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The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction # 657 (January 2007)
editor: Gordon Van Gelder
$4.50

review by Jim Steel

Always a fine magazine, Fantasy & SF is probably the best genre fiction magazine around today. It's certainly the most consistent in terms of quality. This issue's lead story is a didactic novella by Bruce Sterling entitled Kiosk. One of the kiosks in question is realised on the cover in a photomontage that will have British readers thinking of Doctor Who, but the kiosks in the story are street stores that sell the usual assortments of cigarettes, newspapers, coffee, knick-knacks and junk. They are common enough in any city of the world. In this case, Borislav's kiosk has a fabriktor that manufactures cheap toys and jewellery for kids. Kids are the ultimate consumers, as anyone who has witnessed a pokemon feeding frenzy can testify. In Borislav's post-communist eastern European state, he is able to upgrade his fabricator on the black market to one that manufactures permanent things from carbon nanotubes. Mixed in with this exploration of productivity is an exploration of political revolution (Borislav falls in with one, almost by accident), which in some ways is even more interesting than the industrial implications of the fabricator. Sterling's comments on the make-up and operation of a revolutionary cell certainly have the feel of veracity. He has packed this with so many ideas and observations that it is a wonder that the magazine doesn't split down the spine.

Jeremy Minton has a power struggle at the core of his novella, The Darkness Between. A tribe of primitive miners has become trapped underground and are trying to survive, have given up on finding a way out. Carnivorous predators populate this underworld, and Brand and the mysterious Merrison are trying to find their way back through them to the tribe after a foraging expedition. At first glance it appears to be little more than a tunnel-bashing exercise but this has an audacious conceptual breakthrough at its heart. Its world is much stranger than Brand has imagined.

David Gerrold has produced a 'please publish this if you do not hear from me' conceit in The Strange Disappearance Of David Gerrold, reminiscent of his superb The Martian Child about his adopted son. Here, he is taking a cross-country road trip when he runs across a mysterious (alien?) boy. Then he runs across some mysterious human hunters. The style is, at times, similar to the first half of Desolation Angels and, because this isn't Kerouac, can annoy slightly. The ending is an obvious one that Gerrold doesn't attempt to hide from the start, but there's no flaw in that.

Robert Reed's X-Country also deals with wild country, although this time on foot. Reed seems to be going through something of a mid-life crisis as this isn't the first story of his to look at health and life-extension. Here we have a strange, Möbius strip of a course that does weird things to the racers. Or is it coincidence? Certainly, Reed seems to be no stranger to the running experience. Feel that pain!

There is a slight story from Marta Randall, The Dark Boy, and then there is Neil Gaiman's How To Talk To Girls At Parties. It's the top story in this issue and is already scheduled to appear in at least one Year's Best collection. It's set a couple of decades in the past (around the same time as Gaiman's own teenage years - the music and stuff is bang on) and our teenage protagonist and his more worldly-wise friend go hunting for a house party. They arrive at the wrong one, but - hey - it's a party. They stay awhile. Remember when you were a teenager and the opposite sex seemed like an alien species? Well... yup, you've got it. The girls expound their opinions of Earth (making no attempt to hide their origins) while our hero blithely continues to try and chat them up. It's hilarious, and one of the best stories of the year. Yes, I know it's still early. Trust me on this one.

Interzone has Nick Lowe, and F&SF has Lucius Shepard. They are two of the sharpest, most entertaining film critics writing today. Watch as Shepard savages The Wicker Man remake to death. You won't be going to see it after this. There are also book review columns from Charles de Lint and John Kessel, and an index for 2006.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 657

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