Small Thoughts: We Mete Justice with Beak and Talon by Jeremiah Tolbert, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Sept/Oct 2018

Jeremiah Tolbert might be new to the pages of F&SF, but he seems like an old hat to those who follow other genre magazines such as Uncanny, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. Tolbert skews, if my memory serves, many of his stories to immediate action scenes that illustrate a technology or idea relevant in todays world.

This story deals with drones, but more specifically, how drones are regulated, or not, and how they can be used for illegal use. Drones are already used to deliver illegal packages to people in prison–so, what happens when the first murder is committed with a illegally modified drone? How will law enforcement respond? This story goes way past these questions and strikes at the eventuality of political assassination attempts using such technology.

This story is a in-depth look at how this type of crime would be fought. It uses (mostly) a 2nd person plural narration as minds and instincts are fused with technologies, the idea being that, though drones may be the latest tech, sometimes it is the old way of doing things that are the best. In Europe, for instance, falconers have been used to target illegal drone use. That’s a hint.

A thoroughly enjoyable piece from a writer that always brings a solid story to his readers. This is the first story I’ve read from this issue and I picked Tolbert’s story because I typically enjoy his work.

Small Thoughts: Visible Cities by Rachel Pollack, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

A lot has happened since I last posted here. I know. I got the flu in the middle of summer. Can you believe it? While I had the flu I went on a summit attempt to climb Tahoma (Mount Rainer) and made it up to about 12,500 or so before complications ensued and my party had to retreat.

Now that I’m finally back home and in the groove of things again, I’ve begun reading and writing.

cov1807lg-250Today I read Visible Cities by Rachel Pollack. Pollack has been one of my favorite short story writers for some years now. I think it was back in 2012 that F&SF published a piece called “Immortal Snake,” by Rachel, and I have held onto the issue ever since because it made such an impression on me.

From the title, I couldn’t help wonder about where the inspiration for this piece was found. Visible Cities explores a side character of Pollack’s serialized supernatural detective character Jack Shade, so that’s obvious inspiration–but Visible Cities is very nearly Invisible Cities which is the title of Italo Calvino’s most famous novel. While there do seem to be some loose connections–I’m curious if a reread of Invisible Cities would enlighten me more to any parallels.

This story, by Rachel Pollack, is the origin story for a side character, Carolien, Jack Shade’s lover. It is a wonderful reminder that those characters are actually the center of their own vast and extreme plots. Much of this story is an expansion of the world Jack Shade lives in, and while the plot is a simple one: Caroline gets a teacher in the arcane arts and when her teacher disappears she goes and looks for him, the place’s she visits are whimsical and creepy in some wonderful ways.

The end of the piece is marked by one of Rachel Pollack’s signature lessons, in which character and reader learn something about the world they share within the confines of the story. The best part about this piece is the strange and surprising world you get to inhabit. (C)

Hainted by Ashley Blooms, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

Hainted is, first and foremost, a great word. It feels similar to haunted enough that it hints at what this piece will be about without giving it away.

Plot:

Hainted is about a young girl who goes into an old coal mine where her father works. cov1807lg-250Each person who works there, who enters, leaves part of themselves. Her father was once a caring father and husband, but something has been taken from him and now he is gruff, cold, and her parents fight a lot. Haints are just a part of life in this world and a young man leads the protagonist, an 11-year-old girl, into the mine to find her father’s haint and reunite them.

Characters:

Ther characters are mostly interesting. The remembrances of when her father was a kind person fills out a broken home that needs fixing. Her logic of finding his haint is naive but also touching and understandable from her perspective. She wants to put things back the way they were before.

Setting:

Most of this piece takes place in the mine. there isn’t a whole lot of scenery, giving the whole piece a cramped feeling.

Conclusion:

This is a piece about wanting things to be a way they aren’t. Everyone knows that feeling, and so this piece is pretty effective in the sense of connecting with readers. It recalls our childhoods in which we thought we’d never leave until, of course, we did leave them behind. Just as everyone leaves something behind in the mine–and what you leave becomes your haint.