"Stay Tooned, Folks!" by Gary K. Wolf
"Smarty Pants" by Greg Stolze
"The Mutable Borders Of Love" by Leslie What
"Dream Of Earth" by Jack Williamson
The resurrected incarnation of Amazing Stories chugs along, providing genre readers a mix of articles and news, an abundant selection of reviews, and short fiction. James Van Pelt opens the proceedings with "A Wow Finish," which takes its title from a line in the movie, Casablanca. The story, a nostalgic paean to the film, finds three historians traveling back in time to do field research. They land in 1942, during the week that Casablanca premieres, so that Earle, who has seen the movie at least a hundred times, can get a feel for what the viewing experience was like for contemporary audiences. Earle has unresolved romantic issues with one of his fellow travelers, which are explored throughout the course of the story. The travelers, who come from a world where virtually anything, including the perception of reality itself, can be altered and edited, are nonetheless moved by the experience of seeing the film minus the interactive component.
Gary K. Wolf, creator of the cartoon character, Roger Rabbit, brings his animated character back in "Stay Tooned, Folks!," another entertainment media-themed tale. Tadbitty Stifles is the stuffy host of "Tinseltown Tells Tales," a reality show that sort of brings to mind The Truman Show. One of Stifles' duties is to babysit the spoiled playboy son of a media mogul; a task that often as not finds him bailing his young charge out of jams. After market research finds that viewers are growing bored with the format of the show, a few Toons--animated characters that can interact with "real" people--are introduced, much to Stifles' chagrin. Stifles eventually comes around, reinventing himself as cartoon character Tee-Hee Tadbitty in a manic tale that plays out at a hyperkinetic pace not unlike that of a cartoon.
"Smarty Pants," by Greg Stolze, is the story of Emily and her husband Manfred. The couple engineer smart garments but alas, they do so for competing firms--she for FabWear and he for Smarty Pants. One day when Emily cant find anything to wear she puts on one of her husband's shirts. She comes to suspect that he is cheating on her, but when she attempts to hack into the shirt, she is rebuffed. Though the circumstances of the story seem a bit contrived, Stolze comes up with a genuinely clever twist ending that almost makes up for any shortcomings.
"The Mutable Borders Of Love," by Leslie What, presents love as a duel of sorts, with protagonist Marietta competing with her current love, Asher, even as she is being haunted by the ghosts of jilted lovers past.
Jack Williamson, the grand old man of SF, winds things up with "Dream of Earth," a story in which a pair of pilots for a company that maintains space hotels assist Merkel, a wealthy man searching for a Contra-Earth. While the seekers don't find what they are looking for--at least not in the strictest sense of the word--what they do find provides a rather intriguing capper to this brief tale. Williamson's story is the latest in the magazine's "1,000 Words feature," in which an author is asked to provide a story of said length inspired by a picture.
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