The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2011

The March 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction showcases some returning regulars and some new names making their F&SF debut, and this month there is a greater preponderance of SF than usual, much of it very, very good.

Cover by Kent Bash

Albert E. Cowdrey appeared three times in just six issues in 2010, and ‘Scatter My Ashes’ is already his second story of 2011  – in just two issues. This latest story features a variation on the golem myth, but unusually and unfortunately Cowdrey’s meandering style makes it hard to get into this one.

Paul Di Filippo’s ‘A Pocketful Of Faces’ merges crime with SF to good effect as two cops from the Aspect Protection and Enforcement Agency try to find out who is behind a rash of stolen aspects. Highly Recommended.

Ken Liu’s ‘The Paper Menagerie’ is superficially almost Disney-esque in its evocation of paper animals that come to life, but this fairytale has teeth, in the shape of the narrator’s awkward relationship with his mother. Like ‘The Ideomancer’ in the last anniversary issue, the author is interested in using fantasy tropes to examine issues of identity and ethnicity. Highly Recommended.

The longest story this issue is Sheila Finch’s final Lingster novella, ‘The Evening And The Morning.’ Thirteen years after she won a Nebula for ‘Reading The Bones,’ an earlier entry in the series, Finch takes a crew of Guild representatives back to a strangely deserted future Earth in an intriguing mystery that has echoes of both Le Guin’s anthropological SF and Simak’s classic City; an early contender for the best single story of the year. Outstanding.

From SF to pulp horror with ‘Night Gauntlet’ by  a team of no less than six collaborators (ftr, Walter C. DeBill, Jr., Richard Gavin, Robert M. Price, W. H. Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb). Perhaps it’s that which makes the narrative feel so clunky with the sudden lurches in subject and awkward lumps of exposition – which is a shame, because there’s a real warmth in the author’s obvious affection for their subject, but it’s all but lost in the clunkiness ofsome of the writing.

More SF with James Patrick Kelly’s timeslip story  ‘Happy Ending 2.0.’ Brief, but Recommended.

Francis Marion Soty debuts with ‘The Second Kalandar’s Tale,’ which retells one of the lesser known stories from the Thousand and One Nights- in which a woodcutter finds an enchanted copper ring. It’ll appeal to those who like fairy tales, but I’m not one of them, however much I can appreciate the writer’s skill.                

In Karl Bunker’s ‘Bodyguard,’ a human diplomat has to explore his difficult relationship with his alien bodyguard, and does so with great originality and pathos. Recommended.

Better is Kali Wallace’s ‘Botanical Exercises  For Curious Girls’ which has echoes of Gene Wolfe, with its little girl held captive by a scientist for research purposes in some indeterminate future; Rosalie has no idea of why she has tutors named after the seasons, but would like to see the garden. Highly Recommended.                        

‘Ping’ by Dixon Wragg is a reprint from the Washington Post, and is barely longer than this line.

This month ends with James Stoddard’s ‘The Ifs Of Time,’ in which Enoch, caretaker of the almost infinitely large Evenmere (the setting for Stoddard’s acclaimed The High House and The False House) meets a mysterious group of aged storytellers in a secluded room high in the house. These ancients present a very real threat to Evenmere, and tales within tales abound, as Stoddard, more than any author present, blurs the lines between fantasy and science fiction in this issue. Highly Recommended.

As always with F&SF there are odd dips in quality, although that may be more to do with my taste than any objective criteria, but there seem to be far fewer than usual, and the March 2011 issue is an especially good one.

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• April 12th, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0