Uncanny Magazine # 2 January/February 2015 (emag review).

January 19, 2015 | By | Reply More

The second issue of the new speculative fiction magazine, ‘Uncanny Magazine’, is with us and, by all accounts, it’s a rather good read. It has got off the mark running and let’s hope it keeps up the good pace. You can read some of the content online but is also available if you purchase the complete magazine, details of which are available on their website.

Uncanny_Issue-2

It has five stories, the most prominent of which is the first in the queue, ‘Folding Beijing’ by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu. This is a wonderful story about an episode in the life of Lao Dao who is a rubbish disposal man living outside the city of Beijing. This isn’t the Beijing we know today, is it? The author describes it as a concentric series of levels which change with day and night, whole sectors of skyscrapers turning upside down with new vistas on display. Maybe it’s like Dante’s ‘Inferno’. Who knows? But the countless millions who live in this environment seem to be segregated by division of wealth and labour into the sectors. The rich live in the middle and, the further out you go, the poorer you are until you reach the outer levels inhabited by the dregs of society.

Maybe this is set a century from now, maybe much more, but it’s a tale with chilling prospects for the future of humanity. Do individuals matter in such a society? Even then, can the individuals look outside of their environment to see where they really are? Lao Dao wants to help his daughter gain a place in a local school but he can’t afford the price. Making a journey towards the centre of the city, he encounters many people, seeing lifestyles vastly different from his own and despite being give money for being a message boy, he ends up being arrested. By great fortune, he is helped by a friendly official and continues his journey towards the centre.

The story concerns the many levels of Beijing society and within the story itself there are many levels of interpretation. Not belonging to Beijing, some of these levels may not be apparent. Alternatively, people from Beijing may have no idea of the complexities of their own world. Also, having no idea of the merits of Chinese literature, the quality of the original script eludes me but you can say with certainty that the translation by Ken Liu comes across really well. This is a little masterpiece which is well worth reading.

The magazine in addition contains an interview with the author, Hao Jingfang, which is quite illuminating. She is a scientist as well as an economist and the experience and knowledge she possesses has undoubtedly been used to construct ‘Folding Beijing’.

However, there’s much more to Uncanny Magazine # 2. There are four more stories, five essays, three poems and another interview. The content is definitely of a literary nature. Don’t look for space opera or hard Science Fiction, because you won’t find it in this magazine, at least not so far, but if you are looking for well-written stories with a hint of the unusual, this is the place for you. Having read the first issue and now the second, it’s a magazine that grows on you to some extent. It is already developing a standard of its own, an identity which will separate it from the vast number of other magazines out there.

Consulting the website would probably be best thing to do in the first instance. This will let you know what’s on offer and give details of the purchase of the magazine. I think it’s one worth reading.

Rod MacDonald

January 2015

(pub: Uncanny Magazine. Price: $ 3.99 (US), £: 2.50 (UK))

check out website: www.uncannymagazine.com

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Category: Magazines, Scifi

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