Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #48 was uploaded to the world on May 1, 2021! We’ve got a full compliment, three short stories, three poems, art and audio!
Intrigue in Aviene, by Steve Dilks, Hardened mercenary Bohun of Damzullah, finds himself between wars and trying to get by in the great city of Aviene. But even in peaceful times, there are plots and dangers aplenty.
King Yvorian’s Wager, a classic reprint by Darrell Schweizter, Young king Yvorian is swept up into the games of the gods, and of that most mysterious and dangerous god, Rada Vatu.
A Night in the Witherlands, by Daniel Stride, with artwork by Simon Walpole, Manfred is hired to guard a merchant and his wares through the mysterious wasteland known as the witherlands. The ghosts of the witherlands have different plans for them both.
Inherit the Stars (Del Rey, 1990 reprint). Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet
James P. Hogan’s Giant’sTrilogy has been a presence at my parents’ house since the late 70s. Sometimes on the shelf, sometimes on the coffee table, sometimes on the end table. I had to move my mom into assisted living last year and in sorting the books (oh, the books!) into ‘take with her,’ ‘move on,’ and ‘keep for myself,’ I gently slipped them into the ‘keep for myself’ pile, and now, two years later, I have started to read them.
Inherit the Stars is very much a book of its time, and its time is 1976. My views are split: the ideas that make up the book are very good, but the actual story? Dull. There is no real tension, no villain (more on this later), no real action. Nobody’s spacesuit ruptures, nobody’s virgin-launch spaceship has a glitch. This is a book about ideas and that’s it. I sometimes got an image in my mind of Isaac Asimov reading Inherit the Stars and having to light up a post-idea cigarette.
As frequent readers of my reviews will know, I have very little desire to write spoiler-free reviews of 44-year-old books. New readers, be warned.
Amazing Stories, November 1989. Cover by Janet Aulisio
An unexpected issue came up during my reading of the November, 1989 Amazing Stories. In 1979 I was 10 years old, and I barely remember being 10 years old. In 1989 I was 20, and I remember being 20; maybe not 100%, but I remember enough. In fact, I remember enough to know what 20-year-old me (20YOM) would think of the stories in the November, 1989 cadre. Sometimes, 20YOM’s views conflicts with 51-year-old-me (51YOM). So there are times I am literally of two minds!
We let Heroic Fantasy Quarterly loose on a chaotic world on January 31st. We’ve got a full compliment of stories and poems, including:
The Medallion’s Song, by Ginny Patrick, with artwork by Karolina Wellartova. Having been gifted a mysterious amulet by her imperious owner, young Serena is on the run, trying to get the funds to hitch a ride on a caravan out of town. But Macaea City has more than its share of dangers, and Serena has more than her own share of secrets.
With the 1969 and 1979 magazines behind me I prepare to delve into 1989. A problem with the decadal review is that, well, it comes in decade intervals. I was 10 years old in 1979, but in 1989 I was a well-seasoned 20. The answers? I had them. In the intervening decade I had gotten a car, a job, started taekwondo, finished high school, and was deep into college.
Unlike 10-year-old me, 20-year-old me had a full handle on SF/F in popular culture. In fact, the 80s were a watershed decade for SF/F — the promise of green screen special effects and the progress of practical effects really come to fruition in the 80s. Television was more hit and miss, but the decade that started with The Phoenix, progressed through V and Knight Rider and ended with Star Trek: The Next Generation. What started with Adventure Atari 2600 ended with Wizardry and The Bard’s Tale. I discovered Dungeons and Dragons in 1982 and never looked back. My awareness of SF/F books started with Asimov’s juveniles Lucky Starr through Andre Norton and C.J. Cherryh and into Tolkien, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame and the discovery of REH, Fritz Lieber, Richard and Wendy Pini (which ties into the first round of graphic novels into the public imagination).
I would put Analog at the top of the list, solid stories — especially Mark McGarry’s “Phoenix,” Clifford D. Simak’s The Visitors installment (a ‘part two’ that stands on its own) and Kevin O’Donnell Jr’s “Old Friends” — interesting science articles and a pleasantly rambling book review section, these more than make up for the uninspiring editorial.
