that vision can be so intense that Julia, her lifelong best friend, actually burned two disturbing paintings ("Cobalt" and "Viridian"). That's appropriate for an artist who's namesake Cassandra had the gift (curse?) of prophecying things people would not want to hear. Naming her child Cadmium—both a source of brilliant color and a dangerously toxic metal—is a significant choice because of its painfully mixed message. As the story begins, Cassie is recently dead, and Caddie is cleaning out her house, mostly throwing away anything she can't sell.
Her rejection of anything to do with painting (not even glazing the clay pots she chooses as her artistic medium until Julia persuades her to try), and the lack of a single kind word about her mother or even a fond post-mortem memory, shouts out that Caddie has serious mother issues. We learn that Cassie and Julia shared a wild youth, seducing handsome young men (sometimes together), and that Caddie has no idea who her father was. Cassie focused so intently on her painting that she virtually ignored Caddie, who follows her mother's path, becoming pregnant without any desire to involve the father in raising their child—but at least she knows the father and plans to devote herself to her child. This seems unlikely; her passionless claim to be "interested" in her husband's career ("he invested or mortgaged or something") suggests a coldness that may have driven him away, or at least an obliviousness to the fact he was using her. The future may not be so rosy.
[Spoilers] Bourne neatly pulls the rug out from under us by revealing that Cassie and Julia were pregnant at the same time, but that Cassie lost her baby due to the toxicity of the cadmium and other pigments she was mixing by hand. Julia, pregnant by a different man than the one she intends to marry, gives birth at the same time and replaces Cassie's stillborn child with Caddie.
If you pay attention, you'll notice the eponymous painting, "Cadmium", morphing slowly over the course of the story; there are echoes of "Dorian Gray". Cassie, it appears, has literally put herself into the painting, and it's her final gift to her adopted daughter. The story ends with the painting showing "an untrodden path [that] leads through a tangled landscape", an apt metaphor for the emotional complexity of the preceding narrative and where it will lead. This fantasy element is thinner than I would have liked, but it's still a lovely piece of work.
Sladek: The real Martian Chronicles
Not really a lot to say about this one, other than that it's a short and sweet sketch of a quintessentially British-seeming family that has emigrated to Mars. The father has been hired as a bureaucrat to design British-style postal codes for the new world, and has nothing kind to say about any of the neighbors, including the neighbor's boy who is working on a "hideous American car". (Sladek apparently spent his young adulthood in Britain in the 1960s, and was clearly paying attention to his cultural surroundings. You have to understand something very well indeed to parody it this well.)
The parents are oblivious to everything going on around them, including their own children, who fall (repeatedly) into the Martian canals. They're also contemptuous of the local scenery, something most readers of F&SF would find exhilirating, at least at first. In a finely dismissive bit of description, we're told the local mountains remind mother of "upended baboons' arses", and the big volcano (Olympus Mons?) therefore reminds father of "a baboon with piles"—a description that Mother objects to as "vulgar", even though she's the one who first descended into vulgarity. The parents are self-righteous prats who are contemptuous of anyone other than themselves, and probably of each other too.
It's all dryly amusing, almost the antithesis to Heinlein's "The Rolling Stones" or "Podkayne of Mars", and a very cleverly done parody of a certain British stereotype that will be intimately familiar to most American readers. Whether it has anything more profound to say than its subtext about how Americans stereotype the British, I can't say. A cheerful and largely forgettable way to spend 5 minutes.
Geoff! I thought I would be here all alone, shouting my observations about the stories to the walls.
The moon-colored maple leaves in the Cadmium story are perhaps zen imagery, like the sound of one hand clapping, but it still doesn't seem to work in that isolated form in the context of the story.
I wonder if the Sladek piece was more a jape, lampoon or burlesque than a parody; there was too much departure from the Bradbury writing for it to be an exact parody. I think a parody would read more like, "'It says here in a guidebook there should be a canal pretty near here.' They saw the gleaming down the street, the gleaming that could only be the water of a canal, deep and enchanting. All of them hurried to the place, looking, seeing, wanting to look deep into the water and see the history of Mars written within the silent liquid flow, how many centuries in this testament of water, and then, looking down, there were their faces, one, two, three, reflected back at them, not Martians, really, the crassly interpretive leer of the earthly historian."
