Review: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction July/August 2022

In the latest issue of F&SF magazine: a dash of archaeological mystery; a hint of ancient legend; the virtue of endurance; parental guidance and unburied secrets are among the themes of this bi-monthly issue

In this latest issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, we have a total of 12 short stories and novelettes, and a couple of poems that are sure to enthrall you as much as they’ll entertain. I know, as I certainly felt that way as I immersed myself within each submission.

So, to help put you in the mood for this edition, I’ll start off with an appetizer of prose, and follow it up with a main course of what forms the bulk of the magazine.

And don’t worry. I know how laborious it can be to wade through a wall of text without getting to point. So, I promise from the outset that each critique will be short and sweet, and concentrate on giving you a little taster of what’s to come.

Even better, I’ll never include anything that will give the game away. That’s up to the authors involved. And as you’ll see, they have a lot to say. . .

So, to the poetry first:

The Things We know – by Ellis Bray, is a poignant reflection on how far-future generations might look back on the society of today and wonder: just who were our forefathers, and how is it that a supposedly advanced and civilized culture managed to mess things up so badly?
A powerful warning that, for all our supposed supremacy, mankind is but tiny, insignificant thing when compared to the vastness of space and time.

In, When, as an Adult, You Choose to Again Believe in Magic, Beth Cato delivers a short and sweet – but oh so powerful – admonition of the pressing need for grownups to never forget the capacity magic has to change lives for the better. When reading it, I was reminded of certain aspects of the 1978 song by Kate Bush: The Man with the Child in His Eyes. You’ll see why when you read it.

The first Novelette I came across was Nick DiChario’s, Ciccio and the Wood Sprite. A tale that is as enchanting as it is reminiscent of a child’s bedtime story. One with a moral attached. As you’ll see, it’s presented through the eyes of an eight-year old boy who is as innocent as he is profoundly wise for his years. Listen to what he has to say, for there is a power to wishes that we adults often overlook.

Next came, The Dark at the edge of the Stage, by James L. Sutter.
Have YOU ever felt that you’re searching for answers? A place where you truly belong and can be yourself at last? Well, in this dark tale, our protagonist discovers that music could hold the potential to do just that . . .
Only, the answers he gets are to questions he’s never actually considered.

The Monster I Found in Third Grade, by Paul Tobin, is an unsettling reminder that malevolence can hide in plain sight, and in the most unlikely of places. Bear that in mind the next time you go out to play in the snow. . .
I’d love to add more, but to do so just might give the game away. And with a story like this? Ah, that would be criminal!

Robert Levy’s, Ceremonials, is equally as disturbing.
Why?
Well, how many of us have enjoyed those weeks away from home at summer camp, mixing it up with friends? Getting up to mischief. Communing with nature. Engaging in all sorts of staged activities in a safe environment. Oh, the secrets we left behind, eh?
But what happens if those secrets bring repercussions that are too weighty to forget?
That particular conundrum is considered in spades. But will you want to dig it all up?

Evidently, We Are Flying, by Alexandra Munck, is a short story that started out as a poem!
And I, for one, am glad that it grew into the gem it did. For THIS is a story about having the drive, the resolve and imagination to truly find yourself. . .
And that’s all I’m going to say. (For the simple fear of giving away too many hints).
Just immerse yourself in the narrative, and you’ll find
We Are Flying to be an immensely moving, deeply insightful expose of the soul-searching that drives each one of us to ponder the infinite within.

I’m sure most of us can relate catching butterflies, moths, and all sorts of other creepy crawlies – bees and wasps included – when we were younger? I’ve lost count of the times I went out into the woods, armed with a jam jar and net, only to return with my spoils, sealed up tight in the jar until I’d taken a good look at the tally and let them go.
Not a very nice thing to do, on reflection. But I was a kid. Oblivious to the harm I might be causing, despite the occasional sting from an angry hornet.
Well, Nina Kiriki Hoffman takes that one step further in,
Trapping Fairies. A provocative reminder that one day, we might just bag something that can do more than sting . . . And then some!

Another of the novelettes included in this edition is Rudi Dornemann’s, Starblind, Booklost, and Hearing the Songs of True Birds.

You’ll need to sit yourself down with a large cup of coffee for this one. But that’s a good thing, as it deserves the effort it takes to read it thoroughly. Dornemann has created a vividly disturbing tale that reminded me of the idiom: “No good deed goes unpunished,” as it does of certain aspects of Christopher Ruocchio’s dimension hopping character, Hadrian, from his Sun Eater series.
It really is that good. But please, don’t take my word for it. Immerse yourself in a cracking tale that will do more than expand your horizons.

One of the shorter novelettes is, The Song of Lost Voices, by Brian Trent.
Short in may be, but the story-arc is epic in scope. Take an everyday setting; add a dash of archaeological mystery; a hint of ancient legend; a sprinkling of action/adventure; and an essential pinch of sci-fi grandeur, and you end up with an amazing recipe for success. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this offering. And as Trent is a regular contributor to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I look forward to more!

There’s an evocative, almost ethereal feel to Beth Goder’s first ever offering to the magazine: Mycelium, a short story that expounds the virtue of endurance and budding love among the wonderland of childish naivety and imagination. Yes, there are so many doors out there, just waiting to be unlocked.

If only we had the patience to keep looking for them . . . And the tenacity to walk through when they are found.

The Collection, by Charlie Hughes, is our longest offering, and one of the most disconcerting. Delivered by way of a series of cleverly crafted ‘real time’ look-ins and longer flashbacks, we see the consequences of unearthing secrets, long-forgotten and buried away. Such things can trigger all sorts of repercussions in your life – and indeed, the lives of those closest to you – when they come out. And if you’re not prepared for them?
Oh dear!
Prepare to have your nerves jangled in a delightfully morbid tale of woe that’s bound to keep you thinking long after you’ve turned the page.

We face something of an ethical conundrum in Nick Wolven’s short story: The Garbage Girls.
Imagine a world in crisis; a world where technology guarantees wealth and prosperity; a world where the darkest parts of your nature can be tweaked with a simple modification.
Would society be better off under the auspices of such technology, do you think? Where no one would question their lot in life? Or would there be a hardened few, determined to test the
good such augmentations have achieved?
Yes, there are always those out to make trouble . . .
But how to change their perspective?

The final short story in my list was one of the most charming: The Wild Son, by Rajeev Prasad.
There are those places in the world where children are expected to adopt the mantle of their parents without question. The child of a teacher, for example, must become a teacher; the shoemaker, a shoemaker; the humble farmer, a farmer.
But what happens to those children whose talents destine them for something more closely aligned to their true nature? Something that won’t allow them to be molded into anything that doesn’t harmonize with the deepest, most sacred aspects of their soul?
You’ll certainly find out in this poignantly bittersweet journey of discovery that will transport you into the realms of pure fantasy.

**********

Looking back on this edition, I have to say how impressed I was by the content. All of the submissions reflected the character of their authors in that extraordinary way that marked them as uniquely special.

Privately, I ‘tipped’ my figurative hat to a couple in particular that really stood out. A personal preference, I know, and one that I won’t share here. Nevertheless, I’ll be watching out for those particular authors again.

And now, it’s over to you, the readers of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This is one edition you won’t want to put down.

Until next time . . . enjoy!

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