A close second would be Asimov’s, which swings hard with fiction, especially Kevin O’Donnell Jr’s “The Raindrop’s Role,” “Furlough” by Skip Wall, “The Fare” by Sherri Roth, and “Gift of a Useless Man” Alan Dean Foster.
I will admit that I was very nervous about delving into Omni Magazine. For years, decades! I’ve heard people talk about Omni in breathless tones of awe! Yet I knew very little about it. Not to say that it was entirely unknown to me; I have distinct memories, back in like 1983, of being at the doctor’s office and they had several issues of Omni in the waiting room. I even flipped through some of them. Here is what I remember:
Omni Magazine was owned by Bob Guiccione, who also owned PenthouseMagazine, and Omni was full of ads for Penthouse. Like it should have come with a little placard that gave you instructions on how to rent a PO box and a chart where you could tick off the years/months until you turned 18 and could get a subscription to Penthouse… ahem… not that I ever did anything like that myself.
The November 1979 Omni was remarkably free from ads for Penthouse, so maybe it was a mid-80s thing?
Another thing that gave me pause about Omni was that it was huge! Not the four by six of the pulps, and not the ¼ inch thick Galileo, either. There is no other way to say it, Omni had a girth that I wasn’t sure I could handle.
Turns out that I needn’t have worried — easily half of Omni is advertising and the other half is a quarter advertising; cigarettes, mostly, but a fair share of whiskey and cars, too. Of the remaining space, a large portion of it is given up to articles and pseudoscience essays. At the end of the day, November 1979 Omni has very little fiction, only two pieces, although it also has two sci-fi related pictorials. I don’t know if this fiction desert is standard fare for the magazine or if it was a one-off.
Sad news for the science fiction and fantasy writing world. James Edwin Gunn, writer, scholar, teacher and Science Fiction Grandmaster, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday December 23, 2020.
James Gunn founded the University of Kansas Center for Science Fiction Studies, and from their site Center Director Chris McKitterick wrote:
The Center’s Associate Director, Kij Johnson, and I offer our deepest condolences to everyone who cared about Jim, whose lives he touched – and there were many – and whose careers he influenced, which amounts to almost everyone in our field today, whether they’re aware of his intellectual parentage or not.
“He has taught so many teachers, scholars, and educators that his reach is immeasurable. Jim’s mentoring has shaped the genre into what we enjoy today, making him one of the most influential figures in SF. His is a life devoted to science fiction, and without him, the field would not be the same, nor the world as aware of both the peril and potential of human endeavor.”
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #45 was released on an unsuspecting world on the second of August. Four works of fiction, one outstanding poem, plus artwork and audio. A great issue that you should check out!
What have we got? This is what we’ve got:
Assailing the Garden of Pleasure, by Danial Ausema, with audio by Karen Bovenmeyer. The wounded apprentices of a corrupt teacher must gather what little power and skill they have to attempt to wrest the stolen parts of themselves from their corrupt master. The mastery of sorcery exacts a price. The search for vengeance exacts an even greater one.
Fox Hunt, by Rebecca Buchanan, with artwork by Simon Walpole and audio by Karen Bovenmeyer. There is a horror worming its way into the world of feudal Japan in this outstanding story. No bold samurai or powerful sorcerer fights against it — only a lone foxkin and a willful old woman stands in its way. A unique tale!
Back in the Before Times, I strolled, maskless and blissful, into Barnes and Noble and bought the Analog Science Fiction, January/February 2020 issue. It is a super-sized double issue with a reprint of a classic story from the 90s. I’ve read it in bits and pieces over the months and one tale stuck out at me — the cover story: “The Quest for the Great Gray Mossy” by Harry Turtledove.
Turtledove mines the classics with an enviable lack of shame in this Moby Dick pastiche. Is it even a pastiche? It is more of an abridged version, but with dinosaurs. Imagine if you had a test due on Moby Dick, but by some outlandish set of coincidences you lacked internet access and couldn’t even get your hands on an old copy of the Cliff Notes — hitting this story the night before would ensure you’d manage the test fine.
Honestly, while there wasn’t anything wrong with the story, it didn’t bring anything new to it, either. I mean, outside of the fact that they are dinosaurs.