Monday, August 31, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: New Genre #6

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

The independent publishing scene is a vibrant source of exciting and cutting-edge fiction, and New Genre #6 thankfully proves that rule. This sleek, small package features just four fiction pieces but each one packs a whallop and lives up to the magazine's name. Each story feels fresh and unique, and doesn't give the reader a chance to sit on the sidelines. At the very least, each one will polarize you and leaves a lingering impact that reinvigorates one's passion for speculative fiction.

The first piece is "Jack the Satellite Jockey" by Michael Filimowicz and the author combines textual rhythm with a hard science fiction concept. Filimowicz's technique is unlike anything I've encountered before in the sense that it'll appeal to either readers who love verbal prowess in their fiction, or those who read science fiction for the core idea. Either reader will also appreciate the emotional anchor the author attaches to the piece, giving life to what would have been a dry, technical piece.

A more "conventional" story is "Lonegan's Luck" by Stephen Graham Jones. I'd not a big fan of Westerns but Jones conjures a convincing tale that hooks you right from the very start. There's immediately a certain sense of foreboding from both the title and the opening paragraphs that the author builds on. Never a dull moment to be found here and despite the simple premise, Jones' technique is such that the story is rich in both character and setting. The transition of our investment in the main character is to be applauded and is easily the hallmark element of the story.

"The Sparrow Mumbler" by Eric Schaller similarly follows a conventional trajectory and it's the author's technique that sweeps you away. Much like "Lonegan's Luck", the story is consistently compelling allthroughout and there's a gradual escalation of the horror. The dialogue of the various characters are convincing and Schaller successfully captures the suaveness of con-men. What surprised me with this story is how one should actually be prepared for the ending yet it nonetheless creeps up on you, surprising yet satisfying. I didn't think an epilogue was necessary, yet it ties so neatly with the established narrative that the reader continues the last line in their mind's eye.

The last piece is "I Am Antenna/Antennae" by Matthew Pendleton and while this is not a particular favorite, I could appreciate the originality and daring of the author. The strongest element of the piece is the atmosphere: it's moody, confusing, and the setting is flat-out weird. And while the text might appear repetitive, this actually ties into the sci-fi concept behind the narrative which one slowly unravels. This melding of science fiction and horror is commendable and definitely presents something new.

It's not every day that I run across a publication that I never heard of yet is full of fiction that's exciting and unexpected. New Genre #6 goes more for quality over quantity, and doesn't shortchange the reader.

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