Review: The Dark #41

The Dark #41, October 2018

Original Fiction:

  • “Dukkering” by Nelson Stanley (horror short story)
  • “Psychopomps of Central London” by Julia August (dark fantasy short story)

Ever since The Dark‘s pay rate change, I’d been considering covering it or at least looking at it and, between it appearing among the poll write-ins and the day being Halloween, I finally got around to doing at least this special holiday review. Unfortunately, this particular issue wasn’t great for me, though I can see the tales appealing to some.

Dukkering” describes how terrible traumas (supernatural, but with a significantly natural component) contribute to a boy losing faith in his mother and his world. Set amidst 19th century (or so) Romany in England, it’s full of dialect which may go beyond natural flavoring and reach the point of obstruction. It contains some remarkable lines:

What she could do, though, was dukker better than anyone, twisting the threads of your hopes and fears into a life-line that she’d anchor somewhere so solid in the future that you felt you could drag yourself towards it, hand-over-hand, dangling above the awful yawning chasm of the possible.

But it also contains awkward attempts to force emotion.

I shan’t tell you of the next part: how weak she was, the rank smell of rot that clung to her; how light she was, gone bird-like in her bones, so that I more than half-lifted her from the bed, our roles reversed, as if I were the parent and she the child; the piteous weakness of her, the way that the life was nearly gone from her, the way she slumped against the trailer’s wall.

I could do that. But I shall not.

Psychopomps” is another English tale of contagious traumatic loss (in this issue) and is another elliptical second-person present tense tale (in most all of most everyone’s issues) in which you are a woman heading through the outskirts of the London underworld, searching for your daughter with a guide who has her own issues. This is a nice idea that generates some nice mood but, despite its brevity, its narrative strategy and wandering nature make it feel long.

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Summation: October 2018

October was fairly light in both total and noted stories. Counting a couple of late September stories in the month’s first Wrap-Up, there were 39 of the former, weighing in at about 215K words, and a half-dozen of the latter at about 41K (with two recommendations of 7K). Somewhat unusually, Nature and CRES produced the recommended tales, with a science fantasy from Lightspeed and a trio of BCS fantasies from one of its anniversary issues getting the honorable mentions.

Thanks to those folks who have shared their thoughts about which magazines Featured Futures should cover in 2019; they’ve already been very helpful but the more thoughts, the better. While the poll‘s the easiest to keep track of, if you don’t want to participate in it but would still like to provide input, feel free to contact me directly or to leave a comment on the poll’s blog post.

Noted Stories

Recommended

Science Fiction

Fantasy

  • The Mirror Crack’d” by Jordan Taylor, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, September 30, 2018 (short story)

Honorable Mentions

Fantasy

Reviews

Magazines

Books/Other

News

Edit (2018-10-31): added last October Links post and review of The Dark.

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2018-10-28)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

Original Fiction:

  • Mobile Hack” by Zack Lux, Nature, October 10, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Ferromagnetism” by D. A. Xiaolin Spires, Nature, October 17, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • Totality” by C. L. Holland, Nature, October 24, 2018 (science fiction short story)
  • The Oracle and the Sea” by Megan Arkenberg, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #263, October 25, 2018 (fantasy short story)
  • The Bodice, The Hem, The Woman, Death” by Karen Osborne, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #263, October 25, 2018 (fantasy short story)

This week, Tor.com has another Wild Cards tie (“Fitting In” by Max Gladstone). Something still seems amiss at Terraform. On the other hand, Nature had apparently been publishing stories the past couple of weeks and had just screwed up the web page I check because the missing stories materialized along with this week’s tale. Finally, BCS returns to normal with a two-story issue.

In “Hack,” an AI car tells you that you’re a hacker trying to disable its collision avoidance in protest of its data collection policies and tells you what it’s going to do about it. “Ferromagnetism” is a story in which mechanical beings taint themselves with iron from our universe in order to be attracted to one another (their universe has no iron but has elements with atomic numbers of “*##@%~”). In “Totality,” one woman reacts to Earth being conquered by aliens who cut Earth off from the sun. Since there there was little plot and no one to like in the first and the second made little sense and was only a conversation between “Gramps” and a younger entity, “Totality” was the most successful.

Oracle” is yet another BCS story with musical motifs. Each of the three sections is marked with an indication of unusual tempo in this meditation on political upheaval, prophecy, pianos, and pity. The exiled oracle/political dissident/pianist seems strangely petty and off-putting for most of the story though the initial meeting and conversation with the chess-playing guard about rewriting the past which ends with the line, “Only the future is immutable,” seemed promising. “Bodice” is another tale of upheaval which, somewhat like “Male Pregnancy” (Sep/Oct F&SF), is ruined for me by a character whose believability is compromised for thematic purposes. It opens with “the end of our world” so there’s no suspense about what kind of story it’s going to be: a girl’s father has gone off to war, the city’s being destroyed, and anyone not already dead needs to leave. So Mom endangers herself and her daughter by refusing to leave because she’s not dressed properly and this causes the daughter to go to extraordinary lengths to make her a dress, including sacrificing her “soul.” Those not put off by the mother (or distracted by the confusing pseudo-steampunk and soul-gem/”ghost” fantasy elements)  may appreciate the eventual pathos of the mother-daughter relationship.

Review of The Best of Lester del Rey for Black Gate

My first article for Black Gate was just published.

Lester del Rey was born in Minnesota in 1915 and died in 1993. One of his boldest fictions was claiming that his full name was Ramón Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del Rey y de los Verdes, when it was actually Leonard Knapp. However, it was his other fictions, beginning in 1938 for Astounding, and his work as an editor, a reviewer, and in a literary agency, which resulted in his being made a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1991.

Full review at Black Gate: “Gods, Robots, and Man: The Best of Lester del Rey.”

Poll: What Magazines Should Featured Futures Cover?

I’m interested in thoughts on what Featured Futures does and doesn’t cover, so I’m experimenting with a poll which lists everything currently covered (and which I’ll temporarily stick to the top of the front page). Check as many or as few as you’d like, so that it reflects your ideal roster of covered zines. If there’s anything additional you’d like to see covered, feel free to add it (or them) in the “Other” option. If I’ve done this right, the results won’t be public at this time (if ever, for the sake of the low-polling zines) but it would be valuable feedback for me (especially as I’m considering lightening the load) and may make the site better for you.

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  • Little Things, Sneeze, Balloon. Don’t read these three Calvin and Hobbes reprints in public unless you don’t mind people looking at the crazy laughing person.

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“You ain’t no punk, you punk. You wanna talk about the real junk?”

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