Son and Foe, #1

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“The Reading Lessons” by Carole Lanham
“The Man Who Knew Somebody” by Paul E. Martens
“Continent” by Paul G. Tremblay
“The Alien and the Tree” by Megan Crewe
“When the Great Clod Belches” by Robert Burke Richardson      
“Super Villains” by Michael Canfield
“An Eye for an Eye” by Janelle Turgeon
“On the Settling of Ancient Scores” by Ken Scholes
“Steppin’ Out, Summer, ‘68” by Joe R. Lansdale
“A Change of Character” by Gavin Inglis
“Sailing off the Edge of the World” by Bruce Boston
“Critterworld” by Steve Watkins
 “Bonneville” by Timons Esaias
“One More Kill” by Matt Hughes
“Timely Seduction” by Mike Wilson
“In Which an Angel Offers Instruction on the Meaning of
Life” by Ray Vukcevich
“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by Von Carr
“Real People Slash” by Nick Mamatas
“First Draft Theater Presents: Pulp Fiction” by Pete Butler
“For the Fairest” by Marie Brennan
“A Buildup of Days” by Tina Connolly
“A Saucer of Loneliness” by Theodore Sturgeon
“Bianca’s Hands” by Theodore Sturgeon

“Mr. Costello, Hero” by Theodore Sturgeon          

Son and Foe
(an electronic journal of art and literature), a brand-new E-magazine, presents an eclectic collection with something for everyone, and all of it quality writing.  You can sample the stories online or download a PDF of the entire magazine for a reasonable price.  The magazine covers a broad spectrum, including but not restricted to fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  The premier issue offers a banquet of two dozen stories in varying lengths, in addition to poetry, music reviews, and a couple of short movies.

Many years ago, when the world and I were both more innocent, I attended a performance of Maxwell Anderson’s “The Bad Seed” and remember being shaken by the concept of an innately evil child.   Carole Lanham’s “The Reading Lessons” evokes a similarly chilling response, as Lucinda introduces her willing victim Hadley to a new twist in literary explorations.  They begin, prosaically enough, by sharing the “naughty bits” in Lucinda’s books.  Hoping to retain and perhaps escalate Lucinda’s interest, a mesmerized Hadley seeks ever more thrilling books to share.  Reading can be hazardous to your health; I’m afraid Hadley may not survive the next one.

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Paul E. Martens expounds on the joys and hazards of basking in reflected glory, in “The Man Who Knew Somebody.”  It almost makes me glad I don’t know any famous people; I couldn’t face the withdrawal when the friendship ended.  Writers, fortunately, don’t count: “who remembers writers?”

“Continent” by Paul G. Tremblay, if I understand it correctly, is a cautionary tale, a brief prophetic look at the post-global-warming world, in which man has perished but his garbage remains forever.  It’s not a very encouraging picture.
“The Alien and the Tree” by Megan Crewe is a charming love story.  Despite obvious (to us) communication problems, the alien finds that love gives him the courage to be himself.
“When the Great Clod Belches” by Robert Burke Richardson unfortunately went right over my head.  Surrealism often does that to me.  It does present some intriguing visual images, but the overall effect was like watching someone else’s dream.  I don’t understand a lot of Kafka’s stuff either, so this is not necessarily a reflection on either the author or the story, just an admission that I couldn’t quite connect with it.  Check it out and draw your own conclusions.
“Super Villains” by Michael Canfield is a fun read.  Superhero Wing, a.k.a. billionaire playboy and media magnate Lang Lofton, has run out of super-villains to battle and is going into politics.  Ginny Flynn, who has been left at the altar by both Wing and Lang, is growing desperate.  What’s a girl to do when her 60-year romance is fizzling?  Bury herself in her work?  Seduce paroled super-villain Archetype?  Or maybe there’s a way to put the spark back in her old relationship.  Diamonds really are a girl’s best friend.
“An Eye for an Eye” by Janelle Turgeon deals with rebelling body parts.  In this whimsical tale of good eyes gone bad, she offers an original excuse for dropping your health regimen.
“On the Settling of Ancient Scores” by Ken Scholes reminded me of the ’60s, when so many of my fellow students thought that eliminating religion would solve the world’s problems. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember.)  While I don’t buy into it theologically or philosophically, it does raise questions on the nature of good and evil that perhaps should be re-examined every decade or so.  The story runs along smoothly, although I found the ending a bit abrupt—but maybe it had to be.
“Steppin’ Out, Summer, ‘68” by Joe R. Lansdale tells of three young good-old-boys in training, out to have a little fun, but matters get out of hand.  I won’t try to describe the mayhem that ensues, but it includes flaming hair tonic, an alligator, and a handy pile of shop creepers.  Whether you find this story outrageous, offensive, uproariously funny or all three at once, you won’t find it boring.
In “A Change of Character” by Gavin Inglis we meet Roland, a role-playing game enthusiast, who burns all his bridges for a new life in the real world.  The transition is a painful one.
In “Sailing off the Edge of the World” by Bruce Boston, an aging professor, trapped in obscurity, dreams of the past and adventures that might have been.  Like T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock, he has settled into a life of routine, but still yearns to hear the mermaids sing.
“Critterworld” by Steve Watkins takes place in a small town in Florida at a small roadside “zoo” which is more of a freak show.  Narrator Charley, eighth-grade math whiz and self-professed nerd, offers some keen observations of human behavior as he learns about life, love, and elephants.  
“Bonneville” by Timons Esaias might qualify as science fiction, although I think more likely it would be considered a “tall tale.”  Whatever you call it, once you get your mind around the notion of repairing the sound barrier by draining liquid electricity out of the sky, the story is told in a manner that makes it seem quite plausible.  Hmm, I wonder what would really happen if you could spread out a conductive netting over fifty miles of the Bonneville salt flats, and raise it up to a height of thirty-five miles or so?  
“One More Kill” by Matt Hughes is a riveting tale of intrigue and betrayal.  In this crime story, winner of the coveted Arthur Ellis award, Doctor Anselm recruits terminal patients with military backgrounds to administer justice by executing criminals who have managed to escape the law.  “The most difficult killing to solve is the killing by a stranger who has no discernible motive.”  That turns out to be true, and justice is done, although not quite the way the doctor had intended.

