Lenox Avenue #5, March/April 2005

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"Disposable Children" by M. Lynx Qualey
"A Flavor of Quark" by Michael Canfield
"Meat’s Story (City Pier Pt 1)" by Paul Tremblay
"One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King" by Elizabeth Bear
"Blind Date" by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt

Issue #5 of Lenox Ave is the second issue I’ve read, and contains a larger number of longer stories than the previous issue, and fewer short pieces.

M. Lynx Qualey opens the issue with “Disposable Children,” about exactly what the title suggests. It is set in a future in which children exist that can be bought and who grow up and become adults in a remarkably reduced time. Presumably, this satiates the motherhood urge while entailing less of a long term commitment. At first I thought this was going to be a New Weird kind of story, but it develops into pretty much of a straight sf tale. While the idea is intriguing, the way it is presented is not believable, and I was hoping for some greater engagement with the social ideas implicit in the concept. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

Michael Canfield contributes “A Flavor of Quark.” This story is a tale within a tale, told by an old woman to her “grandiekids” at bedtime. It is a most un-bedtime-like story of a man and monkey who are attempting to destroy the universe. In doing so, they create a new one. I didn’t fully buy into this story; the grandma’s authorial voice felt uncomfortable in its shift between homespun dialect and scientific detail, while of the two other central characters, Byrne’s logic and motivation seemed deeply flawed and hard to believe. Finnigan the monkey was the most likeable character to me, but ultimately his presence didn’t save the story, which has some intriguing ideas in it but which seemed to me to have no real central focus.

Paul Tremblay delivers “Meat’s Story (City Pier Part I).” The story tells of Meat, a thug who works for Harry and has issues with his father, and his encounter with Harry’s son. Okay, I’ll admit up front, I don’t really dig crime fiction. There, I said it. There is some sci-fi stuff in here too, which is nice, but basically it’s a crime story. There’s no one to really care about; all three characters are quite unpleasant. There are some interesting undertones which cross between the father-son relationships and offer potential for parallel, but ultimately these emotional subtexts aren’t as developed as they could have been, leaving predominantly an action-based plot. Like I say, I don’t like crime fiction, especially when there are no sympathetic characters. Other readers may enjoy it more, and the writing itself is of a high standard. So, if you like that kind of thing, give it a go.

Elizabeth Bear’s story, “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” starts out slowly, and it takes a little while for the events occurring to begin to make sense. What eventually emerges is a mythic story of supernatural beings attached to the cities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas coming into conflict on Hoover Dam. The Las Vegas creatures, One Eyed Jack and Stewart, the Suicide King, are offered a deal to participate in one of their fellow beings’ plans. There are some nice elements to this story, in particular the supernatural metaphors for the cities’ character. Not the easiest of stories to get into, but worth persevering with, particularly if you’re fond of mythic struggles.

“Blind Date” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt, tells of an apocalypse, of sorts, and the last man, Adam, journeying through the fantastic wreckage, now populated by giant beasts and men. Adam decides, for no apparent reason, that as his name is “Adam” there must be an “Eve” out there, and the story deals with his quest to find her. There are some nice moments and some funny gags. On the whole though, I never believed Adam’s mixture of clever self-referentiality and outright insanity. I found the interview with the authors which followed the story more enjoyable.

On the whole, I liked this issue of Lenox Ave, though not quite as much as the last issue. The images and ideas from the stories, in the main, stayed with me longer than the stories themselves. Whereas I preferred the longer stories in the last issue, in this one I found myself wishing the lengthier tales had been balanced by shorter pieces. I guess there’s no pleasing some people! There’s a definite style of the mag emerging, and I look forward to reading #6.