The standout story for me was "The Crocodiles." Thanks for bringing this writer to my attention.
Schutz: Dr. Death vs. the vampire
It's been long since I traveled by long-distance bus, but Schutz immediately recreated the experience: like air travel, but without the pleasures of standing in line for hours, being irradiated, and undergoing cavity searches. (Anyone else remember when flying was fun?) It's a promising start to a story told by a cheerfully misanthropic narrator. The writing is smooth and effective throughout, with enough detail to convince but not enough to interfere.
There's good reason for misanthropy: our narrator, the eponymous Dr. Death, is an empath who literally feels how people experience their emotions and bodies, so he's seen the best and the worst of us. But he's also an "almost superhero": his non-super superpower is empathy, but he uses it to identify who needs to die. Here, "almost" resonates on another level; he tries to walk "the fine line between a superhero and a real wacko nut job", but doesn't always fall on the hero's side. He reminded me of the protagonist in my own story, "The Phantom of the Niebelungen" (http://tinyurl.com/2fkjs6u).
Schutz gets in some nice digs: Dr. Death describes the emotional vampires he hunts as "the kind of people who keep all their pencils lined up in order of length on their desks", and claims to kill people by intent, unlike the doctors and nurses who can't be bothered washing their hands between patients. (Scary fact: Consumer Reports published a study showing that insisting your doctor or nurse wash their hands before they touch you was one of the best ways to survive a hospital stay.)
Schutz's grasp of biochemistry (including descriptions of DMSO and penthothal) is excellent—far better than most writers who dabble in science. He's clearly sweated the details, right down to the fact that DMSO is said to taste like garlic (ironic, given that Dr. Death uses it to deliver a knockout drug to the vampire). Don't try his suggestions at home, kids; they probably work as described.
Arthur, the title vampire, is also an empath, but he and his kind feed on the pain of those who are suffering. He's accompanying an elderly woman dying of a brain tumor, and feeding off her pain. Dr. Death notices her, but not Arthur at first. He kills the old woman (apparently painlessly) by slipping her a nasty drug cocktail that stops her heart, but in so doing, Arthur spots him. The story then becomes a duel of wits between the two: Dr. Death wants to kill Arthur (one of the seemingly unalloyed good deeds he and his colleagues in "the League" do), but Arthur wants to bring Dr. Death home to his clan so they can use him to feed on others more efficiently. Arthur notes, with some justice, that he and his fellow vampires aren't really that bad: after all, they're just feeding on something (suffering) that would exist without them. In short, he's not monstrous, just monstrously callous.
Schutz deals with the thorny ethical issue of euthanasia, and doesn't force any conclusion upon us. But Dr. Death is clearly not a benificent force. His estrangement from his fellow almost-superheroes in the League is one sign of megalomania; proof is that he never asks his victims what they want. Many would undoubtedly accept his offer of a clean death if asked—but he doesn't ask, and that arrogation of the right to decide is what makes him scarier than Arthur and a villain, self-justifications notwithstanding. The parallel with modern medicine, which claims the right to make life and death decisions for us without asking our opinion, isn't obtrusive, but it's implicit. Indeed, the cynical might argue that doctors, like Arthur, benefit from the pain of others.
This is a skillfully crafted, compelling tale about a morally questionable protagonist and how unquestioning belief in your own rightness can lead one into evil. Thought-provoking without being preachy, which can be an exceptionally difficult balance to strike.
re. Sladek's tale: John, I really don't see a Bradbury parody in that story, other than because any story set on Mars is implicitly seen as a response to Bradbury. There are no explicitly parallel elements in event, style, or concerns designed to play off of Bradbury's stylistic or literary or narrative concerns.
As I noted in my longer review, I see this as more of a Heinlein parody, and even that may be a stretch. There's a decent chance that Sladek was just having a ton of fun poking holes in the Martian romance (not in the love story meaning) genre while dissing his British friends.
You must log in to post.