Issue 1 July/August 2012
I had an opportunity the other day to pick up a review copy of Specutopia, the new speculative fiction magazine. I’m glad I did. I’d like to thank editor Dale Wise for sending me a copy.
Specutopia is an electronic fiction magazine of, what else with that title, speculative fiction. In his editorial, Dale Wise states that he’s open to publishing any type of speculative fiction, be it fantasy, science fiction, or some hybrid. It contains seven stories by authors whose names, with one exception, aren’t familiar to me. The authors come from all across the globe, which I think is a good thing. There are a lot of good fiction writers outside the US. On the whole, I enjoyed the issue, although there were a couple of exceptions I’ll discuss below. For now, some general impressions.
First the layout was quite professional. Mr. Wise did a fine job on the formatting. The cover art is quite striking. I couldn’t find a credit for it, or I would list the artist’s name here.
While the cover might suggest this is strictly a science fiction magazine, and there is some pure science fiction, there’s a wide variety of fiction here. With this type of selection, there’s probably something to appeal to just about everyone. The flip side is that it’s highly likely that not everything will appeal to everyone. If Mr. Wise continues to have this much diversity in what he publishes, and I hope he does, he could have a problem with finding cover art that encompasses the magazine’s contents without making prospective readers think it’s more narrow in scope than it is. While I think that’s something of a good problem to have, I’m glad it isn’t my problem.
The first story, “Hollow Spaces” by Greg Mellor, didn’t work for me until I was well into it. The reason was it started out with only dialogue. I had to read a bit before I understood what was going on. Once I did, though, I began appreciate what the author was trying to do. In the end, this turned into a moving science fiction story of a mother and the irreversible changes her relationship with her young son undergoes.
James Beamon‘s “The Death of the World’s Greatest Detective” is a quirky little deconstruction of the stereotypical private investigator tale. It was a fun poke at some of the more ingrained tropes of that genre that managed to still be a fantasy in the end.
“Hoodoo” by D. Thomas Minton is the only science fiction story in the issue that takes place in space. A group of soldiers and scientists, at war with a hostile alien race, discover the remains of an unknown species that crashed on the planet they’re exploring. And in the end, one of the soldiers discovers a bond with them across time and species.
When I started “Water Child” by Jennifer Mason-Black, my initial reaction was this was going to be another mother and child story, which is not my favorite subgenre. By the time I reached the end, all I could say was “Wow.” This was by far the most powerful and moving story in the issue. If Mr. Wise can put at least one story in each issue that’s this powerful, he’s going to put his publication on the map. I won’t be surprised if this one is on recommended reading lists next year, if not included in a best of the year anthology. Since the situation unfolds throughout the story, I’ll let you read it to find out what it’s about. And the pecan pie lady got on my nerves, which I think was the point.
“Entanglement” by Rachel Acks is a science fiction tale of a girl, eventually woman, who is haunted by a man only she can see. He doesn’t appear to her often, but when he does, he tends to be injured. The nature of his injuries change and they appear to have something to do with decisions the protagonist makes. In spite of questions being left unanswered, I like this one a lot.
David Seffen‘s “Never Idle” is a fantasy about a man who has the ability to awaken machines to consciousness. He tends to restrict his talent to cars, which is somewhat appealing. This is something of a love story, although the love interest isn’t a car.
The final story, “Solitude, Quietude, Vastitude” is by Jetse de Vries, the only writer in the magazine of whom I had heard. The advantage to reading stories by unfamiliar authors is that, unless there’s been a lot of hype, you usually don’t have much in the way of expectations, either good or bad. Mr. de Vries was the editor of Shine a few years ago, an anthology of optimistic science fiction. I enjoyed the anthology and liked the premise, so I had high hopes for this story. Unfortunately, I found this piece long on writing and short on story. On the surface it’s about a woman who goes to something resembling a carnival, but its really about the life issues she’s facing. It seems to me that this was the type of literary science fiction where an author puts as much, and usually more, effort in writing fancy sentences full of symbolism as telling a compelling story. It was a well-written story, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the next story of his I try.
Overall, this is a promising start to a new publication. It often takes a few issues for a new publication to find its tone and voice, something Mr. Wise points out in the editorial. It’s going to be fun seeing that develop. I’m looking forward to the next issue. If you want to give Specutopia a try, it’s available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but I would suggest you click this link and buy directly from the publisher to show your support. That way they don’t have give a cut to the middle-man.