The will for things to be right with the world is commendable subject matter for creative endeavour. Fragments #2 is pretty much beyond reproach in this respect. However, in terms of the application of craft and imagination in realising a satisfying, engaging whole, this title is somewhat lacking. Certainly in its current not-quite-there state, it’s more document-driven than ‘arty’.
Much like the rudimentary narrative of Fragments #1, the pieces in this second issue are made symbiotic by the obvious, inherent ‘voice’ of author Christine Harper and by esoteric subtext. Among the offerings is comic strip ‘Nazi Sock Puppets’, juxtaposed dialogue/poem/illustration ‘The Tragedie Of Richard The Turd’, and text piece ‘Room 101’. Though there exists an inconsistency of cartooning style, the shared polish and bold clarity of the visuals provide the required cohesion, and the work just about hangs together as a curiously shorthand whole. That it resembles some form of ethics instruction booklet (with no hint of parody) cut & pasted to appeal to attention-deficient children, is unfortunate; but with some design-tweaking, subsequent issues could achieve the less free-form, more adult delivery of Totem/Icon Books’ Introducing/For Beginners series.
As the recent wealth of cinema-released documentaries suggest, there is an audience for pressing, universal issues discussed/raised with personality and intelligence. In this respect (and though no ‘The Corporation’), the brief soapboxery of Fragments #2 won’t disappoint. It’s a didactic, mostly relevant tuppence-worth.
Check ordering details and Fragments Online at Chez Chrissie.
Often the published short story will read like a between-books workout for writers intent on maintaining a style, or as means of urging creative juices to again flow. Usually the flimsiness is hidden beneath a polished formula, which lulls the reader into reluctant appreciation. During its 10-plus years of publication, the speculative fiction of anthology Albedo One has at times prompted just such appreciation in me. However, this most recent square-bound issue with full-colour cover is a particularly sound addition to its award-winning back-catalogue.
Seven short stories feature. There's Sara Berniker's elusively allegorical A Boy Needs A Dog and DJ Cockburn's erotically charged Summer Holidays - both well crafted tales which share umbilical-tied boy protagonists who idealise absent fathers and are desperate for a semblance of control in their oppressed lives. In the comical Classroom Dynamics by D. Harlan Wilson, Professor Beebody is not a big fan of killing his students (even those with 'mongoloid intellects'), but with Dean Dinglewigger favouring a minor killing spree over the Robin Williams approach to teaching, Beebody has little option but to up his murder rate. If Battle Royale-like fantasy-for-teachers is not your thing, there's metaphysics in the cosmic surrealism of Russell Miles' clever Red-shift Days; there's dense, wordy, flourish-fluent prose in the impressively realised Code 46-like future of Martin Taulbut's Hide And Seek With Angels; and there's spicy adventure conjured in Dev Agarwal's evocative City Of Palaces as an Englishman on-the-run from the Thugee Cult must depart a Calcutta desperate to throw-off the shackles of British colonialism. Splendidly wrapping things up is Davin Ireland's Dirt, a Tales Of The Unexpected told with disarming verve, which echoes the Fortean-inspired opening to PT Anderson's Magnolia and mixes suspense and humour to thoroughly entertaining, gleefully evil effect.
Also on offer is sublime cover art by Matthew Hansel, a world affairs talk with Alan Dean Foster, a brief brush with history via Norman Spinrad, a letters column, reviews and amusing, philosophical comment in the form of the Severian sermon. A money-off coupon for kitchen sinks may well feature next issue, but meanwhile, if you're flatulently full with the fluffer shorts of pedestrian writers going through the motions, a dose of Albedo One #29 is the perfect antidote.
See website for ordering details.