Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Short Fiction Wednesday

This week, two stories from publishers that complement a traditional print line up with a vigorous online presence. This seems to be the way ahead for independent publishers, who are able to utilise a free online fiction to help publicise print books and magazines. Apex Online, is a free fiction webzine, from a publisher of print novels and collections, including The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar. Wierd Tales is a name that I imagine any of my readers will know, and it's interesting to see it's still going. I bought an issue as recently as the late 80s, which is over twenty years ago, I know, but still relatively recent when considered against the magazine's 1930s hey days. I'm pretty sure it's had its ups and downs (you could check out wikipedia if you were interested) but right now it's edited by Ann Vandemeer, and enjoying something of a resurgence thanks to a revived editorial mission and a great web presence.

From Apex online, Scenting the Dark by Mary Robinette Kowal, is a planetary exploration story with a neat twist. Penn is a blind perfumier, who travels the galaxy with his partner and his guide dog, tracking down alien scents to sell to wealthy clientele. Making the main character blind presents Kowal with a technical challenge that she pursues diligently. It's the sort of thing where you start to really look for fluffs in the point of view, but of course Kowal doesn't put a foot wrong. I read her earlier story "Evil Robot Monkey", and enjoyed it's hauntingly pathetic intelligent chimp a great deal (if enjoyed is the right word... I'm not some sort of monster!) This story is also an animal story, of sorts, dealing with the relationship of a blind person and guide dog. I really liked Penn the intergalactic perfume hunter, and Kowal does a great job of depicting his interactions with Cody the guide dog. The situation is a clever one to get them to work together and show them surviving against the odds.

Weird Tales offers up Ambient Morgue Music by Richard Howard, a nice bit of oblique fantasy that hints at the darker corners of the obsession of the music fan. It's a little like last week's The City of Dreams in this regard, but drier, and played for irony rather than tragedy. In the end, the mysterious music with the ghastly origin doesn't lead to the narrator's destruction, just a kind of madness that is indistinguishable from the manic enthusiasm of the rock journo for a new discovery. It uses the form of mordern rock journalism - part life writing, part non-fiction, part opinion - to build a clever variation on the same theme as Lovecraft's "The Music of Erich Zann".

While we're at Weird Tales, though, checkout sixty seconds worth of "micro fiction" not much more than a poem really, presented with music. Click the link, It'll only take a minute... you know you want to!

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