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

OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #34, July-August 2013

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OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #34, July 2013

What the Sea Refuses” by Brian Dolton
Foundling” by Christian K. Martinez
Portraits from the Shadow” by D. Thomas Minton
Three Seconds” by Jonas David
Oyster Beach” by Sophie Wereley

Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia

Issue 34 comes to us as a mixed bag, with a wide variety of stories that ensure that you'll probably love at least one and hate at least one other.

What the Sea Refuses” by Brian Dolton follows conjurer Yi Qin to a harbor town tormented by the spirit of recently deceased ship captain, Zheng Fei. When Yi Qin's usual tricks fail to dispel the captain and his crew, she must discover why the ghosts have not moved on to their final rest with sea god Mi Lio Ma Sing, or else the crew will overpower and kill her.

The structure and details of this fun ghost story are delightfully Asian and the progression of the plot is clear cut, with the stakes for Yi Qin and the town laid out from the beginning. I was not quite convinced that the story as a whole needed to be over 7,000 words, although each scene is interesting in and of itself.

Foundling” by Christian K. Martinez tells the story of Evens, a boy who is caught by The Watcher and instantly transported to another realm, our world, because he is growing up. There, Evens – now called Evan – struggles to fit in with the other kids, who know nothing of The Watcher and his realm. Then, because Evan is a lost boy who can still sense magic, he is drawn into a battle that may remove him permanently from his tenuous new life.

Although I found many of the details intriguing, the voice of young Evan was hard to follow and the story moved laboriously for me as a result. It wasn't until I read this issue's Letter From the Editor that I realized that the story had any thing to do with Peter Pan, and even on a re-read, I found the connection thinner than I would hope. Martinez does a great job painting a tone for us, but I would have appreciated a bit more clarity and easier flow to the text.

Portraits from the Shadow” by D. Thomas Minton is a haunting tale of a Vietnamese spirit mediator, Trung, who tracks down an American soldier, McEvly, in search of information on his dead father.

Minton brings us a wonderfully fleshed out paranormal story that thrives on its connection to a real past event – the Vietnam war – and the emotions that such a tragedy evokes. Trung's search is everyone's search for meaning after the carnage of war. I highly recommend this moving story. It is also available in audio in this issue.

Three Seconds” by Jonas David takes us into the void of creation, or, in this case, non-creation, where three powerful beings reside; the voice of the story, Tessa, and Alec. The story begins with a stalemate, enforced by Alec, who actively prevents Tessa from creating and our protagonist from destroying. The two oppressed beings naturally find this state of non-events mind-numbingly boring, and so plot to break Alec's hold on them.

I enjoyed the way this story mixes abstract ideas and revealing details. Jonas David gives us a fascinating read that presents the escalation of conflict in a positive light.

Oyster Beach” by Sophie Wereley is told by Lyra as she relates the tragedies triggered by the death of her best friend at the hands of the island's rumored mermaid. When she agrees to help in the search for her friend's supernatural murderer, her style of mourning drives a wedge in her romantic relationship with Yuan.

I have a grudging respect for “Oyster Beach” for its professional flow, but I didn't particularly enjoy the romantic premise or the end. I prefer stories with a sense of wonder, and this was more of a depressing horror story. I would have enjoyed it more if I felt that the main character learned or gained anything by the end.

Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.