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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Talebones, #28, Summer 2004

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"Ten Sigmas" by Paul Melko
"Fishing the Edge of the World" by Devon Monk
"The Ethics of Nonlinearity" by Steven Mohan, Jr.
"Bluebeard by the Sea" by Sandra McDonald
"The King of Memphis" by David J. Schwartz
"The Gods at Rest" by Jeffrey Turner
"To Crown a Sand Castle Just Right" by T.J. Berg
"Where is the Line" by David D. Levine

ImageThis issue of Talebones represents something of a deviation from the focus on horror that has been its hallmark in the past. Talebones now claims to be a magazine of science fiction and dark fantasy, and so has abandoned the familiar boney typeface on the cover with a more fantastic abstract font and cover art. Regardless of its focus, Talebones is a substantial publication containing eight stories, art, poems, an editorial, letters from readers, an interview, and numerous book reviews. It's an astonishingly high quality product for a small press, and almost across the board I found everything it contained to be very well written and just plain fun to read.

"Ten Sigmas" by Paul Melko
The author says in the foreword that he came upon the idea for "Ten Sigmas" while doing research for a novel. I'm dying to read that novel, because the concept in "Ten Sigmas" is about as well-developed and interesting a short story plot as I have ever come across. The best summary I can give of this plot without ruining it, and you really should read it for yourself, is this: Creation is made up of an infinitum of parallel universes, each one containing every person. There's a you in every universe, there's a me in every universe, and there's one of our protagonist as well. In some universes you no longer exist--something may have happened to you such as an accident, but the other yous in the other universes are unaware of that. Except for our protagonist, that is. He sees and knows all, and is aware of the minute decisions he makes and how they alter the lives of all the different hims. What can he do with such knowledge? What would be the consequences? Fascinating. I'm not going to say another word about it.

"Fishing the Edge of the World" by Devon Monk
The beach supplies such a great backdrop for short stories. Instantaneously we can all be there, the warm sand, the salty air, the sounds of birds and children and surf. A couple, lovers in life, now something else in death, walk the shoreline, watching the life on the beach around them, and collecting the souls of the dead in a bucket as tiny fish. The painful choices they are forced to make in their chores, the regrets that now fill their deaths, are all genuine to us. Though I would have perhaps liked a little more clarity of what exactly their chores are.

"The Ethics of Nonlinearity" by Steven Mohan Jr.
A space expedition comes across an alien society infected with an awful plague. With a wink and a nod to Star Trek's Prime Directive, a priest on board the spaceship tries to decide between free will and god's will. Should they try and use their technology to help, or should the plague be allowed to run its course? I must confess that despite some limited interaction with the aliens early on in the story I never developed a significant sympathy for them, and so couldn't really suffer the dilemma of perhaps allowing 10 or 20 or 30 million of them to die.

"Bluebeard by the Sea" by Sandra McDonald
In what reads almost like a child's parable about wish fulfillment, Bluebeard is the wooden façade of the fun house at Coney Island (which I believe was destroyed during a hurricane in the 50's, but I could be wrong about that) given sentience. It believes that it is the real Bluebeard, and is perplexed by its inability to get to the water that is right in front of him across the pier. Bluebeard the pirate belongs on the oceans! Only the animals can hear its thoughts until a homeless boy comes along. Can he help? The author brings such a fulfilling realism to Bluebeard that in my head I could heard the creaking of the wood as it spoke; its single-minded yearning for the ocean is tangible.

"The King of Memphis" by David J. Schwartz
Let me begin by saying that I'm not an Elvis fan. While I appreciate his contribution to rock and roll overall, I've always felt his presentation to be almost a self-parody, and considering that he's been dead about two decades now I'm perplexed by the people who still line up in front of his home to this day. It comes as no surprise then that I missed the point of this story in which Elvis is somehow empowered by the Egyptian gods to entertain people. I also thought that the style in which it is written, jumping around in time to what were considered by the author pivotal moments in Elvis' life and career, to be more disjointed than entertaining.

"The Gods at Rest" by Jeffrey Turner
I can recall dimly from my classical lit classes in college all the shenanigans that the Olympian gods used to be up to, playing tricks on each other like short-sheeting their beds and turning their favorite mortals into goats. "The Gods at Rest" successfully captures some of that whimsy in this story of assorted gods, their competitions, their scheming, their petty jealousies, and the vast havoc that it wreaks on all us little people. As in the old myths, the gods are given human shortcomings and foibles, and it comes together as a quick and crafty story of love and loss.

"To Crown a Sand Castle Just Right" by T. J. Berg
I'm not a parent, and therefore can't exactly grasp the tremendous sorrow of losing a child, especially to something as insidious as cancer, which consumes one of my dogs even as I write this. Our heroine, given just such a death sentence for her child, takes him on a trip to the beach because he wants to see the ocean before he dies (I find it interesting that you never hear about someone who lives on the ocean wanting to see, for example, an endless corn field before they die). She meets an old mystic on the plane who tells her that her son can be cured by eating the flesh of a creature he calls a Serendipity, but there are few of them left, and they are hard to find. This story is beautiful and sad, the ending with just the right amount of bittersweet. If I weren't such a cold-hearted bastard, it might have reduced me to tears.

"Where is the Line" by David D. Levine
The author claims that this is based upon real events, and I suppose that's possible dealing as it does with aura and centering and whatnot. While unemployed the author meets a voodoo priestess living in his neighborhood who channels his spirit or balances his chakra or something of that ilk. It's a tremendously atmospheric story of the brief, intense, sensual but not romantic, relationship that develops between them, though all you're really left with in the end is a vague Twilight Zone-y sort of feeling.