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

InterGalactic Medicine Show #65, October/November 2018

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InterGalactic Medicine Show #65, October/November 2018

"Coachwhip and Wade, Hex-tamers for Hire" by Tony Pi and K.G. Jewell

"Nwanyi Enwe Eze (The Women Have No King)" by Jonathan Edelstein
"The Late Mr. Folsom's Luminosity Shop" by Megan Lee Beals
"Gods of War" (part 1 of 2) by Steve Pantazis
"'Til Devil Do Us Part" by Jamie Gilman Kress

Reviewed by Kat Day

This issue contains a mix of stories, described in the Editor’s letter as an “eclectic caravan of wonder.”

In “Coachwhip and Wade, Hex-tamers for Hire” by Tony Pi and K. G. Jewell we are thrown into an alternative history post-civil war southern America: a world of paddle steamers, gambling and a race of folk with snakes for hair.

Lily Calazans is one such ‘Serpentlock’, hired to remove a fairy hex from the riverboat on which she and her human partner, Wade Merritt, are travelling. Mishap and adventure, naturally, ensue.

The world-building and characterization in this story are exceptional; clearly the authors have spent a long time thinking about this world and its mechanics. The story as presented maintains a good pace and comes together nicely. But much as I enjoyed it, I was left with a lot of questions; it felt to me that there was a lot of backstory I needed to hear to fully understand the implications of the events as they were unfolding. Perhaps this is a story that really deserves to be part of a much longer novel?

Nwanyi Enwe Eze (The Women Have No King),” by Jonathan Edelstein, touches on some similar themes, but has a very different setting. This time we find ourselves in 1930s Nigeria, in the middle of the colonial-era uprising that the British called the Aba Riots and the local people called the Ogu Umunwanyi—the Women's War. This is a real historical event, but Edelstein has added a fantasy twist.

As we learn in the author’s notes, the fictional hero of this tale, Mary Ejiofor, has appeared in a previous issue of IGMS. This is her origin and coming-of-age story, and we see her learn the power of her own magic.

Personally, I know little of the history here—which is probably telling of the British educational system!—but the piece certainly feels extremely well-researched. The characters are believable and sympathetic, and there is plenty of action, although to me it seemed slightly disjointed, which is perhaps due to the fact that it's telling a backstory. The themes are timely, and this seems an important story to tell, and to hear.

The Late Mr. Folsom's Luminosity Shop,” by Megan Lee Beals, is a very different piece. The story opens when, following the death of Mr. Folsom, a clerk named Oren receives a note saying that a painting in Mr. Folsom's shop has awakened to sentience and claimed the shop as its rightful inheritance. Oren, a long-time fan of Mr. Folsom's work, goes to investigate, and finds something extraordinary.

This is a joyful story and Lee Beals clearly had lots of fun creating Mr. Folsom’s magical luminariums and the Ministry of the Unknown. The imagery is gorgeous. (As an aside, there's some beautiful artwork illustrating this story by Anna Repp.) The story also has plenty of action, although it's mostly of the quieter sort, and I definitely found myself rooting for the protagonists—after all, what's not to love about characters who fight their battles by being organized and having the right paperwork? This is a great piece of original fantasy, and I hope we see more set in this world.

Unlike the other stories in this issue, "Gods of War" by Steve Pantazis is a piece of straight-up science fiction. Jedidiah Martin is a former soldier; a survivor of an AI apocalypse that destroyed America, killing his wife and son in the process.

When the town where he's living loses contact with another nearby settlement, a small group of volunteers are dispatched to investigate, one of whom is Jedidiah's nephew. When that group also loses radio contact, Jedidiah himself sets off with another team to work out what's going on, whereupon they discover that they might be facing a whole new kind of threat.

I rather drifted though the first chunk of this story, not really clicking with the characters. The author's notes (which I read afterwards) mention Duke Nukem. This resonated with me as the story does have the feel of a first-person shooter where, having read some introductory paragraphs on the screen, we take on the role of the main character in a post-apocalyptic world as they acquire some weapons and then wander about investigating run-down warehouses and shooting things. This is not necessarily a negative—the descriptions are well-written, and some people might love Jedidiah's character—but it didn't particularly engage me.

However, when the key discovery is made—I won't say what for the sake of spoilers—my brain clicked into gear. Suddenly it all took on a fresher, more interesting turn and I found myself getting into the story. Unfortunately, it ended shortly after that because this is the first part of a two-part story. It will be interesting to see where it goes next issue.

"'Til Devil Do Us Part" by Jamie Gilman Kress is a flash-length story which is accompanied by an audio version. Margery's wealthy husband is divorcing her, and he intends to leave her both broke and broken-hearted. Then a demon called Simon appears in a cloud of "ashy cologne" and it begins to look as though Margery's luck might change.

The use of language in this piece is absolutely wonderful, and I can't not love the idea of a demon called Simon who wears red platform boots. I'm not entirely sure the plot holds together if you overthink it (as I write this, I'm having a "but, couldn't Simon have just…" moment) but if you don't have to write a review, I suggest not doing that! Just go along for the ride—this is a fun little story.

Kat Day makes children handle fire and dangerous chemicals for a living (it’s okay, she’s a chemistry teacher). When not doing that, she spends her time writing and trying to wrangle her own two children into line (without fire or dangerous chemicals, because that would be frowned upon). She has had a short story published in Daily Science Fiction, another in the anthology “24 Stories,” and one upcoming on the Cast of Wonders podcast. You can follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask.