Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 2004

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"Fog" by Jack Cady
"Virgin Wings" by Sydney J. Van Scyoc
"The Bad Hamburger" by Matthew Jarpe and Jonathan Andrew Sheen
"The Name of the Sphinx" by Albert E. Cowdrey
"Walter and the Wonderful Watch" by John Morressy
"Christmas in the Catskills" by Michael Libling

ImageJack Cady is perhaps best known for his 1993 Nebula Award-winning novella "The Night We Buried Road Dog." Cady, who began publishing in 1970 with the story "Ride the Thunder" (F&SF, 1/70) returns to the pages of that magazine which what is reported to be his last story, "Fog," for Cady died on January 14, 2004. Set in a rural setting, "Fog" is an evocative piece about hatred and racism. Cady manages to mesh the atmosphere of his setting with the ghostly aspects of the tale in a manner which grips the reader throughout, providing a powerful opening for this issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a powerful swan song to Cady's career.

For many readers, Sydney J. Van Scyoc's name will be as unknown as a first time author, yet she was as much a part of the growth of female writers in the 1960s as Ursula Le Guin or Joanna Russ. Van Scyoc, for various reasons, has not written much over the last few decades, but returns to the pages of F&SF with "Virgin Wings," a story which at first appears fantasy, but quickly reveals itself to be science fiction. Although its tone is quite different, its message about nonconformity is similar in many ways to Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron."

"The Bad Hamburger" by Matthew Jarpe and Jonathan Andrew Sheen is a sort of police procedural that at the same time returns to the roots of science fiction. Jarpe and Sheen postulate a world in which AIs have existed for only a few years. The authors use this arrangement to examine how new situations come up which have analogies in existing law, but where those laws don't necessarily apply. The authors have created an intriguing world which leaves the reader wanting to learn more.

Albert E. Cowdrey takes the reasonably unusual step of writing "The Name of the Sphinx" in the first person; however, since he seems to be looking for a detective noir feel for this occult story of New Orleans, the choice is appropriate. Cowdrey doesn't quite manage to get the mix between private eye story and occult tale correct, and the story suffers for confusion of atmosphere. The characters, however, have good interactions with each other and Cowdrey's depiction of the title creature is interesting.

"Walter and the Wonderful Watch," is an entertaining fable by John Morressy about a young boy with more relatives than he knows what to do with who goes out into the world armed only with a watch to seek his fortune. This latter day Dick Whittington goes to the royal city and learns the importance of making the most of his time when he gets to meet the king.

Every December, the various science fiction magazines run stories about Christmas. This year's F&SF entry is Michael Libling's "Christmas in the Catskills." While this starts out as a tale of a couple getting lost in a snowstorm in the Catskills, it quickly changes and doesn't have the holiday charm the title would suggest. Libling does a good job of recreating the feeling of the television show The Twilight Zone in print and his explanations for the strangeness that abounds are timed perfectly.