A slightly confusing start to the Sep-Oct issue of the Brit SFF magazine, with an editorial concerning the forthcoming arrival of a new film about The Avengers. I was intrigued but sceptical, since I couldn't imagine any actress matching up to my youthfully enthusiastic memories of Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, until it gradually dawned on me that this was a different kind of Avengers, based on yet another US superhero comic strip. I am rather puzzled by the apparently inexhaustible demand for such movies; no doubt PhD theses are being written linking this to a fall in national confidence or something.
I note that Connie Willis won the Hugo for her pair of novels Blackout/All Clear, but although I enjoy her writing (despite a tendency to repetition in her novels), the total page count of these two doorstops is enough to deter me from starting. At my normal rate of progress it would take me several weeks, at least, to read them.
The cover art is Beacon by Richard Wagner, a classic SF/mystery vision showing strange spaceships being drawn to a beacon rising from a bleak moorland landscape, with a robed figure in the foreground.
Now to the stories:
A Time for Raven by Stephen Kotowych, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A short, atmospheric fantasy combining native American mythology with present day concerns garnished with a helping of supernatural mystery.
The Ever-Dreaming Verdict of Plagues by Jason Sandford, illustrated by Jim Burns. A sequel to Plague Birds (see issue #228), set far into a future in which technological civilisation has collapsed, leaving behind Artificial Intelligences which assist scattered villages. AIs also inhabit the blood of the Plague Birds - peripatetic female judge/executioners who have the ability to determine right from wrong. This time, a village AI proves to be rather more than expected.
The Metaphor by Fiona Moore. A rather haunting short story from the viewpoint of a nameless narrator (whether male or female is never clear) living alone in a deserted world. From time to time, s/he feels compelled to visit a series of empty taverns in a ritual designed to keep some dread happening at bay. The story is interspersed with extracts from a report written in a different reality, which gradually build up a picture of what is really happening.
The Fall of the City of Silver by Jon Ingold, illustrated by Martin Hanford. A morality fantasy of the destruction of the semi-mythical city of Tartessos in southern Spain, told by a girl who did not survive the fall.
Tethered by Mercurio D. Rivera, illustrated by Ben Baldwin. Yet another of this author's stories concerning the relationship between humanity and the advanced alien Wergen race, who find humans irresistably attractive.
Not such an appealing bunch for my taste this time, but I admired Moore's cleverly-constructed story and Sandford is always worth reading.