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Short reviews by Mark R. Kelly, whose longer reviews of these and other stories will appear in the September issue of Locus Magazine.

Asimov's Science Fiction August 1999

Judith Berman, ''The Window''
Onion is kept as a pet by Frill, who speaks to her fellow 'Big Ones' in scents. Onion thinks of himself as an animal because he can't speak like them; all he can do is fart to attract their attention. But he's clever, and one day when left alone he escapes through the window of Frill's house and joins the wild Muskies, animals of Onion's own kind. This is an alien invasion story in which it isn't clear whether the aliens have come to destroy humanity or to save the world. Onion is caught between two opposing loyalties, and his plight is poignant and heart-wrenching.

Andy Duncan, ''The Executioners' Guild''
In a small Mississippi town in the 1940s, a foul-mouthed black man awaits execution for murder. Two strangers come to town, government employee Jimmy Simpson bringing an electric chair on the bed of his truck, and a mysterious older man, Mr. Ellis, who speaks gravely and elliptically to Jimmy about the guild's interest in him and the creed they must uphold. The story takes us through set-up, rehearsal, and performance of an execution, in a vividly realistic telling with resonances of stories by King, Ellison, Bradbury, and Gene Wolfe.

William H. Keith, Jr., ''Fossils''
On a partially-terraformed Mars, amortal Cessair tries to evacuate settler Paul Norris from a canyon about to be flooded by a tidal wave from the next cometary impact. But Norris is an old coot, suspicious of the 'advanced' amortal humans, and with his own plans for riding out the tidal wave. Norris' valiant ride is a symbol for the powerful will to survive of traditional humanity; a familiar, reassuring SF theme, effectively told.


Artemis Spring 2000

Stanley Schmidt, ''Generation Gap''
Alienated from his parents after his brother's death in the Vietnam War, Robby Lerman writes a letter to himself, to be opened on his 35th birthday, warning his future self about the traps that adults fall into. Years later the adult Robert finds the letter and is inspired to support research into a matter transmitter that works across both time and space -- so he can send his youthful self a reply. The story effectively indulges the fantasy implicit in the phrase If only I knew then what I know now! -- the goal here being how best to achieve the dream of reaching for the stars.


Event Horizon July 1999

Two Vignettes
Barry N. Malzberg's ''Ready When You Are'' depicts a big-shot movie producer in Cannes, accepting the big prize and laying the superstar actress. Is this as good as it gets? he wonders, and remembers how, as a 13-year-old back in Flatbush, he died in a building fire. A powerful, typically elusive Malzbergian portrait; maybe a ghost story, maybe a dream that transcends reality. Jeffery Ford's ''Pansolapia'' is a cryptic parable about a woman named Vashemena in a palace called Pansolapia, and men on a ship, drowning as they hear her voice, who have come in search of the future. Beautiful, poetic prose; a story that's a puzzle to solve.

(Fri 6 August 1999)

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.