Space & Time, #98, Spring 2004

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"In His Footsteps" by Paul E. Martens
"Scarlet Ribbons" by Tess Collins
"The Rich Man's Ghost" by M. Christian
"Blue and Orange" by Elina Gertsman
"A Catamount Inside the Paling" by Douglas Empringham
"Chazzabryom" by Sherry Decker
"The Zeus Affliction" by William J. Gagnon
"The Devil's Last Dance" by Harley Stroh
"Irrational Space" by Brian Plante

ImageSpace and Time #98 opens with a slight "check-your-mind-at-the-door" piece by Paul E. Martens. "In His Footsteps" details the trials of Keith, whose father has managed to become God (although how is never explained.) When God needs to take some time to visit another solar system, he bestows his powers on Keith, who doesn't particularly want them. Martens follows Keith's tenure as a God-in-training, but the humor of the piece never quite comes together and the moral of the story is somewhat clichéd.

Tess Collins provides a very disturbing look at a father-daughter relationship in "Scarlet Ribbons." This tale of a fisherman and his offspring is a ghastly story which tries, reasonably successfully, to balance the horror of having a child and understanding the child's nature with familial desire. The characters don't quite come alive, but the sense of doom which pervades the tale more than makes up for it.

Several of the stories in this issue of Space and Time are over-written, including "The Rich Man's Ghost" by M. Christian. This is a cybertale which is given the formality of a Japanese court legend and the casualness of a folk legend with the result that the tone never quite works. Added to the mix are occasional moments of humor which completely clash with both of the styles Christian employs, and the result is a story which never connects with the reader.

Elina Gertsman's "Blue and Orange" is something of a forgettable story set in a small village which appears as a strange mix of modern and traditional European. It is a ghost story of a small town in which no-one who comes there is ever able to leave. While Gertsman successfully creates a strange world in this village with blue peaches, she is unfortunately not able to give her characters or the setting the quirkiness which is necessary to really grab the reader's interest.

Douglas Empringham is another author who has over-written his story, "A Catamount Inside the Paling," for this issue. A medievalesque tale of servants and ladies in waiting, Empringham has created several characters who have interesting features, but none of whom come completely alive due to the distancing quality of the language Empringham has elected to use in the telling of his tale.

After the stylistic extravagances of earlier stories in this issue, the relative sparseness of "Chazzabryom" by Sherry Decker comes as a welcome change of pace. This story of a journalistic and a serial killer is reminiscent, in both its darkness and its style, of Harlan Ellison's horrific "Mefisto in Onyx." Her killer is a strange mix of horrific and sympathetic, gaining in horror as Decker's journalist, Mitchella, and the reader grow to know more about Fenmore Gregorson's situation. Although the ending of the story is somewhat telegraphed to the reader, the style of the story manages to retain the reader's interest until the last word.

"The Zeus Affliction" is William J. Gagnon's tale of a man, Edmond Duchamps, who must deal with a strange attraction he has for lightning. The story is set sometime after the twelfth time Gagnon has been struck, and although there are elements in the story which could have been handled humorous, Gagnon does an excellent job of avoiding humor in order to look at the problems of a man who wants to live an ordinary life while fearing that he may bring disaster on those who are near to him.

The complex society dances of Europe are the setting for Harley Stroh's "The Devil's Last Dance," which creates the most complex society/folk dance in history and then demonstrates its simplicity by merely making it the background for the human courtship rite. While Stroh quickly grabs the reader's attention with the complexities of the dance, he just as quickly converts this interest into the relationship between Marquis Sabastien du Paix and Lady Fiora, a newcomer to both the nobility and the dance.

Brian Plante presents an interesting idea in "Irrational Space" in which a ship's pilot must give up his corporeal body in order to guide a space ship. Although this sort of thing has been done before, Plante handles it well, creating a situation in which minds tied to bodies tend to suffer from a form of dementia when passing through irrational space. Although Plante's pilot, David, appears reasonably sane, he is also the narrator, and the reader must question David's own rationality and how he interacts with the more afflicted people around him.