Speculative Fiction Reviews
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Lone Star Stories, August 2004

Lone Star Stories, edited by Eric Marin, is a relative newcomer to the semi-pro market, with issue 4 having been released in August. It tags itself as "Speculative Fiction and Poetry with a Texas Twist", although it has recently widened its remit to consider fiction that doesn't have a Texas connection as well.

This month's issue offers three stories, all of which deserve comment.

Crimson Mud, Drying Blood, by Jay Lake

Jay Lake is one of Spec Fic's current fireworks, exploding ideas and energy and stories about him. Pick up any magazine and you've got an as good as even chance of finding one of Lake's pieces. How he manages with along with a job, a family, and editing anthologies, including the prestigious Polyphony series, is a mystery to most of us.

Lake's contribution to Lone Star Stories is the distant-future, near-fantasy Crimson Mud, Drying Blood. The world in this post-civilisation society is primitive and matriarchal. As Larkin Grouselegs reaches his adulthood, he is faced with an option: to become a boyo (a castrated, innocent servant of the Ma'am who rules the clan), a sometime stud, roaming the ridges in the wilds outside the clan, only returning to become the occasional bedmate of the Ma'am, or to follow the choice their god--the Big Man--has put before him, to become the Da to a new Ma'am--a kind of ultimate one-night stand, after which he must return to the Big Man and death.

Lake is as inventive as ever with this story, creating an intriguing and well-rounded--if unlikely--society. Because of his prodigious output, Lake's stories sometimes seem slightly unfinished and unpolished. Crimson Mud, Drying Blood doesn't suffer from that problem, however I never found myself entirely drawn in by the story. Perhaps this is because Lake has so much world-building to do (something he does smoothly and convincingly) that the story itself is a little overwhelmed. A more likely reason is that this is not really my type of story. Even so, there is enough of interest here to make the story worth reading.

With Stealth and Grace, the Hunter Roams, by Mikal Trimm

I have generally benign feelings about Mikal Trimm. As an editor of Ideomancer, he bought two of my stories. However, now that he no longer works for Ideomancer, I don't have to suck up to him anymore. :)

Even so, With Stealth and Grace, the Hunter Roams is the undoubted star of this issue of Lone Star Stories. Told from the point of view of the psychopathic hunter out on the prowl in the city, this is an arrogant piece, bouyed up with the power the man feels within himself. The great triumph of this story is the wonderful voice that Trimm creates and maintains throughout. It perfectly depicts the personality of the hunter, both pathetic and dangerous at the same time. Trimm also manages to inject nice touches of humour, and the end is very well handled.

This is a very short piece, only about 1,000 words, but it manages plenty in that short time. Definitely worth your time.

Mysterious Ways, by Steven Utley

The last man on Earth is dying. Surrounded by his animal friends, he waits, his hope that at the end the reason that he was spared the cataclysm that wiped out humanity will be revealed to him by God almost gone.

This piece is a reprint of a 1973 story by Steven Utley. I was a little unsure why Mr. Marin chose to reprint this particular story. It starts well, with a good set-up, but it doesn't go anywhere. There is no change in the story; it ends as it began. The story aims for a degree of atheistic nihilism, and perhaps that is the reason that Utley chose to write Mysterious Ways in the way he did, but I couldn't help but think that the story might have been better served with a twist of some sort at the end, or if its message had been approached in a different way.

Nonetheless, the story is well-written and there are several nice touches along the way.


Lone Star Stories offers three very different short stories, each of which has something to offer the reader. As a whole, it provides a good mix of fiction. By far the most effective story is Mikal Trimm's With Stealth and Grace, the Hunter Roams. The magazine is worth a visit just for that story.

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