Dark Regions, #15, Winter/Spring 2001

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"Smoke" by Charlee Jacob
"Another George" by Sarah A. Hoyt
"Lavender's Blues" by Brian Plante
"Across Melancholy Waters" by Jack Fisher
"Almera" by Frank Andreotti
"Depression Seance" by Bruce Boston
"Where They Go To Die" by Adam Perrone

Dark Regions has gone through some changes recently, moving from four issues a year to an irregular schedule (once or twice per year), and lopping off the "Horror" part of its name. Thankfully, the quality of this publication has not suffered, as the current issue shows. We have six short stories, a novelette, plus a number of poems and columns. As you would expect, I found the fiction to be a mixed bag.

"Smoke" by Charlee Jacob is a thought provoking, but meandering tale. Fatima is a middle eastern scientist after the last great Arab/Israeli conflict. Nuclear and biological weapons were used, and the survivors respond with a religious pogrom that is like no other. Couple this with computer science and biotechnology, and you have a repressive regime that makes Orwell's world in 1984 look idyllic. And so the question is, is life worth living for anyone?

"Another George" by Sarah A. Hoyt is an odd tale that blends fantasy elements regarding dragons and sf elements regarding alien invasions. George is a dragon/human hybrid who is drawn to a female dragon like the black widow male is drawn to the female. In the process we learn that George's ancestors were aliens who could mimic the host race perfectly, and so exploit them. This was an exciting tale, but was flawed with several logic glitches that distracted.

"Lavender's Blues" by Brian Plante is a futuristic version of Oliver Twist, set in the corridors of the high rise slums of the next half century. Our protagonist is a minor who sells his body to any and all at the behest of his protector/pimp. But the halls he must traverse are controlled by a particularly nasty youth gang, and their leader has taken a special dislike to this boy. Enter an automated, mobile vending machine named Lavender. It is intelligent, and takes a liking to this young man when he prevents the gang from stealing from it. From there, salvation for the boy flows.

"Across Melancholy Waters" by Jack Fisher is a wonderful tale reminiscent of Peter Pan, but with a much darker setting. A fairy steals the children from grandmother as she is baby-sitting, and delivers them to a nightmare world ruled by a beast. They are to become its servants forever. But grandma had her brush with this evil world, and is able to travel there on a rescue mission. Still, she is much older and weaker now. Can she succeed?

"Almera" by Frank Andreotti is a straight-up sword and sorcery tale, but with a female protagonist. Almera is the sole child of the King and Queen, but has been raised in a liberal style. Now she wishes to go questing for adventure like most any prince would. Her parents bow to the inevitable, but send her with their strongest warrior. And so the adventure goes, wherein she learns of life. A well written, if predictable, tale.

"Depression Seance," a novelette by Bruce Boston, is an overlong tale set in the depression era. Our hero is a third grader whose teacher turns out to be a gypsy medium. This becomes an important point because the young man's father is searching for his dead mother's jewelry box, a small fortune for this impoverished family. And so a seance is arranged by father so he can question his mother about the missing wealth, over the bitter objections of his straight-laced wife. But things go wrong, leading to a comical ending. Overall, this would be a fine tale at half the length. As a novelette, it was a long journey for the punch line.

Last, and best, is "Where They Go To Die" by Adam Perrone. If you knew your day to die was coming, where would you choose to be at that last moment? Taking it a step further, what if the place where many choose was in your backyard? How would you deal with finding a succession of corpses resting peacefully just outside your back door? The author's thoughts on this were enlightening and entertaining. Overall, I was well pleased with this issue.

Jim Reichert has been a reviewer for Tangent for the last year on such periodicals as Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Odyssey and Talebones, Dragon, Weird Tales and Space & Time. He's a government lawyer specializing in the field of child abuse prosecutions, and lives with his wife and family in a rural area of southern Delaware. He's been an avid fan of speculative fiction all his life, and has been writing short stories and novels for 5-10 years on a sporadic basis. His first fiction was published last June in the e-zine Dark Matter Chronicles.