Uncanny Magazine Issue 7, December 2015 (e-magazine review).

December 16, 2015 | By | Reply More

Well, I’ve not read ‘Uncanny Magazine’ before so this should be a journey into the unknown with hidden dangers and surprises or so I thought. Once past the striking cover and the contents section, there’s a piece about the cover artist. Hmmm, this feels a bit familiar. Next up is an editorial comment from Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. Those names ring a bell with me and the format of the magazine seems oddly familiar. The penny dropped when I saw Sigrid Ellis’ name in the notes accompanying the editorial piece. He’s the editor of ‘Apex’ magazine and it might be why ‘Uncanny Magazine’ is almost exactly the same format as ‘Apex’!

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While the format might be familiar, the content is supposed to be differentiated as it has a certain uncanny point of view. I have to admit the first fiction short story ‘Wooden Feathers’ by Ursula Vernon is both very good and slightly odd. It brings a whole new dimension to the craft of wood carving. There’s a dark side to the story which helps to grab your attention and won’t let it go.

The next piece is also a short story, ‘And The Balance In Blood’ by Elizabeth Bear is another quality item. It’s set in a monastery in a fantasy medieval world populated by humans, elves and dwarfs. Sister Scholastique has the gift of saintly powers, although it may seem like a curse at times. In an attempt to free up more of her time to study, she embraces a new technology to automate the Chantry’s for the recently departed. Of course, it has unexpected consequences but that’s just one part of the story. There’s intrigue and a power struggle between Sister Scholastique and the monastery’s chief patron. This story could easily be expanded to a novel or series of novels and perhaps it should.

Its back to the present for the next item. Although titled ‘A Call To Arms For Deceased Authors’ Rights’ it’s actually a fictional short story by Karin Tidbeck. This story might just give you the creeps or at least make you uneasy. As the title suggests, it’s about deceased authors and the content they continue to produce. It’s odd and unsettling but well worth reading.

The penultimate story is ‘Interlingua’ by Yoon Ha Lee. A good old fashioned Science Fiction story told from the perspective of the spaceships controlling AI. There’s a mixed species crew on-board (known to the AI unit as ‘meaters’) which have been assigned to a priority mission to investigate contact with a mysterious alien race. However, this isn’t the main focus of the story, it’s really all about the interaction of the AI with its crew as they travel. The AI devises games to keep some members of the crew entertained and to develop possible scenarios for when they do make contact. I really enjoyed this story right up to the ending which I thought was a bit short. It just seems to stop suddenly. Now I wouldn’t mind to much but it’s a very good story up to that point.

Last but not least is ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Alaya Dawn Johnson. This is another short story set in the present day in the USA. It’s told from the perspective of a young man Philip A. Grayson who’s unfortunate to have been infected with a brain prion. This has left him with an almost insatiable desire to eat people. Things become complicated when he meets someone who he likes just a little too much to eat. It’s very well-written and had me hooked.

There then follows three non-fiction pieces of which two annoyed me. The first piece is called ‘The Call Of The Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance Of How To Suppress Women’s Writing’. It’s an odd piece that seems to be written by authors who seem to believe there is an organised movement to suppress women authors at every opportunity. When you consider that the vast majority of content in this edition of ‘Uncanny Magazine’ is from female authors and the cover artist is also female, it’s hard to take this viewpoint seriously.

The third piece is titled ‘The Alien Says Don’t Take Your Meds: Neurodiversity and Mental Health Treatment in TV SF/F’ by Tansy Rayner Roberts. This annoyed me as well. Firstly, the whole concept of neurodiversity is still a controversial concept but is presented here as proven fact. Secondly, it picks fault with two episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ where the ‘neurodiverse protagonists’ (her words, not mine) are badly treated. It’s possible to pick lots of faults with ‘Doctor Who’. For example, how many times do we see the main characters run across the road without looking? Whatever happened to the ‘Stop, Look, Listen!’ that was told to every school child? Perhaps Roberts should consider that the role of ‘Doctor Who’ is to entertain and he’s a fictional character in a fictional world. He is not in a series of public safety films.

Sandwiched between these annoying pieces is a rather good article on cover art titled ‘Please, Judge This Book By Its Cover’ by Aidan Moher. Cover art has certainly changed from the early days when SF was predominantly consumed by young males. It has now gone mainstream and so as the artwork. This piece takes you behind the scenes to see how artwork is chosen. By and large, the artwork we get today is a direct result of what we bought previously.

There is a nice essay by Deborah Stanish titled ‘Everyone Has a Ghost Story’ and three poems by various authors and two interviews to round out this edition of ‘Uncanny Magazine’. While I thought the stories were certainly excellent and well worth the cover price, I’m finding it hard to differentiate this magazine from ‘Apex’. They both have the same format and there’s nothing to preclude the stories from appearing in ‘Apex’. The Uncanny team do make a great play of their additional on-line content which may be the differentiator I’m missing. Even so, I would think that a different approach is required to the format of their published material to help it stand out in what is a crowded market.

Andy Whitaker

December 2015

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

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

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Category: Magazines, MEDIA, Scifi

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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