"Elvis is Dead" by Sarah de Forest
"One Last Look at a Half Moon" by Chris Butler
"The Olivia Reunion Party" by Philip Raines and Harvey Welles
"The Barber" by Sam Millar
Albedo One is from Ireland, where there is a healthy if modestly-sized fiction scene, this being a healthy if modestly-sized fiction zine. It has a certain charming loopiness of type design and layout reminiscent of Pagemaker output from the early 1990's, but the stories certainly are strong. There is no detectable editorial credit, although the magazine certainly has a voice — nonfiction features include a terrific interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, a quirky comic strip and the usual chorus of reviews. Enjoy it if you can find it.
Issue 25 leads off with "Elvis is Dead" by Sarah de Forest. This is a sort of low-rent noire-whacko detective story, a sub-sub-genre that has proliferated in recent years, though thankfully free of the terrible puns that often sneak into these stories. De Forest plays fair with her noire-whacko premise, which is of a world populated by Elvis clones who are being whacked one by one in an apparently coincidental but statistically significant fashion. Not only that, but she plays fair with biology in her rubber science — this isn't an army of Elvis look-alikes, but a whole range of clones from the unfortunate hirsute teddy bear Elvis to the mob boss Elvis — nurture triumphing over Nature. You might say this story is about Nature's revenge. There's some interesting science fiction lurking in the gonzo fur of this story.
Chris Butler's "One Last Look at a Half Moon" could readily have graced the pages of such UK stalwarts as The Third Alternative or Spectrum. It's got that over-the-Atlantic sensibility that rarely plays well in American fiction markets, of a world run down and a sense of inevitable failure, cloaked in a strong but controlled stylistic voice. This is a graceful story of a death, woven through with some information science and some good old fashioned unrequited longing, and it rewards a gentle reading.
I found "The Olivia Reunion Party" the toughest sledding in this issue, although still an interesting read. A trans-Atlantic collaboration from Philip Raines and Harvey Welles, this is the story of a group of sisters having a wake for their eldest sib. There is a subtle current here I can't quite decipher — clone clutches, or many-worlds theorizing, or some wild form of dissociative personality disorder — that makes this story a very odd and distant homage to "By His Bootstraps." Or maybe the story is just what it says it is — a family in pain, and a definitive explication of what puts the "fun" back in dysfunctional.
The last story in this issue of Albedo One is "The Barber" by Sam Millar. This is very nicely written, with some horrifying moments and some tightly detailed descriptive prose that can make even something as simple as hair clippings almost horrific, but it suffers from a lack of surprise at the end. I loved the set-up, I loved the story, and I wish Millar had pulled a more unusual rabbit out of his hat at the end.
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and their books. He is co-fiction editor of the Polyphony anthology series from Wheatland Press. In 2003, his fiction will appear in As of Yet Untitled, Frequency, Hour of Pain, Leviathan 4, Redsine, and as a monthly series at Strange Horizons, among other venues. He also has a microfiction blog at http://storyword.blogger.com. Jay can be reached at email@example.com.