With the ripples from the splash caused by last issue's impact still lapping at my brain, the still waters of Albedo One #33 signal a return to – if not more settled, then less startling – genre fiction, well-crafted and likeable, but a little stagnant all the same despite a cluster of suicide-touched tales. Only Simon Kewin's affecting, chilling post-9/11 science fiction Live From The Continuing Explosion offers depth enough for drowning.
Live deliberates on the strategic rationale of a suicide bombing viewed in cosmic slow-mo by the whole planet as a self-contained time-dilation seals off the explosion in a hundred metre diameter sphere, dictating that the still-occurring atrocity continue to relentlessly unfold with excruciating clarity, never allowing it be confined to history. Indubitably designed as a condemnation, the story's complexity inadvertently tips proceedings in favour of suicide bombing with-media-savvy, its apotheosis of the bomber-as-artist better suited to extremist instructional booklets on the al-Qaeda method of martyrdom than to War On Terror propaganda. Still, thought-provoking stuff.
Also on offer is standard-issue, suspenseful dark fantasy and intimate science fiction: in Michael Mathews' A Trail Of Stars Swirling a drowned daughter returns home reanimated to self-deluded parents; in Andrew McKenna's Barrelhouse a street urchin is ruthlessly conditioned by a malignant cult; in Matthew Sanborn Smith's Marissa Marissa the organic separation of conjoined twins signals mankind's next evolutionary step; and in Anil Menon's A Sky Full Of Constants the possibility of tweaking fundamental constants causes a philosophical disagreement with the universe which impacts the lives of two Indian physicists.
Surprisingly, humour dominates the remaining fiction, which is hit-and-miss fare but with a sensible brevity: in Blonde On Blonde, by Geoffrey Maloney, a taxidermied Jayne Mansfield really should have stuffed opposing candidate Marilyn Monroe in the presidential contest; Oisin In Templeogue, by Ed Wood, is a superficial up-dating of a popular story from Irish mythology, retold to the beat of a night on the rip; The Genie, by S.K. Twyford, sees a well-endowed goblin leave a trail of misfortune for a reluctant wisher; and – you won't believe it – Ticket To India, by Aongus Murtagh, is One Foot In The Grave set in an ageist society with compulsory euthanasia.
The business of writing/publishing is discussed both in the Severian column and in purposeful interiews with Geoff Ryman – author of Was and Air – and Sam Miller – author of On The Brinks and The Redemption Factory. Famous Monsters provides exceedingly readable reviews of speculative fiction, and the mixed-mediums iconography of Mario Sanchez Nevado haunts the cover.
64 A4 pages for £3.95 / €5.95, available from Albedo One.