Three BFS publications full of short stories dropped through my letter box the other week: New Horizons #4, Dark Horizons #55 and the 2009 Yearbook. These will take some time to get through, so I’ll only deal with the first two in this post.
New Horizons is published twice a year and focuses on new authors. Issue #4 contains eight stories plus an interview with publisher Steve Upham, enthusiastic founder of Screaming Dreams:
Into the Bright by J.M.Harris: a bizarre world in which the Mollop live in a sea of oil while their mature flying form, the Slickbacks, fight off the attempts of the Beacons to siphon their sea away.
The Un-Explorers by Matt Finucane: spaced-out men sharing a house find a new reality when looking through the eyes of a golem they have made.
Frankenrabbits by John Tait: genetic manipulation produces a human/rabbit cross. Matters get out of hand when they are awarded human rights. Well, you know what rabbits do best…
Two Nights in New Orleans by Philip Harris: a girl find herself switching between alternate worlds at the behest of a man - or is he a vampire?
Life After Death by Mark Butler: the minutiae of the humdrum life of a middle-aged woman destroyed by grief for her dead son, which - maybe - turns into a ghost story.
In the Moment by Elana Gomel (runner-up in the 2009 BFS Short Story competition): a girl lives in a huge, torus-shaped building which comprises the entire world for its human inhabitants; above is too bright, below (where the suicides jump) is too dark to know. The girl explores both extremes before finding the key to the way out.
The Birthday Gift by Eva Eliav: a strange auction in which chunks of time are sold; how would you like to spend ten years with the mindset of a famous movie star, or a child?
The Last Chapter by Tom Knights: a man finishes the last chapter of an epic fantasy novel in which the mighty-muscled hero slays the demon monster and rescues the beautiful princess. The rest of the story consists of alternating sections in which the man's married life, from which passion and romance have leached, parallels that of the fictional princess as she discovers the reality of life married to a brawny hero.
A varied selection, all of which have their good points. I can see why Elana Gomel's story was so highly rated, but the one which I liked the most was the final one, by Tom Knights. A rather touching look at the contrast between fantasy and reality.
Dark Horizons is the BFS journal, also published twice a year, and has a wider range of contents, including this time three articles and three poetry contributions as well as a dozen amazingly varied stories. The articles are on two early writers of fantasy, C. Hall Thompson and Clifford Ball (by Mike Barrett); the prolific Charles L. Grant (by Paul Campbell); and an appreciation of the Dumarest novels of E. C. Tubb (by Craig Herbertson).
I won’t comment in detail on all of the stories, but they included such elements as an intelligent sunflower (The Sunflower at Dusk by Naoko Awa); cow-like burrowing animals which swallow humans whole and keep them alive in a special stomach (In the Tunnels of the Agogs by Ralph Robert Moore); a couple of contrasting ghost stories, both seen from the ghost’s viewpoint (Despoina’s Sorrow by Alex Davies, and Sarkless Kitty by Alison J. Littlewood); a romance with a beautiful angel ejected from Heaven (The Beating Heart by Jim Steel); a scheming vampire (The Circle by Ian Hunter); helpful skeletons from a graveyard (The Skeleton in the Cupboard by Astrid Klemz); viruses which are large enough to be visible and are protected by law (Bugs by Shaun Jeffrey); battles with evil beings in the land of faerie (Escape from the Shadow Moon by Mike Phillips); and a bizarre tale of greenery running riot in the garden of a disturbed woman (Vivienne’s Garden by Douglas Thompson, whose novel Ultrameta was recently reviewed on this blog).
A special mention for Dead Gods by Richard Ford, a richly described medieval battle with (or perhaps without) supernatural elements, and my favourite from this collection, Sailors of the Skies, by Mike Chinn. In this retro fantasy adventure, two pilots in 1930s USA investigate the mysterious disappearance of several aircraft and encounter something from another world.