SFcrowsnest

Uncanny Magazine #10 May/June 2016 (emag review).

‘Ye Highlands And Ye Lowlands’ by Seanan McGuire is an honest Science Fiction story about hubris. American scientists were proud when they built a gateway to another world. They were keen to make first contact with an alien species but things went wrong when they did. In truth, this is a reasonably good idea – not a great one – dramatised nicely with a family in peril and a guilty protagonist. A worse writer might have stretched it too thin or padded it unnecessarily but McGuire gets the length about right.

There is a Far Island and a Near Island in ‘The Sound Of Salt And Sea’ by Kat Howard. The dead of Near Island are consigned to the deep and float to Far Island but their ghosts come back on the three Dead Days, beginning with the last day of October. Rowan got involved in this once when he dared ride the skeletal horses that come with the ghosts. Now he has to get involved again when the ghost of another former rider comes back. An original premise and a dramatic story made out of it.

It’s not easy to read ‘The Blood That Pulses In The Veins Of One’ by JY Yang but definitely worth it in the end. It starts viscerally with a character on a table being worked on by surgeons in white coats and it takes a while to figure out what’s going on. Eventually, it turns into a cosmic tale of ancient beings with strange but close ties.

It’s hard to tell on a kindle but I think ‘The Plague Givers’ by Kameron Hurley is a novelette or even a novella. It’s long enough to have chapters anyway. It’s certainly not too long as I couldn’t get enough of it. Elizabet Addisalam has been hiding out in the swamps for thirty years when Abrimet and Lealez come for her from the Contagion College. Abrimet is a shoman, mature and dangerous. Lealez is a neuter or pan, an overconfident youth. They have come because two rogue plague givers have left Contagion College and could bring the world to an end. In fact, things are even worse than that but I won’t spoil the plot. It’s a fine fantasy quest for three objects of power to defeat a nefarious villain but written beautifully and with strong characters, especially Elizabet Addisalam. I thought it was terrific.

‘You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay’ is a traditional western story with a rundown silver mine, a stern madam running the brothel, a tall, gaunt, scary preacher man, a city slicker, a soft-hearted whore and a boy called Ellis who can make dead chickens dance. Turns out he can do a lot more than that. Author Alyssa Wong sweeps you along with her narrative and it’s a great read, albeit full of dead things come back to life. It would be an even better read if it wasn’t written in second person present tense, an irritating mode. A first person account is obviously someone else’s story. One that says ‘You do this and you do that’ is simply confusing because I don’t, I didn’t and I’m certainly not doing it right now. Despite this drawback, it’s still jolly good fun. With lots of action, cavorting skeletons galore and energy being cast about hither and yon it would make a pretty good CGI filled adventure movie.

‘Alamat’ by Isabel Yap was a narrative so untraditional that I couldn’t make head nor tail of it but it might suit someone.

‘The Drowning Line’ by Haralambi Markov starts off with a drowning man, Reinhard, being given an underwater hand job by the ghost of his ancestor, Hartrich, who has cursed all his descendants to drown. Hartrich is only teasing, though, and lets Reinhard escape back to his husband, David. I didn’t understand the ending of this one neither but didn’t care because it was not to my taste.

So to the poetry. Beth Cato gives us a cure for Alzheimer’s in ‘Deeper Than Pie’ but it will only work if you can get unicorn eyelashes and dragon’s breath which are not available at my local shops, alas. It was nice.

A dragon also features in ‘Brown Woman At Safety Beach, Victoria, in June’ by M Sereno but sadly I was unable to extract any meaning from this jumble of verbiage. The fault, no doubt, is in me.

The articles include a plaint about the portrayal of women in the media by Foz Meadows, a look at the gaming community and a pair of differing opinions about the film ‘Labyrinth’ by two lady writers. I couldn’t possibly comment because I’ve never seen it. I should but the actors look like a load of Muppets. The 30th anniversary of the film’s release is the reason given for this retrospective but following on from last issue’s ‘Just Another Future Song’ by Daryl Gregory, it appears that ‘Uncanny’ is having a fit of Bowiemania. Magazines take a while to go from preparation to print but by now they should know that Prince – Bowie’s heir in many ways – is the new ghost on the block.

‘Uncanny’ won’t suit all tastes. I’m not sure a lot of it suits mine really, even with gems like ‘The Plague Givers’ as part of the content. It is quite experimental at times and also what is now called ‘adult‘. You have been warned.

Eamonn Murphy

April 2016

(pub: Uncanny Magazine. Black & white Kindle edition. Price: £2.61 (UK). ASIN: B017AT4OFU)

check out website: http://uncannymagazine.com/issues/uncanny-magazine-issue-ten/