Frequency, Volume 2 December 2000

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"Apple Golem" by Bruce Holland Rogers
"Housecalls" by Jerry Oltion
"Christmas at the Chushingura Cafe" by Stephen Dedman
"Abbat01r" by Cory Doctorow
"Chance in Hell" by John B. Rosenman
"Rate of Change" by Bud Sparhawk

Frequency, a fiction magazine on CD, premiered at Chicon 2000 with a two-disc give-away which featured all of the short stories nominated for the Hugo. The second regular issue of the audio anthology has been released and contains six audio versions of stories. Unfortunately, one of the shortcomings of the publication is that Frequency does not provide information about whether any of the stories were published in print form prior to their audio release. The promo was entirely previously-printed material, while the first volume seems to have been split between original and reprint material. This volume may be completely original.

William Foss does a good job reading "Apple Golem," by Bruce Holland Rogers. Despite winning the Nebula for "Lifeboat on a Burning Sea" (1996) and "Thirteen Ways to Water" in 1998, he has maintained a relatively low profile among sf authors. This story is a look at the Pygmalion myth taking into account the idea of creativity and ownership as Balthazar creates a golem. His affection for his creation makes him see the golem as a person while still treating the golem as an artifact.

Although "Housecalls" usually brings to mind a doctor visiting a patient, in Jerry Oltion's story, the phrase refers to a couple of drunks visiting Father Murray in the middle of the night when they realize they need help. Rather than being a story of rehabilitation, Oltion's drunks have more in common with the protagonists of such bar stories as the "White Hart" tales of Arthur C. Clarke or the "Gavagan's Bar" stories of Pratt & de Camp. By placing the story in the setting of a confessional, Oltion provides an interesting take on the story and provides a measure of discussion on the role of belief and proof in faith. Alistair Logan's reading makes the priest and his troubles come alive.

"Christmas at the Chushingura Café" is Stephen Dedman's second appearance in Frequency. Tadao Tomomatsu reads this morbid, but humorous tale which mixes a variety of different cultural ideas from Japan, from fugu to sepeku to karaoke, to create the ultimate amateur night. Like "Housecalls," this has many of the ingredients of a traditional bar story, although rather than spin a tall tale, Dedman has the café owner simply relate the history of his rather different establishment.

Cory Doctorow won the John W. Campbell Award for best new author at Chicon 2000. Even with this award and an already impressive body of work behind him, doubtless there are SF readers who are not familiar with him. Stories like "Abbat01r," read here by Alyxx Ian, demonstrate why he won the Campbell. Set in a bar (there seems to be a trend in this volume of Frequency), "Abbat01r" is a meta-cyberpunk tale which is very much aware of the cyberpunk tradition and plays within it while toying with becoming a satire of the genre.

"Chance in Hell" is John B. Rosenman's examination of the immortality which may be offered by the advent of the Internet. Martin Dunn reads the story with the appropriate amount of excitement in his voice. The story, about a woman who finds her dead husband on the Internet also looks at the desires that an artificial intelligence might have. Rosenman's method also is a chance to both get closure and revenge on her dead husband.

David LaFontaine read the first story in volume one of Frequency. His voice is well suited to Bud Sparhawk's "Rate of Change," a story which combines the ideas of instant gratification and an exponentially increasing knowledge base with a bad acid trip. The story is set in a future Washington, D.C. in which the face of the world, both physically, technologically, economically and politically is altered several times over the course of a single day. Although the rate of change in Sparhawk's future seems dizzying, so, too, would the rate of change in our own world seem dizzying to people living just a few centuries ago.

In a time when the cutting edge of publication seems to be web-based, Frequency is taking a bold step in launching an audio format magazine. While the production quality is quite good, the lack of sound effects or background music gives the readings a distracting, sterile quality to them which, it is hoped, the Frequency engineers can overcome.

Volume 3, a special double CD featuring last year's Hugo winners, is scheduled to appear in May, 2001.