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Argosy #2

Argosy #2
From the publisher's web site:
"Generally credited with being the first true "pulp fiction" magazine, Argosy is a magazine with an illustrious history. Originally published in 1882 as Golden Argosy, it became Argosy in 1896 and went on to publish such notables as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Horatio Alger, Louis L'Amour, and Dashiell Hammett. Over the last century, many different magazines emerged bearing the Argosy name, from Argosy UK to Argosy All-Story, to a well-intentioned but short-lived 90s revival.

Now, under the guidance of James A. Owen as Designer and Editorial Director, Coppervale International has launched a new Argosy magazine, developed to publish quality fiction in a wide range of genres and styles, from science fiction and fantasy to mystery to mainstream, as well as non-fiction essays and interviews.

Trade-paperback-sized, each issue of Argosy will be composed of two volumes -- the main magazine, and a separately bound novella -- and will be packaged in an illustrated slipcase."

Argosy Magazine

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

Argosy is a newer journal on the speculative fiction front, and it offers a goodly amount of editorial humor, cutting edge fiction, and a deep appreciation for the roots of the field. The offerings of Argosy are varied and large. The word 'argosy' means -- by one definition -- a fleet of ships (Jason and the Argonauts, remember?). This second volume is more than a fleet. It's a world war waged on the fiction establishment.

This two-book set features short stories by O'Neil De Noux, Carol Emshwiller, Jeff Vandermeer, Mike Resnick, Mike Baron, and Martin Meyers. Kevin J. Anderson offers a non-fiction piece, Eric Spitznagel interviews Neal Pollack, and Charles Pollack and Cory Doctorow submit a novella for reading. The authors are as distinct as the volume's twin covers, the first a fond look back to Paris in 1944, complete with lovers, birds, and a man in a beret (Gregory Manchess is the artist). The second cover, created by John Picacio, shows a man trying to control his genie, with deep reds in the one corner, deep blues in the other, and a mystic yellow down the diagonal center. It is a contrast, one that visually shows the mold-breaking efforts of the editors.

Argosy is not an ordinary fiction mag. In every case where other editors could keep a status quo of old-school images (and work), Argosy blows the doors off convention. Full color advertisements from Lexus and Altoids adorn the back covers. The insides of the first book are full of work by Dr. Seuss (from "the Art of Dr. Seuss: A retrospective and national touring exhibition" coming to a museum near you). The product is sleek, professional, and sometimes overwhelming (in a good way). Argosy is not holding down the fort of the dying art of short speculative fiction. Instead, it is standing on its own, torch in each hand, and screaming for predators to come and take their best shot.

All this, and the editors keep their sensibility about them. Anders and Owen understand they stand on the shoulders of giants, and the design of Argosy shows that understanding. On the first page of the first book is a poem by Rudyard Kipling (of Jungle Book fame). The poem, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings," talks about the endearing quality of the dogmas of editing and writing for a public venue.

Is this a comment that the current field of speculative fiction is tracing ground over and again rather than being the stalwart adventurers they should be? Or is it a reminder from the editors that throughout history, there have been those that lead and those that follow? In either case, the poem points forward and backwards. Forward to the path of Argosy, which has not yet been made, and backwards to those works that Argosy can claim as an influence.

Oh, and there is some writing in this second volume as well.

An example is the first short story, this one by O'Neil De Noux. "Cruelty, the Human Heart," tells the story of a small town deputy marshal and his lifelong pursuit of a judge's son, who uses his daddy's prestige and wealth to abuse animals and later people. It would be easy to hate the judge's son and applaud the field justice applied by the marshal, but De Noux does not allow the story to sit on that convention.

Instead, De Noux chooses to push another direction. The marshal has inside of him the same darkness as the judge's son. He leaves his friend to die alone of a painful cancer. He kills the judge's son in a fashion long outside the purview of the law. The judge's son does undoubtedly evil things. Does that make the boy evil? Moreover, the marshal does some undoubtedly evil things. Does that make him evil?

De Noux's comment seems to be that this is a situation too complicated for labels. The characters make actions; some of those actions have consequences. More importantly, the 'human heart' is capable of all such things. The only difference between 'good' and 'evil' is the victim and the situation surrounding the event. The only difference is what stories we -- as humans -- make to allow ourselves to feel better. This story is an unexpectedly complicated view on the ol' human existence thing.

Argosy magazine. Good stuff for something different. Check it out.

Copyright © 2005 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.

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