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Electric Velocipede #10

Electric Velocipede #10
Electric Velocipede
Electric Velocipede is available by subscription ($10US -- USA, $15US -- Canada, $20US -- elsewhere) or by single issue ($3US -- USA, $4.50US -- Canada, $6US -- elsewhere). Send you order to and make money orders/cheques payable to:
John Klima
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Electric Velocipede

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Hebblethwaite

I can offer no great introduction to Electric Velocipede; this issue was my first time. Initial impressions: it looks pretty unassuming, though the cover is no less attractive and striking for that; using the back cover as a space for the subscriber's address is a nice touch, too. The stories fit broadly into a region that I'm not sure even has a name... "Literary weird"? Don't know if that's a real term, but I trust you get the gist of what I mean. On to the fiction...

Tim Akers gets the magazine off to a strong start with "A Walking of Crows," a murder mystery set in a mechanical world: young Jeremy travels to the city to find out who would want to kill his scientist father and destroy his work -- and why -- but soon finds himself in over his head. I love Akers' depiction of the world: there is some wonderfully vivid imagery, such as the extended description of the city of Veridon (which begins, "the city looked like a great black whale that beached itself, and now lay rotting on the shores of the river Reine"); as well as more subtle touches, such as the use of organic metaphors where we might use mechanical ones. What's more, the mystery element of the story works well against the fictional background. Great stuff.

"You've got to see the way he does it," writes Jeffrey Ford at the start of his contribution, itself entitled "The Way He Does It." What follows is a short account of various occasions on which "he" has "done it," and their various consequences. However, it becomes clear early on that this is a story which will obtain its ultimate effect from not revealing (or even necessarily hinting) exactly what "it" is -- which leaves the whole feeling too much like an exercise. Of course there are moments where the writing is remarkable -- with Ford it could not be otherwise -- yet still, it's hard not to feel a little disappointed by this piece.

Alistair Rennie takes us to 16th-century Venice in "Il Duca di Cesena," where a Scottish exorcist travels to investigate the titular Duke, who has committed a heinous act -- yet the exorcist can find no evidence of demonic possession. His struggles to comprehend this very human produce an interesting discussion of the theme; though the highly formal prose style can be heavy going, and there are a couple of annoying typos that someone should have spotted ("There could be no outright condemnation of [the Duke], no exposition of his infamies, without some irrefutable nougat of proof").

In "Jacket Jackson" by Richard Bowes and Mark Rich, it's up to a sentient leather jacket to save the city of Maxee (a reality beyond and between our world and dreams and elsewhere), with the help of young Chris from 60s America. At least, that was my interpretation: this is one story where the weirdness tended to impede my understanding and enjoyment; sometimes it felt as though the authors were giving things strange names ("the Ballroom Of The Reluctant Elephants [rising] from the dry bed of the Lake of Desuetude") just for the sake of it -- as opposed to, say, the Akers, where the oddities more clearly serve the story.

"The Navel of the Universe" by André Oosterman is a short tale of travellers in search of an alleged natural means of extending life -- which, of course, is both real and not what they were expecting. This is very much a "one-trick" story, but it works nevertheless; though not as elegantly written, I enjoyed Oosterman's story more than Ford's, precisely because the former plays its trump card, whilst the latter was never going to.

The final story in this issue is called "Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path" by Robert Freeman Wexler, and is well summed up by its title. The unnamed protagonist finds himself travelling along a path whose envrirons sometimes resemble Fantasyland and at other times seem contemporary. The path does indeed go in a circle, as our man ends up in a similar position to where he started, and... well, I don't know. It's all intriguing enough as it goes on, but I don't really get the point. I've probably missed something in the subtext, in which case it's my loss; but this does indicate to me that, much as I like a bit of oddness in my fiction, I prefer it when it's tied strongly (as I see it) to plot and story.

So that was my first foray into the world of Electric Velocipede. Would I have read this magazine had it not been up for review? Probably not. Am I glad I did? Certainly: it didn't just provide some good reading matter; it helped to clarify some aspects of what I like to read and why. Would I read another issue? Even though I didn't like everything in this one, there's something about the magazine; so, on balance... yes, I think I would.

Copyright © 2007 David Hebblethwaite

David lives out in the wilds of Yorkshire, where he attempts to make a dent in his collection of unread books. You can read more of David's reviews at his review blog.

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