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The 3rd Alternative, Issue #25
The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative is published quarterly. This high-quality production contains cutting-edge speculative fiction, features and interviews. The 3rd Alternative has won several awards, including the prestigious British Fantasy Awards for "Best Magazine" and "Best Short Story" (Martin Simpson's "Dancing About Architecture," from TTA #11).

The 3rd Alternative Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

I find that without really having tried I've read some four or five issues of The 3rd Alternative, all for review either here at SF Site or at Tangent. I remain intrigued by a magazine that is always beautifully presented, and which maintains high standards for writing, but which I must also confess doesn't publish quite my favourite sorts of SF and Fantasy.

Call that a bit of a caveat, then -- in some ways I'm sure I'm not the central audience editor Andy Cox is aiming at. But I do respond to the unquestioned professionalism of the magazine, both in appearance and in prose quality. The main shortcoming, from my point of view, is a distinct tonal similarity. Story after story is dark and moody, either set in a decaying England (usually urban) or a decaying America (often rural), with confused non-heroes failing to understand their predicament. Those are worthwhile enough ingredients -- some of the time. I'd just like a bit of variety.

But I go on too long. Within its parameters, The 3rd Alternative is quite successful, and this issue is one of the better ones. Maybe the best story here is Tim Lees' "Everybody's Crazy in the West," which is probably the least "typical" of the offerings herein. A writer, his career fading, is forced to take a job writing a "Making of..." book about a movie. His expertise is apparently in cinematic history, as we are presented brief excerpts from a rather long and pompous unpublished project of his, The Culture and Philosophy of Cinema. Soon we learn that the Hollywood and the cinema that he is working in and writing about is not quite like our Hollywood and our cinema -- and his relationship with the flunky assigned to shepherd him about the project takes on a different nature, as well. I won't reveal the twist, but it's cute and nicely handled.

Sten Westgard has published a few interesting stories that I've seen, including at least one previous appearance in this magazine, and I also rather liked his "Contracting Iris," a noirish (in mood) SF story about a "recruiter" for a university and one of his prize recruits, in a future dominated by genetic manipulation and corporate competition for the best talent. Also interesting was a somewhat Orwellian SF tale by Conrad Williams, called "Excuse the Unusual Approach," about an obscure man who finds himself offered a strange job in a rather oppressive seeming future, and at the same time meets a woman who is very interested in him. Somehow we know this can't come to a good end -- I wasn't wholly convinced, though. The background was just a bit too lightly sketched. Still, interesting. The other stories tend rather more sharply to the contemporary dark fantasy/horror end of the spectrum, and as I have said, they are well-executed but not wholly to my taste.

The 3rd Alternative is also well populated with features. Each issue seems to have an article about an avant-garde filmmaker -- this issue's article is about Jan Svankmajer. There is also an interview with China Miéville, the exciting young British novelist, author of King Rat and Perdido Street Station; and a shorter interview with Nicholas Royle. Columns by Peter Crowther and Allen Ashley, and a generous section of book, film, and music reviews by divers hands are also included. The artwork is mostly photographs of a somewhat abstract or processed nature, and quite well-matched to the overall thematic nature of the magazine. In all, it's a publication that seems very sure of what it wants to be, and always interesting if not always precisely my cup of tea. Definitely worth trying.

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

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