Ideomancer, Volume 5, Issue 1, March 2006

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"Murder in Candy Land" by Wade Albert White
"Perfect Freak" by E. N. Wilson  
"Chasing the Sun" by Mark P. Morehead
"Be Thee Like Children" by Samuel Minier

The March 2006 issue of Ideomancer studies the nature of obsession.  From beauty to freedom and from sugar to religion, the stories display the human need for the one thing that will make an individual feel whole.

"Murder in Candy Land" by Wade Albert White is a parody of fairy tales and private eyes all squished into one package.  When Goldie Locks hires Mr. Grimm to protect her from "some two-bit thugs known as the Ursa Triad" the cards spill onto the table exposing White’s intentions to play the bluffing hand.  My favorite character is The Nose—I couldn’t shake a Dreamworks image of the little guy from my head.  This story has some classic lines, including "Bo Peep might not have known where her sheep were, but I had my suspicions."  It does veer into the ridiculous a couple of times, a pitfall of this sub-genre.  The voice is consistent and the jokes plentiful, providing a quick and amusing read.

E.N. Wilson asks, "If everyone looks perfect and identical, how does anyone distinguish themselves from the crowd?"  "Perfect Freaks" are the companions to beautiful people, the status symbols that the surgically flawless use to set themselves apart from their neighbors.  One of the subtleties in this story is that none of the main characters are named.  Only the dwarves, the bearded lady, the freaks are named.  The trendy topic of unbounded plastic surgery seems to be popping up all over science fiction lately, from David Ira Cleary‘s "The Kewlest Thing of all" in the March issue of Asimov’s to Scott Westerfeld‘s "Uglies" and "Pretties" YA novels.  Wilson puts a fresh spin on the concept by focusing not on people who choose to be ugly, but on people who’ll never fit the norm.

Slave miners-turned-gladiators battle to free themselves in "Chasing the Sun" by Mark P. Morehead.  One hundred wins buys a pass out of the mine, a chance to see the sun and the sky, yet no one in the current fighter’s living memory has survived that many encounters.  For his ninety-ninth battle, the overseers pit the protagonist against a young boy with guts and determination.  Morehead weaves background and detail into the story as the fight progresses, giving a sense of the arena, the culture, and the people populating his world.  Though the ending is somewhat predictable, it still satisfies.  With plenty of action and human despair, this story is for lovers of fight-for-your-life drama.

The most thought-provoking offering in the issue is Samuel Minier‘s "Be Thee Like Children."  Gary’s father, Frank, has dementia.  But when Frank’s body starts to swell to Cherub, Gary and his wife Amy find themselves the centre of the small Ohio town’s love and admiration.  Gary puts his huge father in the bed of his pickup truck and drives him to the church where Pastor Hershel and the congregation wait to worship their new gift from God.  Minier takes a hard look at society’s obsession with the pureness and innocence of babies and our equation of youth with purity.  Gary sees through the facade, viewing his father as "a retarded puppy" in whom cuteness has been forced on the body of a withered old man.  The unexpected ending lobs an extra level of surrealism onto this grim tale.

Overall, this issue paints a landscape of human fixation with a palette of light and dark moments.