SFcrowsnest

Encounters Magazine April/May 2015 issue # 13 (e-mag review)

As the cover date shows, I got to this ‘magazine late. ‘Encounters’ is one of the many small on-line magazines that publish Science Fiction, fantasy or horror by not so famous authors. Paying one cent a word or less, they are not going to make anyone rich but they provide a useful training ground for beginning writers learning their stuff or even less great writers who just want to put their stuff out there. Not every author is a genius but even us humble ones (I write for this sort of market) can produce a good story now and then.

This issue opens with a fast-paced black comedy ‘The Mower’ by M. B. Vujacic in which Slade takes Junior for a ride in his law enforcement car, a KS-407 Perdition Class Sentinel with motorised cutters on the front to slice up criminals and high powered vacuums to suck up the bits. It’s set in a totalitarian future ruled by the Marshall, a man who really hates jaywalking and has made it a capital offence on the spot.

‘Broken City’ by Chuck Augello is a horror story set in New York city just after 9/11. Maggie can see three thousand ghosts in the sky and wonders why no one else can. At a vigil, she meets Lyndsay whose boyfriend entered the doomed building and hasn’t come out. An old lady hints that a door to another world has been opened and something is coming. It’s well-written but inconclusive and I’m not sure if real life horrors mix well with fantastical ones.

‘The Julius Directive’ by Jacob Lambert is set in the future. 15 March 2101 to be exact. Congresswoman Becky Carver receives a package from Stork Services which is left on her porch. Max, the house computer, scans it and deems it safe. It isn’t. This leads into an adventurous tale of attempted assassination which was again fast-paced and well-written. I guess the title comes from politicians being killed.

‘The House On Guard Hill Road’ by Sean McLachlan shows a good sense of history. Samuel Van Emberg lives in an old house near Youngstown and has done since the 15th century when his dear old dad, a warlock, smeared virgin’s blood on the rafters. Virgins were easier to find in those days. It’s the 21st century when Rachel Anderson from the New Jersey State Historical Society comes to buy the old place and protect it from the New Jersey Turnpike. This was slower paced than the preceding tales but enjoyable nonetheless and with a couple of likeable characters.

In ‘Forty-Four North’ by Robert Steele, our hero ,George Pickler, is a detective with a life meter. At a skybike crash, he sticks the pointy bit into the female victim and it gives him her name, age, sex, cause of death and exact time of death down to hundredths of a second. They sure could use those gadgets on CSI! Most days the skies are crowded with skybikes, queuing at every legal altitude level. George gets in a pickle in this futuristic crime caper and I was reminded somewhat of the clever fifties short stories by Philip K. Dick, some of which are now made into films.

‘The Trees Of Gaia’ is by Anna Sykora. Surveyor Eva Rosario of Tantalus – a busy, crowded planet – volunteers for duty on the lush moon Gaia which is completely covered in forest. It’s her first unprocessed world and when she sees a tree stripped of its bark it looks naked, ‘like a corpse abandoned on a busy intersection’. Not sure about that simile but the author is at least trying. A colleague has his head shaved ‘bare as an asteroid’ which is a good science fictional image. The station chief is a strange fellow and there is much talk of filling the moon, like others, with cloned humans. The premise was good but the pace of the story was odd, a slow build-up and then, suddenly, everything happens very fast.

In ‘The Glass Eye’ by John Buentello and Lawrence Buentello, poor villager Oren finds a glass eye on the ground and pockets it and then discovers there’s an evil one-eyed stranger in town. There are some unexpected plot twists to keep things lively.

In general, ‘Encounters Magazine’ seems inclined to fast-moving, dark themed fiction. There’s plenty of action. The characters are not so well developed but it’s hard to do that in a short story anyway. Favouring plot over style is certainly okay with me. As ‘Encounters’ only pays ¼ cent per word it’s not going to get the finest stories out there but since it’s free to the reader you can’t quibble. The fare served up is pretty good and it’s worth a look.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2015

Free e-mag!!! Size varies.

check out websites: www.blackmatrixpub.com and www.blackmatrixpub.com/documents/Encounters%2013.pdf