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Editor's Choice: Short Fiction Reviews
by David A. Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has been reading science fiction and fantasy for forty years. For the past four years he has edited TANGENT: The Only Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Fiction Review Magazine. It was runner-up for the 1997 Hugo Award. The intent of this column is to present reviews of selected short fiction that strike Dave's interest as his reading for Tangent continues. If you would like to read more short fiction reviews, try Tangent as it reviews every original story in all American, Canadian, British, and Australian professional SF & F magazines (as well as many others).

For more of David's opinions, we've put together a table of contents for other Editor's Choice columns.

Magazines
For information on the contents of an issue or for subscription details, you can try the following sites:
Asimov's Science Fiction
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
On Spec
Cemetery Dance
Interzone
OMNI
Talebones
Tomorrow SF
Current Cover
Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1998
"So Many Miles to the Heart of a Child"Richard Bowes
"Home on the Range" Jacquelyn Hooper
"Straight Changes" Rick Wilber
"Tall One" K.D. Wentworth
"Revenge" Michael Blumlein
"Mother Grasshopper" Michael Swanwick
The magazines have been arriving fast and furious the past few months, so let's look at the highlights from several of them.

Though a varied selection of quality pieces, a pair of stories clearly stand out in the April F&SF. The lead novelette serves as my first...

Editor's Choice:
"So Many Miles to the Heart of a Child" by Richard Bowes
For several years Richard Bowes has been writing realistic urban fantasies about New Yorker Kevin Grierson and his doppelganger, his "Shadow," who reflects both the best and the worst of this gay, ex-substance abuser. Last year's "Streetcar Dreams" was one of the most powerful. Minions of the Moon, the novel which gathers these stories, is scheduled for release later this year. "So Many Miles to the Heart of a Child" finds Kevin nearing the end of his relationship with his lover, George, who also co-owns the antique shop he and Kevin operate. George has AIDS, the relationship is on the rocks, and Kevin is asked to host the angry teenaged son of a friend from his college days. Trying everything in his power to straighten the boy out, his Shadow is the tempter influencing the lad in the other direction. Resolutions to life's problems are never easy, as this story shows, but Bowes is getting so adept at how he fictively uses his Shadow to illuminate the inner demons residing within us all, that by story's end we feel we have experienced something special.

A reprint from 1997 is the other standout piece in this issue and is my second...

Editor's Choice:
"Mother Grasshopper" by Michael Swanwick
This short story first saw print in the author's small edition collection A Geography of Unknown Lands. Thanks go to the editor for allowing a wider audience to see it here. This is another in the author's attempts to mix genres, which he did so effectively in his masterful and innovative 1994 novel The Iron Dragon's Daughter. The novel mixed high fantasy and sf, while "Mother Grasshopper" marries parable to sf, creating a bizarre, surreal atmosphere. Colonists live on a giant grasshopper where super-science has made it possible to outlaw death. Death, in the guise of a magician, comes to town one day seeking an apprentice. Off they go, spreading disease and mortality in the many towns dotting various locations of the giant grasshopper's anatomy. Ingeniously conceived, Swanwick emphasizes the dual aspects of the story by having Death philosophize about the need for mortality (the parable aspect), while he and the young apprentice traverse the strange world of the giant grasshopper, which Swanwick details in hard SF language, noting, for instance, how long it might take to reach a starport set atop one of the insect's antennae. Imagination and creativity at its freshest, and another feather in Swanwick's cap. He's one of our best.

Current Cover
Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 1998
"The Questing Mind" Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"Card Shark" Mike Resnick
"The Allies" Mark S. Geston
"Maneki Neko" Bruce Sterling
"Ex Terra, Ex Astris"Mary Soon Lee
"Thanks, Diaz" Robin Wilson
"Mommy Nearest" Kit Reed
Both "The Allies" and "Maneko Neko," while otherwise strong efforts in their own right, either contained some niggling flaw ("The Allies") or a sense of slightness in the basic storyline ("Maneko Neko"). I nevertheless recommend them to you.

The single most fully realized and challenging piece scores big as my obvious...

Editor's Choice:
"The Questing Mind" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Award-winning playwright, novelist, and essayist, Reed Brasher is nearing the end of his days. Not wishing to die, he pursues a vainglorious attempt to immortalize himself in a complicated experiment utilizing state of the art theories in artificial intelligence.

The price to be paid, and the only problem is that as his memories are transferred to the machine, they aren't copied, but summarily removed from his "real" self, leaving him a forgetful old man in a "nursing home." Thus Rusch invites the parallel between everyday aging and Alzheimer's. Struggling mightily to retain his sanity and memory, Basher finally discovers that it is his own experiment that has led him to his present state. In the final touching scene, he confronts a perfect holographic construct of his younger self, wherein all of his memories now reside and where he will live forever once his earthly body has perished. Their emotionally charged dialogue (as he actually speaks to himself) forces the reader to examine important questions concerning the heart and soul, and the human condition at the individual level. This is a fine story, and when done well, what SF does best.

Copyright © 1998 by David A. Truesdale


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