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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

The First Annual Artist's Challenge Anthology

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Abandoned Towers Presents

The First Annual Artist’s Challenge Anthology


The Song of Jaelyn” by Craig Comer

Looking Through the Moon” by T.W. Williams

Mantle of Darkness” by Wesley Lambert

The Fall of the Fauk Toraum” by Timothy A. Sayell

A Father’s Love” by Keith Gouveia

A Maiden Drawn to the Sea” by Y.B. Cats

The Aspiranto” by Martin Turton


Reviewed by Bob Blough

These seven stories were written around the cover painting by Johnney Perkins. This is a not unusual method of writing stories, as it has been seen from time to time in various SF publications over the years, and includes stories from such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg, and Roger Zelazny. Harlan Ellison put together an entire book inspired from various works of art.

The Song of Jaelyn” by Craig Comer concerns a siren who finds herself trapped, and is attempting escape on one of the ships she usually sings to its doom. It turns out that the three siren sisters are prisoners of an evil aquatic being known as Phorthes. Does she escape? Do the ship and her crew survive? Don’t think I’ll spoil it for you here.

The next tale is “Looking Through the Moon” by T.W. Williams which takes place in a magical land being overrun by a nation with powerful machines. This time the girl in question is Bethyn, a member of Lasthome: “a bubble of magic in a world of machine. A final morsel.” The story concerns her struggle to save this last remnant of magic from the machine civilization by using her enormous powers which, when used, have devastating consequences for her as well. The story elements include a ship, a storm, and a romance.

Mantle of Darkness” by Wesley Lambert does not have a real ending but the set up is fun. A captain is entrusted by the wife of an explorer to find her husband who has been missing for a fortnight while studying a phantom island. Phantom islands are those that lie close to the surface and show themselves when the conditions are right. The ship containing the lady goes looking for him and along the way encounters a strange mantle of darkness which is definitely not good for all involved.

The next piece takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants and pureblood humans fight for dominance. The girl in this story is the princess of the king of the purebloods who steals upon a ship sent by her father to gather information. The ship runs into the mechanized ship of a mutant scholar who believes that his marriage to the princess will be the start of both races becoming pureblood in the future. “The Fall of Fauk Toraum” by Timothy A. Sayell is appropriately filled with derring-do and adventure.

Keith Gouveia in “A Father’s Love” tries for more than adventure and the story does not hold up to the psychology or emotions with which he has chosen to deal. A father’s infant son is stolen by pirates. His wife disowns him and eventually kills herself. The father finally finds the son at the side of the pirate who stole him. The adventure itself seems secondary, but unfortunately the characters—the focal point of the story--are cardboard and the emotions are created by writer fiat. If this had been less a “serious” story about relationships it would have been much more enjoyable.

With Y.B. Cats' A Maiden Drawn to Sea” we return to adventure fiction, and a good one it is, too. This concerns a pair of orphans who know nothing about their parentage, a witch in a nearby cave, and the marriage of one of the orphans to a local sea captain. Let’s just say that sea demons, magical charms, and the sudden unveiling of the parentage of one of the orphans keep this brisk tale moving along.

The book ends with a story I found intriguing. It has an early Zelazny, or perhaps George R.R. Martin feel to it that I enjoyed. The writer is Martin Turton and the story is “The Aspiranto.” It's a romance between two people who are unkindly met at different times in their parallel worlds, or perhaps in different time streams. The female captain of a sailing ship called the Aspiranto is outrunning a particularly nasty enemy when she finds herself on an island where the sole inhabitant knows her (although he calls her by another name) and claims to have loved her for a long time. This male inhabitant is being held prisoner on the island after enduring terrible battles with the enemy that she, too, is fleeing. He claims to possess a certain sight enabling him to see across the time streams, or the myriad possible futures (it is somewhat unclear which). In any case, it is a lovely doomed romance and a fitting tale upon which to close this series of adventures.


The First Annual Artist's Challenge Anthology is a fun collection of stories with nothing on its mind but adventure, romance, and magic. Check your post-modernism at the door and enjoy for an hour or two.

The first three issues of Abandoned Towers magazine can be found here.