This is the final installment of my blogging through the July/August 2014 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, guest-edited by C.C. Finlay. The earlier parts are here, here, and here.
I enjoyed "The Aerophone" by Dinesh Rao, but not as much as I would have liked to have. I love the mixture of different wordls: An Indian scholar, working in Mexico, interacting with indigenous Mexicans, coming in contact with a world beyond ours entirely. But the architecture of the story just didn't work for me. It felt like the beginning of a novel that had just been truncated and an attempt made to pass off as a novelet. In a way a hope that's what it is: All things that I think make it a flawed novelet would make it an excellent chapter 1 of a full-length novel.
I was eventually able to forgive Ian Tregillis for not actually including diagrams in "Testimony of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events Upon His Majesty's Ship Confidence, 14-22 June 1818, With Diagrams" because it's just such an excellent blend of the weird and the nautical (two of my favorite genres). But, considering that the diagrams are mentioned both in the title and the story itself, I'd really love to see a chapbook edition of this that actually included diagrams.
I'm still not entirely sure what to make of "Five Tales of the Aqueduct" by Spencer Ellsworth. It's a cluster of smaller stories that go together to make a larger whole, but I'm afraid I'm still not at all clear on exactly how they fit together. Still, the quality of the individual pieces is such that I don't begrudge it a second reading to try to figure it out.
This issues movie column, "Girl Power in Dystopia" by Kathi Maio, examines the Twilight movies, the Hunger Games movies, Divergent, and other recent cinematic examples of YA heroine's tales - a very nice synthesis of a topic that's certainly worth a bit of thought.
I was looking forward to "Belly" by Haddayr Copley-Woods, as I've been friends with the author for years and she knew I was reading this issue and refusing to skip ahead to her story. For starters, be sure to heed the warning in the biographical blurb at the beginning of this story: Do not read this story while you're eating. That being said, I don't want to give the wrong impression of this story - the disgusting elements aren't added for "mere" shock value. This is a viscerally powerful story (pun intended) and one that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. I challenge anyone to read this story and not have their feelings about fairy tale witches changed.
"The Only Known Law" by William Alexander reminds of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. Leaving your home planet is definitely going to change a species, and Alexander here shows one possible outcome of that change.
Based on the title, I never expected Alaya Dawn Johnson's "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" to be a vampire story. But don't let that description mislead you and if you're the sort of person who doesn't like vampires, don't let that that keep you away from this story: This is not like any other vampire story I've ever read. For that matter, Johnson's vampires are like no other vampires I've ever encountered - she manages to capture the psychological distance between humans and vampires in a way that I've never experienced before (and in a way that, paradoxically, also highlights their psychological closeness). Highly recommended.
So to sum up: Would I recommend July/August 2014 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction? Definitely. Would I recommend Fantasy & Science Fiction in general? Probably. Keep in mind that this is the first issue of F&SF that I've read in over a decade, and that Finlay is a guest editor here. Still, he wouldn't have been invited to guest edit without the approval of the regular editor, so I'm inclined to look positively on the regular editor so long as they don't give me a reason not to. That being said, in the event that the F&SF ever needs a new editor, they could certainly do worse than offer the job to Finlay.