I have a great love of short stories. I collect a lot of anthologies and magazines. Science Fiction and Fantasy was one of the first magazines I bought a subscription to because I liked variety. As the name suggests, SF&F generally covers a wide range of science fiction and fantasy genres. The June 2006 issue failed to provide the usual sort of variety that I’ve come to know and love. I enjoyed most of the stories, but the mixture seemed a bit off.
My review contains spoilers for the stories so you may wish to avoid.
Animal Magnetism by Albert E. Cowdrey was a charming tale that reminded me of the humorous classic Twilight Zone. The tale is a retelling of the classic shaggy dog story in which an unsuspecting owner acquires a dog that in reality a shape changer named Trixie who turns into a beautiful woman during the full moon. Cowdrey’s contemporary twist to this classic tale is that the owner, Henry Greene, is gay. Greene has just left a long term relationship and is quite lonely so Trixie decides that she will find the perfect man for him. Despite the familiar ground, I was completely entertained.
Counterfactual by Gardner Dozois is a tightly written alternative history about a writer named Cliff trying to write an alternative history about the end of the American Civil War. As the story progresses, the reader learns that the American Civil War in this universe lasted several years longer than our history records. Instead of surrendering, General Lee managed to make it to Blue Ridge Mountains and encourages years of guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks on the North. The story was interesting and amusing, and then ends flatly with the tired chestnut of Cliff wondering if alternative Cliffs were writing similar stories in other universes. I almost expected the story to shift to a man dreaming about butterfly that dreamed he was a man. Overall, a good story with a weak ending.
Why the Aliens Did What They Did to that Suburb of Madison, Wisconsin by Tim McDaniel is a flash story that is supposed to be funny. I found it a bit tiresome. A stranded alien is used as a marital aid by a horny married couple. Yawn! I was disappointed that this story had been published in this magazine.
Hallucigenia by Laird Barron is a novella took me several times to start. I kept getting bored and skipping this story. Finally, I gave up half through the story where a married couple finds a weird place out in the woods with the legend THEY WHO DWELL IN THE CRACKS. I felt this story was below the standards of this fine magazine.
Terms of Engagement by C.S. Freeman is about a woman that hates sharing her apartment with cockroaches. It has a dark edge that made the entire story worth a solid laugh. I very much enjoyed this story.
The Protectors of Zandor by John Morressy is a change of pace and direction in the issue to classic fantasy. The Protectors of Zandor features married wizards that have been summoned to Zandor by the King to protect his kingdom. The wizards encounter a cursed baby, war mongering nobility, and a less than intelligent king. They manage to use wisdom and insight to protect the kingdom to save the life of a cursed baby. This story reminded me, in a very good way, of Gandalf in the Hobbit. The wizards have magical abilities, but they use common sense and wisdom to resolve most of their problems. This was my favorite story in the issue.
Overall, I enjoyed most of the pieces, but together it felt as though the stories were slanted too much towards light humorous fantasy. If this had been a humor themed issue, it would have been less jarring. Still, the issue was enjoyable which is the best standard for any reviewer.