"The Toll" by Paul Walther
"Above the Capitans, South of Corona, Near Arroyo Del Macho" by A. R. Morlan
"Speaking in Air" by Mark Rich
"The Pentacles of Their Hands" by Charlee Jacob
"A Son of the Revolution" by Jan Wildt
New Genre is a new small press outlet, about to release its second issue. The magazine is modeled after mainstream literary journals, with production values, formatting and editorial style that set a very high standard in genre markets. New Genre covers both horror and science fiction, with a different editor for each. This first issue opens with brief essays from them, Adam Golaski on "Horror Fiction Misconceptions" and "Learning From Science Fiction" by Jeff Paris. Golaski and Paris are new editors, blazing a glorious path with this magazine. My literary idols include Gene Wolfe and Chip Delany — New Genre is a noble experiment in style-driven fiction that lights brightly the rooms those two grand masters built in my reading heart. If New Genre prospers, it will be a very important publication. Buy a copy and vote with your eyes.
This first volume opens with Paul Walther's story "The Toll." Mary Joan Schmitt is a summer lifeguard at the municipal beach on Pine Lake somewhere in the Northeast. Bohanan is the town ne'er do well, digger of graves and keeper of the memories of death. Ageless and timeless, Bo spends his summers on the beach, copping feels and getting a tan. Mary quizzes Bo about poisonings, accidents — drownings. Mary sees things in the waves, things she believes to be artifacts of her bad eyesight. On this last day of summer, Bo points out a drowning child. Mary's mistake is believing him and braving the imaginary things in the water. Walther's story has the literary style of mid-century American fiction, with a Lovecraftian heart. He builds a middle class life on the beach in short, sharp strokes, then dissolves it in mists of history and curtains of bubbling air. "The Toll" is a classic chiller, told in a classic vernacular, with a very modern sensibility.
A. R. Morlan has appeared repeatedly in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Her appearance in New Genre is "Above the Capitans, South of Corona, Near Arroyo Del Macho." This story is a different take on the Roswell crash, from a peripheral perspective. Morlan employs an unusual narrative device to unfold the story — a deathbed prison interview being surreptitiously taped on behalf of government agents. Eduard Addison, professor of archaeology, rots in Federal prison, dying of AIDS, having been convicted of serious national security violations for concealing debris from the crash. Morlan builds her tale in layers of monolog and reflection, in a subtly drawn atmosphere of oppression and fear. Addison's crime, in the end, has been to sympathize with the truly alien, empathize with the unknowable. This finely crafted story's conclusion is surprising, appropriate and profoundly compassionate.
"Speaking in Air" by Mark Rich is a tale told in a different vernacular — a nineteenth century world modeled on Renaissance Italy with a fantastic kingdom of the dead, Sergillon. Except the dead of Sergillon are not dead, merely decapitated and otherwise doing quite well. Rich writes in the style of the time, an ornate Gothic diction that is compellingly suited to the setting and themes. The narrator, a skilled spy, is surprised and beheaded, finding his way to Sergillon where the gelid air thickens into a new body for him. Even as he fits in the society of Sergillon, the narrator has an understandable need for vengeance upon his killer, of whom he suspects political motives. Rich's command of prose style and clever details provide firm ground for an improbable setting and plot that becomes natural. This piece can be read as allegory or as "sensawunda" fiction — it works equally well on both levels.
When there is war in heaven, the innocent suffer. Charlee Jacob's story "The Pentacles of Their Hands" is a chilling tale of suffering, hallucination and the deaths of angels — reminiscent of the Ophanim, or Thrones of God. Wendy, married for twenty years to Pete, an emasculated war veteran, finds peace from her violently abusive past in their sexless marriage. Until she follows him into town one night. In the woods, on the beaches, in the fields of their recently-purchased farm house, Wendy finds lost boys and worse. Glacially slow Armageddon rendered as emotional collapse, this story sowed a chilling harvest in the fields of my heart. You will dream of this.
Jan Wildt's "A Son of the Revolution" is an opaque story. Wildt teaches you how to read it, slowly. This is the least accessible story in this issue of New Genre, and not the most powerful, but it has a unique and brutal grace. This is a story of time travel, psi warfare, presidents from Wilson to Slick Willie, but most of all, Lieutenant Walter Metcalf's fall down a corrosive, convoluted rabbit hole. I was reminded of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, writ upon a no-time cyberpunk scaffold owing much to Haldeman and Heinlein. Wildt rises above these comparisons with his austere, gripping style. His story rewards careful reading.
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and their books. He has one of those nebulous New Economy jobs that doubtless qualifies him to review speculative fiction. Jay attempts on a regular basis to commit fiction himself with Wordos, the Eugene Professional Writers' Workshop, and recently made his first professional sale to The Bones of the World anthology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.