The Revelator, Volume 136, Number 1 (October 2011)
“Gaslight” by Jeffrey Ford
“Nick Kaufmann, Last of the Red Hot Superwhores” by Nick Mamatas
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
It was with great pleasure that your humble reviewer discovered that the well-known purveyor of fiction, fancy, and fact, The Revelator, has, after 136 years of a checkered but often exciting existence, made the decision to make its contents available on the Internet for all and sundry (on a tentative annual schedule). Messrs. Mathew Cheney and Eric Schaller, the editors of this esteemed publication, have transferred the sensibility that has been part of the magazine’s best-selling appeal to this new technology and promise to publish the best in scientific romance and horror. The website includes a plethora of the features we have come to expect from its long history, including comic panels, factual accounts of modern life, fiction that promises to show modern wonders, as well as a reprint from the journal’s very first issue of an exciting account of the attempted robbery of the Northfield Minnesota Bank by the infamous Jesse James/Cole Younger Gang.
This correspondent delights at the conceit behind the magazine, yet wishes there were more consistency. It was disappointing, for instance, that the list of back issues does not include anything from the first century of the esteemed magazine’s history, almost as though they never truly existed, nor, despite the 19th Century trappings, does all the work necessarily match the conception.
Two fiction works appear in the venue. Mr. Jeffrey Ford contributes “Gaslight,” a story that has a natural connexion with the theme of the magazine, describing the period that gave it its birth and glory days before the 19th century turned into the 20th. It is a story set in an upper class men’s club, where Matterson tells a chilling tale of a mysterious and deadly child. The story is (literally) punctuated by descriptions of Matterson passing gas, which becomes a second subplot that subsumes the first. Your humble reviewer does not think highly of jokes about flatulence, and found much of it tiresome, while the deadly child is more akin to a concept for a story rather than one itself, and is more unpleasant than frightening.
The second tale is Mr. Nick Mamatas‘s “Nick Kaufmann, Last of the Red Hot Superwhores,” in which the the title character is being interviewed about his career. It is set in a future where mechanical sex robots have gained sentience, and where Mr. Kaufmann gains notoriety as a “Superwhore” by his ability to copulate with them until they break apart. Many concepts are touched upon, but the story seemed mostly concerned with the ability to shock with frank talk about subjects that are not proper for polite society. While some of the incidents described are bawdy and risible, it does not seem to cohere as a story.
While both stories are skillfully wrought, they seem more designed to shock than to illuminate. Your humble reviewer wonders why the magazine seems so enamored of the 19th century yet publishes stories that do not match its persona in the slightest.