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Greatest Uncommon Denominator,
Issue 0, Spring 2007

      All Possible Worlds,
Spring 2007

      Cats With Wings,
June 2007

Greatest Uncommon Denominator
All Possible Worlds
Greatest Uncommon Denominator

All Possible Worlds

Cats With Wings

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

I see a lot of SF/Fantasy magazines, and it seems new ones are coming along all the time. Here are the first issues of three different -- indeed, very different -- magazines. I thought to do a bit of compare and contrast.

To begin with, the look and feel of each publication is different. Greatest Uncommon Denominator, hereafter called GUD, is a thick publication, beautifully presented, overtly resembling the standard "little magazines" which publish much current mainstream short fiction and poetry. It has very nearly 200 pages, and features a mix of fiction and poetry and art. All categories have a tropism to what we might call (if we dared!) slipstream -- but just a tropism, not an insistence. It is the most expensive of the three magazines, but it's worth the extra cost -- the quantity of material is greater, and the presentation is more polished.

All Possible Worlds fits in the middle of these three publications in look, size, and price. It is perfect bound, cleanly but not exceptionally printed, with a fairly generous 128 pages of material -- all fiction (plus illustrations). In many ways, the magazine reminded me of the Canadian publication Neo-Opsis: the art, the look of the pages, even the mix and style of the stories, are not dissimilar to that magazine.

Finally, Cats With Wings resembles more closely many of the less formally produced 'zines of our time: saddle stitched with a cardboard cover, rather slim at 32 pages, clearly a desktop publication. But it's not fair to compare it directly to the magazines mentioned above -- its aims are evidently different, and it is wholly comparable in presentation quality with a slew of worthwhile recent SF/Fantasy 'zines.

Now to the stories. Cats With Wings opens with a reprint from Rachel Pollack, interesting but relatively minor work from Interzone in 1984, "The Malignant One," about Beings trying to stop a comics artist from somehow furthering the cause of human liberation. The other two stories are new. Ed McKeown's "A Bone to Pick" is light SF about a cop dealing with a mysterious murder that turns out to involve aliens -- who turn out to have a good motive, anyway. And Katherine Shaw's "Night Court" is light fantasy -- in which Robin Hood shows up at the Municipal Court offices, and charms a rather beaten down woman. Both these new stories show promise but are somehow not quite finished -- or perhaps the ideas are just a bit too thin.

All Possible Worlds also features a mix of pretty traditional SF and Fantasy. Again, none of the stories quite thrilled me. Some were fairly enjoyable however. John Rosenmann's "High Concept" features a nebbishy man who invents an older brother who gives him the advice and support to improve his life. But his invention, perhaps, gets out of control. Justin Stanchfield's "Save a Dance for the Plowman" is a conventional but nicely enough executed rescue story about a man on a desolate planet who is intrigued by a woman who is about to leave. It's his last chance to get together with her -- when he is hailed by a distress signal. The problem is that the story never surprises -- but it follows its preordained track well enough. Bruce Golden's "The Aprocryphist" is set among aliens, with the protagonist a young male intrigued enough by a pretty girl to become her father's apprentice -- who eventually finds a different way to follow in the older man's footsteps -- a way that, of course, resonates fairly directly with the predilections of the story's readers (and perhaps especially, other writers). Stories by Michael A. Pignatelli, Gene Stewart, and Edward Muller were also pleasant enough -- and there are several other pieces in what is all in all a rather nicely sized magazine.

The other magazine I'm considering here, GUD has quite different aims. As I said, the focus is rather literary. The mix of stories is broad -- some stories that might be called slipstream, yes, and some more that qualify as straight mainstream, and also some fairly straight SF and some fairly straight fantasy -- even, more or less, heroic fantasy. As well as some poetry and some non-fiction.

Highlights for me included Charlie Anders's funny "Cutting a Figure," about breast implants with commercial purposes; and "The Eternal's Last Request," by Joshua Babcock, about a hero's daughter and her ambiguous relationship with her father's legacy and nature. Also, A. B. Goelman's "4 Short Parables Revolving Around the Theme of Travel," which is just what it says, and pretty effective. And John Mantooth's "Chicken," a mainstream story about a man remembering a defining event of his high-school years. Lavie Tidhar's "The Infinite Monkeys Protocol" is an evocative little piece about a computer virus and the woman it's named after. I didn't find all the stories fully successful by any means -- indeed I found some rather frustrating -- but this new magazine does have a distinct ambitious attitude. Worth a look, anyway. And it is quite nice looking -- easily the slickest of the three magazines at hand.

Copyright © 2007 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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