Ideomancer, Volume 4, Issue 3, September 2005

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"7th Period Bayonet Class" by Samuel Minier
"The McMahon Institute for Unquiet Minds" by Tade Thompson
"The Sun’s Kiss" by Yoon Ha Lee

"Virginie and the Fool" by David Schwartz

The September 2005 issue of Ideomancer mixes fantasy with reality and timeliness with timelessness.  The flash story takes us to the past, the science fiction piece—the longest and most creative offering—poses a bleak future, mythology is interwoven in the fantasy piece, and the horror slot takes current events to the extreme.  Each main character questions what it is to live.
Samuel Minier examines the human face of war in the flash opener "7th Period Bayonet Class."  Students are taught to "spot the softness and stick it in" with six inches of safety-sheathed bayonet.  The narrator learns to kill with precision at the deft hands of the instructor and then practices on the woman-partner at the next desk.  The piece instantly immersed me in a sterile rehearsal for the brutal outside world.  In this age of video-game assassination, where we can kill or maim without consequence or guilt, this story captures the fragility of life and the ease with which we take it; for granted or for keeps.

"The McMahon Institute for Unquiet Minds" is a mental institution built in an abandoned church in the heart of a post-nuclear England.  In this science fiction story, Tade Thompson describes The Pit: a radioactive zone within Middle England that attracts people to it "like moths to a flame."  Anslem Bonadventure assists Dr. McMahon (the Institute’s physician) with treating the violent, the catatonic, and the psychotic denizens of an unsafe world.  In one scene, Anslem must pump the bicycle pedals that charge the generator for the electric shock machine.  The tale is told in a non-linear fashion with flashbacks to Anslem’s youth as well as insights into his misplaced affections for a prostitute named Patricia.  When he sneaks his "love" into the Institute for Christmas, he sets off a chain of events that quickly unravel from his grasp.  The dark, poisoned, suffering England painted by Thompson colors the tale with desperation in a thoroughly imagined setting.

Yoon Ha Lee‘s fantasy story matches the style of her recent story "Eating Hearts" in the June issue of F&SF.  Many paragraphs of "The Sun’s Kiss" could be poems themselves.  The queen roams her dark halls and seeks the musician, whose wife she has captured.  She gives the man an ultimatum, a price for his love’s freedom and so the tale follows their negotiations.  Classic mythology instruments like ice, blood, and a mirror play roles in the telling.  In the end, the plot is muddied by the over-descriptive prose.

The horror story, "Virginie and the Fool," is a twisted view on the intimate desires of a weatherman told in a classic macabre format.  David Schwartz mixes Tarot and meteorology as he follows a man’s obsession for violent storms to a supreme climax in a category five hurricane about to hit Charleston.  Considering the post-Katrina conditions in the Southern U.S. this story could offend some readers, but the overall message is unique but universal—the mind-numbing human attraction to the immeasurable power of nature.  After a tentative beginning, the story progresses on a credible path to an eerie conclusion.

Overall, the issue takes speculative fiction in dark, surreal, and mystic directions.