First on my list of ‘things I should have reviewed ages ago’ (aka never do an MSc) is Uncanny Magazine #2.
I reviewed Issue One back in January and enjoyed it a lot so I had high hopes for the second issue.
Imagine my hopes, if you will, as shiny little glass ornaments, sitting quietly on the mantelpieces occasionally shining in a bit of sun. And then Uncanny #2 comes along and it smashes them. Shattered them. Ground them down into sand.
And then remade them into sparkling shining pillar of shimmer wonderment and art. What I am clumsily trying to say here is ZOMG, SO GOOD, SO DAMNED GOOD.
Six stories, three poems, two interviews, and a handful of articles = 5 gleaming stars of perfection.
The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller
A strange history of the Stonewall Riots that brings a touch of that eponymous uncanny to the telling. What if those events were even more revolutionary than we know? What if strange things were sparked in heat of the battle? I enjoyed how Miller managed to keep this story focused on the importance of the real events whilst simultaneously adding a layer of weird uncertainty. Clever, engaging, well told. 5 stars.
Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
This was one of the science fiction stories that conjures up an idea so totally intriguing that I find myself thinking about it weeks and months later. Set in a future Beijing that rotates and folds in on itself to allow for three separate versions of itself to exist – with citizens of each placed in a kind of hibernation whilst their city is folded away. The concept and description of it alone are brilliant on their own. But, Jingfang uses the strange manipulations of physical space and time to highlight the inequality of life that exists in this city, and in our own world, and it just blew me away. Totally magnificent. 5 stars
Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained by Sunny Moraine
A story narrated by an amputee to their new artificial arm, this may well be the most unusual story I’ve read for a while. I found the narrator’s struggles to accept this strange new limb to be really thought provoking – it’s something so often held up as a purely positive experience but one which must require huge mental readjustment. Plus the gradual creep into the weird uncanny finish was masterfully done. 5 stars
Anyone With a Care for Their Image by Richard Bowes
A strange future world where people appear in public via the means of lifelike robot dolls whose actions are recorded as part of the person’s online presence. It’s playing with a very literal version of the idea of avatars and how we chose to represent ourselves online. 4 stars
Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar
A sweet story about someone who keeps finding the strangest things in their pockets. And I mean the strangest: antique maps, flintlock pistols, trombones, definitely not things that live in pockets. Beautifully written, as one would expect from a poet, this was a light and lovely piece. 4 stars
The Nalendar by Ann Leckie
A classic piece from Leckie this is a reprint of one of her stories from 2008. But it way my first read and, damn, it’s good! A young woman travelling along a river in a world overflowing with gods is drawn into a quest and forced to face the one person she was trying to run away from. It tackles ideas about power – in terms of both supernatural and the power we hold over ourselves and others. Leckie manages to tackle this big idea whilst keeping the tone of the story remarkably light and playful. 5 stars
I didn’t mention the poetry in my last review but I feel like that was a mistake. The three poems in this issue are so very good. Each deals with an aftermath and each left my heart aching.
- After the Moon Princess Leaves by Isabel Yap
- After the Dance by Mari Ness
- archival testimony fragments / minersong by Rose Lemberg
There are also interviews with Ann Leckie and Hao Jingfang and non-fiction essays about nerd rock, women in conventions, and the politics of writing comfortable characters. All very much worth reading.
This is a magazine that really feels like it has an identity already. The sense of uncannyruns through all the selected pieces and brings them together – that (un)familiar feeling, the need for a second glance, the known become unknown. Issue #3 is already out and ready for reading so get over to Uncanny Magazine and spread the joy.