“Timely Seduction” by Mike Wilson also deals with crime and betrayal, plus a visit from Lady Luck.  “Every now and again, things have a way of just working themselves out. And the best thing to do is simply stand back and let it happen. The trick is being smart enough to know when that is.”  Good advice.  Again justice prevails.

“In Which an Angel Offers Instruction on the Meaning of Life” by Ray Vukcevich is, as suggested by the title, about a heavenly visitation.  That the angel is a winged reptile and Stanley currently in the form of a seven-headed dog in no way invalidates the message.  The author offers some sound advice, in an entertaining, unorthodox package.

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by Von Carr re-visits the old tales of a mysterious spouse whose face must never be seen.  “In the fairy tales, the hero always looked.”  But what if he didn’t?

“Real People Slash” by Nick Mamatas begins with the political/social activities of students and recent graduates: socialists and anarchists, gleefully rioting and always ready to protest anything.  Somehow the author carries us from there, through paranoia and out the other side, to the realization that we are all puppets of an alien civilization and he is the last true human on earth.  Is he right?  If I were an agent of Lovecraft’s Mi-Go would I admit it?  It’s all fiction, dear human.  The ravings of a madman, but entertaining nonetheless.
“First Draft Theater Presents: Pulp Fiction” by Pete Butler retains Tarantino’s “R” rating for language and violence.  Those familiar with Pulp Fiction may recognize the parodied lines in this short scene, as Jules wrestles with a moral dilemma.  The clueless (like me, before I looked it up) can still appreciate the metaphors.
“For the Fairest” by Marie Brennan suggests an alternative outcome to the myth of the golden apple.  What affect this might have had on history, the reader is left to speculate for himself.

“A Buildup of Days” by Tina Connolly is a science fiction story, looking ahead to a future society even more youth-obsessed than our own, but one which has found a way for the wealthy, at least, to dump their excess days on the less-affluent.  But it’s also a love story.  A man will do anything, risk anything, for love.

“A Saucer of Loneliness” by Theodore Sturgeon presents a very convincing picture of how our authorities might treat someone who received a message from outer space and refused to share it.  The real message, though, is “that even to loneliness there is an end, for those who are lonely enough, long enough.”  It’s a beautiful, moving story ending on a hopeful note.
“Bianca’s Hands” by Theodore Sturgeon is a different sort of love/horror story.  For Ran, it’s love at first sight.  He adores not Bianca, who is a drooling idiot, but her beautiful hands, which seem to have a life of their own.  He courts the hands, marries them, and then…

“Mr. Costello, Hero” by Theodore Sturgeon is a chilling commentary on the gullibility of humans in general, and the ease with which they can be led to distrust one another.  It’s as timely today as when it was written.

There are far too many excellent stories here for me to even attempt to pick a favorite.  I can only say that, with such an auspicious beginning, Son and Foe will have quite a challenge putting together a second issue as good as the first.