Speculative Fiction Reviews
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You've probably noticed there are no new reviews here. I simply haven't time for reviewing and writing recently, and reviewing has had to go. For now, this journal is closed. Apologies.

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Lone Star Stories, February 2005

Lone Star Stories offers three original pieces of fiction for February, and it continues to meet the high standards it has set for itself over recent issues.

Winged Victory, by Sarah Prineas
First up is Sarah Prineas's Winged Victory, set in an intriguing alternative history/alternative world. The aging Great Leader of the unspecified country in which the story is set receives a visit from the statue of winged victory that hovers above his own statue in the square beyond his palace. The quickened statue tells him that there is a plot against him and that someone he loves and trusts is a spy for the plot. Further portents shake the city and unease grows in the palace.

Sarah Prineas has an enviable talent for creating a highly-believable country, one whose greatest glory--the excitement of heroic deeds and expansion--is over and which has settled into a middle-aged statis, and she plays her story out against this background. The pace of the story is a little flat in the early parts, but it soon picks up and there is always enough going on that it is never in danger of losing interest. The greatest strengths of the story come in the blend of beautifully created characters (the Great Leader's secretary is particularly well-imagined), a setting that is both familiar and unique, and the sadness that underlies the inevitability of the conclusion to the story. For this is a story about a man whose time is long past but whose passing we regret.

Prineas is a skillful writer, who has recently published fiction in Strange Horizons and Realms of Fantasy, and Winged Victory is the strongest story in this issue of Lone Star Stories.

Maenad, by Angela Boord
Maenad, by Angela Boord, is more of a prose poem than a story. It starts beautifully:

My love is a fox on the hunt, dapple-silver in the moonlight, rippling in and out of shadows. Rabbit and squirrel tunnel in the creepers, and my love hunts.

My love is a lithe-built man, lean as a willow and as wiry-strong. He sits in the touch-me-nots beneath my window with his dulcimer and sings soft until I fall asleep.

In the summer, the narrator follows her fox into the woods and there they make love. But now it is fall, and when she tries to follow, he flees and she gives chase.

There really is little in the way of plot in this story; that's not the point of it. We are supposed to admire the craft and beauty of the language and the images Boord conjures. And for the most part we do, although the story slips in this towards the end.

It may have been difficult to decide whether to publish this as story or poem (which Lone Star Stories also publish), but it has been presented as Fiction rather than poetry, and in this it is not wholly successful. However, it is a pleasure to read and there is much to be enjoyed, particularly in the first half of the story.

Time, As Seen in a Merry-Go-Round Blur, by Michael Kelly
Lone Star Stories often publishes tales which resonate to the tune of sadness and regret. Michael Kelly's Time, As Seen in a Merry-Go-Round Blur takes both as its central theme. The protagonist is Evelyn, a middle-aged woman who, lying awake one night begins to think of how her life has changed since she and her new husband bought their house, before they had children and when everything seemed good. Now that her children have left, she realises that she has lost everything that she used to have.

The hollowness that can be left in a relationship when children leave is a familiar topic for non-genre fiction, although it is less so for genre. Kelly's short story is only fantasy in its denouement, but this allows the author to provide a degree of ambiguity about the outcome that would not be possible in a non-genre piece. The stylistic device of punctuating the story with the ticking of a clock, symbolising the loss of the past, is a good one. Overall, a satisfying short piece.

All three stories in this issue of Lone Star Stories are decent ones, and Sarah Prineas's Winged Victory is outstanding. I have long believed that the magazine deserves higher prominence than it has. Part of the reason why it does not enjoy such prominence may be that the magazine does not archive the fiction, unlike most of the online magazines (although the editor is considering doing so). As such, there is relatively little for visitors to see on each visit. Another reason may be that the website itself is fairly utilitarian in its appearance. A design that reflected the quality of its content would undoubtedly draw visitors in. I expect, however, that the main reason that the magazine has not yet reached the readership it deserves is that there is a lot of competition in the online magazine market (most of which does not come close in terms of quality) and it takes a long time for a magazine to make its mark. Lone Star Stories deserves to do that. I hope it soon will.

--Patrick Samphire, 13 February 2005

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