The April issue of this bimonthly British SFF magazine arrived recently, so immediately claimed a priority place on my reading list. The cover illustration, by Adam Tredowski, shows a section of what appears to be a vast and rusting Victorian machine (complete with small, top-hatted smoking figure), with a planet's surface far below – I like this kind of surreal juxtaposition!
As usual, there are six short stories:
A Clown Escapes from Circus Town by Will McIntosh, illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe: a bizarre tale of a world in which clowns and other circus characters are the sole occupants of a town. One escapes to find similar towns scattered around the countryside, each inhabited by a different occupation. What's the explanation, and why do the inhabitants keep disappearing? A story which is amusing but also rather sad; just like circus clowns.
Fishermen by Al Robertson, illustrated by Geoffrey Grisso: a talented artist is captured by medieval pirates who have a specific task for him. Beautifully written in an elegiac style which reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay, but not obviously SFF.
Saving Diego by Matthew Kressel, illustrated by David Gentry: a man travels across the galaxy to rescue an old friend, only to find himself in a dangerous situation, both from the planet-destroying numens and from old temptations.
Far & Deep by Alaya Dawn Johnson, illustrated by Lisa Konrad: a young rebel follows in the footsteps of her murdered mother on a tropical island. Another tale which is intriguing and well-told but, apart from one detail, not obviously SFF.
Home Again by Paul M Berger: the pilot of a star-travelling thought-ship returns home in an apparently domestic tale – until the chilling ending.
Black Swan by Bruce Sterling, illustrated by Paul Drummond: the friend of a science journalist appears to be an industrial spy who feeds him secrets concerning advanced technology. But the source of the material turns out to be far more bizarre than the journalist could have imagined.
A varied mix of tales, as is usual for this magazine, from SF to those with only a trace of fantasy. My vote for the most original and entertaining story goes to Will McIntosh, but I would expect that other readers' preferences would be scattered across all of them.
Bruce Sterling also features in a review of his latest novel, The Caryatids, and in an interview, both by Ian Sales. The novel is set in a near future in which many of the worst-case global scenarios have come to pass. I intend to return to this theme in a later post; can any near-future SF now ignore the increasingly dire warnings of what's happening to the planet?
The rest of the magazine consists of the usual detailed and thoughtful book reviews, criticisms of recent DVDs and films, and a news and obituary page.