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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2005
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2005
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each 160-page issue offers compelling short stories and novellas by writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ben Bova, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mike Resnick, Terry Bisson and many others, along with the science fiction field's most respected and outspoken opinions on books, films and science.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

A common criticism against big-market fantasy journals is that the published material is too commercial, and that the only 'edgy' stuff happens off the radar screen and with smaller publications. In the May 2005 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, editor Gordon Van Gelder proves that not all major publications have sold their soul. Not totally, at least.

K.D. Wentworth's "Born Again" is decidedly against the grain of today's burgeoning Christian euphoria that literately is fueled by such classics as the Left Behind series. It is the near future, and savvy investors can clone their very own Jesus, created from holy DNA gleaned from the Shroud of Turin.

Wentworth is fearless in her storytelling about a young Jesus who must make the choice between to join a group of like-engineered Messiahs or to join the human race. While patently heretical, "Born Again" goes to the heart of the Christian dogma: Jesus was a human being, prone to make mistakes, to hurt and to be hurt. According to the Good Book, Jesus gave God a sense of the human. Only with that perspective could God understand the human race enough to cleanse man of his original sin. Great floods lose their luster after 40 days and nights, after all.

The difference between the Biblical Jesus and his fellow men was that Jesus chose a different path. According to the stories of his life, he was rebellious. He walked ahead of the crowd, not with it. In this story, the Jesus portrayed made a singularly beatific choice to walk away from his genetic brethren and to be his own man. That's good stuff. Wentworth uses the fantasy medium to create a situation in which a theological theory can be played literally in the world. The reader can see the consequences of that reality.

This edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction continues in its blasphemous vein with Robert Reed's "The New Deity." Reed does not poke a pointed stick at the Christian world and its Christ, but at the process by which a society develops its religious belief. In the world of "The New Deity," the all-powerful and politically empowered "overseer" announces the departure of his state's deity, as well as the impending search for a new God.

The tale takes a solidly ironic and realistic turn, reading more like a nationally ranked football program in search of its next head coach. Indeed, Reed's biography suggests that the local football team's coaching search played an inspiring role to "The New Deity."

Reed inserts small betrayals, political ploys, power plays, and even the occasional coup. The beauty of Reed's accomplishment is that the whole of the story is unforced, organic. His gimmick of Gods going to an interview with city officials takes the back seat to the wonderfully and mortally human tale of those in power and the effect that power can have on the rest of the world.

Reed understands how the game works. Religions and the gods that benefit from them are all too real because human belief has the power to make imagination into reality. That the process of such transubstantiations is open to human fallacies only makes the process more endearing to mere mortals.

Steven Popkes' "The Great Caruso" nicely rounds out this particularly strong edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction. In this story, the main character serves as "Mother Earth" for a new species in the form of nano-machines that take root in her lungs, ironically as the result of her cigarette habit. In a none-too-subtle reminder that every living being possesses certain divinities, Popkes balances science fiction, culture, and humanity in a nicely packaged story. Popkes special accomplishment is his gentle telling of one woman's finding of peace stemming from her unique cause of death. The sacrifice of her body to give life to something that will live beyond her speaks of the special nature of those that create, as well as to the tendency for death to create life and vice versa.

"The Great Caruso" is the most personal of the three examples presented in this review, and I think it is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time. Popkes gives the reader an intimate telling of one woman's choice of life and death, and he creates a scientifically advanced world that could be our own in a few short decades.

This is what story telling is all about. Characters should feel real and plots should make sense. The ideas presented in the story should push the limits of everyday thinking. Controversial? Absolutely. Worth the read? Bet on it. The May 2005 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction goes against the grain with excellent results.

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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