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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2002
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2002
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 David Soyka

Well, it's that time of year for "beach reading," a cultural indulgence focusing on light entertainment that doesn't divert you from the more important thoughts of putting on sufficient sun screen and imbibing the next alcoholic beverage. Whether by editorial intention or not, the July issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction would be a good choice to put in your beach bag for that purpose.

What makes me think this might all be by design is the fact that the one story that rises considerably above the standard of mild distraction isn't listed on the cover. "Droplet" by Benjamin Rosenbaum is an erotically charged fable of romantic love and fidelity to your mate, concerning a pair of centuries-old androids, originally designed as pleasure slaves who:

... fell in love on command. We felt not only lust, but pure aching adoration for any guest or client of the Wizards who held the keys to us for an hour. It was the worst part of our servitude. When Maka freed us, when he gave us the keys to ourselves, Shar burned the falling-in-love out of herself completely. She never wanted to feel that way again. I kept it. So, sometimes I fall, yes, into an involuntary servitude of the heart.
The rest of the stories are not, alas, nearly of high a quality, so if you're not looking for beach reading, you can wait for Rosenbaum's story to end up in one of next year's "Best of" collections.

On the other hand, even if they don't rise much above the form, the remaining tales are pleasant enough. The best of the rest is "King Rainjoy's Tears" by Chris Willrich, featuring characters that appeared in a previous F&SF (June 2000) story, "The Thief with Two Deaths," the poet Persimmon Gaunt and her "lover and companion on the road," the aforementioned thief, Imago Bone. Their task this time is to free a king under the grip of an evil sorcerer, one Spawnsworth, who has tricked the sovereign literally out of his tears. The intrepid duo restore the king's emotions, and destroy the sorcerer using the king's formerly captive tears. All very metaphorical and enjoyable, but, like those fancy sugared summer drinks with the umbrellas in them, mostly froth.

Albert Crowdey's "The Posthumous Man," is another one of his supernatural tales of New Orleans, this time concerning the comeuppance of an antiques dealer who trades in purloined cemetery statutes. Though predictable, it nonetheless offers some nice characterization, such as this one about an ill-fated underworld lawyer: "The man's large belly preceded him into the shop like the nose of the Hindenburg, and his tread set the bangles on fifty chandeliers tinkling."

Robert Loy's "You Can't Get Turnip Juice Out of an Aorta" may win the prize for most amusing title. While there are points of levity in this tale of an ancient and infirm vampire who gets rejuvenated from sucking on the neck of a vegan animal rights activist and health freak, the ending is no more clever or original than the subject matter.

The conceit of Robert Onopa's "Geropods" is that the decrepitly aged have the legal right to "break out" of institutional care if, by banding together as a collective entity, they can replicate all the sense of a single individual, e.g., a blind man who can walk with a guy in a wheelchair who can hear, with a deaf person who can talk. One such geropod embarks on a mission to show the daughter of one of the members what a no-good bum her gold-digging husband is, and in the course of which discovers love with a female geropod. While the story has its moments, it does get a little old a little too quickly. Maybe that's the point.

Thomas Disch contributes a bit of throwaway fluff with "The Flaneurs of Mars," concerning a religious proof that arises between a philosophical discussion between a machine and some self-styled alien with delusions of godhood. I think the unrelated cartoon that appears at the end of the story is funnier than this.

R. Garcia y Robertson's novella, "Princess Aria," is yet another one of his pulp homages, this one part of a series of tales based in the medieval setting of Markovy. I found the predecessors to be a bit more interesting than this, which relies on a literal deus ex machina to resolve what plot there is. Because the story features a strong woman who mocks the simple-minded barbarity of men, it is not as overtly misogynist as some of his work -- though, admittedly, if you're working in the pulp tradition, you can't avoid it. Still, scenes in which the main character and her allies romp about in the nude serve no conceivable purpose beyond mild titillation for those 12 year old boys who have blocking software on their Internet connections. Again, that's part of the tradition, though I wonder why that's a tradition worth carrying on. Except maybe as something to do until someone makes another round of strawberry margaritas.

Copyright © 2002 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

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