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

Lone Star Stories, Issue 20, April 1, 2007

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“The Black Hole in Auntie Sutra's Handbag” by Samantha Henderson
“Xenocrony” by Christopher East
“When the Rain Comes” by Josh Rountree

In “The Black Hole in Auntie Sutra's Handbag” by Samantha Henderson, Auntie Sutra is the matriarch of a family endowed with magic powers. Her niece, Trudie, goes to ask for her help: Trudie wants to marry Alvin, but her father has a different picture of Trudie’s future. Having mortgaged some land, Trudie’s father owes money to the powerful John Darkling, who offers to cancel the debt in exchange for Trudie’s hand. And if this weren't enough, Auntie Sutra’s handbag starts to behave in a very weird way…

“The Black Hole in Auntie Sutra's Handbag” is a fantasy story that has the added charm of not taking itself too seriously. The atmosphere is vivid and the characterization colorful. Touches of humor lighten but don’t undermine the plot, which runs smoothly and with a good pace. Many of Henderson’s inventions are quite lovely, although sometimes one has the sense that she lacks a good cause for her wonderful effects. The story hints to a much larger whole that is only sketched, and the cause or significance of certain events remains unexplained.

In “Xenocrony” by Christopher East, Eddie receives a call from a girl he knew in high school. After ten years, Mia calls him because she heard him playing the bass on the radio. But Eddie has stopped playing the bass, still, Mia claims it was him she heard. Eddie has a boring job, a failed marriage, and barely remembers Mia. Nevertheless, he decides to visit her.

While growing up restricts the various possibilities of different careers, is it really necessary to give up on one’s passions? “Xenocrony” is about changes, lost chances, and the possibility of reviving them. While pleasant, the story remains vague. The characters of Eddie and Mia are more sketches than full-blown characters, and the story leaves a sweet impression rather than the feeling of an elaborated whole.

In “When the Rain Comes” by Josh Rountree, Angeline is the Ice Queen in Bill’s Wild West Show. The Freak Show has a fine display of interesting characters, but Angeline is the main attraction. Her power is real: she can freeze water into shapes and eat burning pieces of wood. However, her power also isolates her from others, and especially from Jim, who, after having once tried to kiss Angeline, had his mouth frozen for hours. Is Angeline’s power worth the trouble it causes?

“When the Rain Comes” is an enjoyable piece of magic realism enriched by its setting. The story focuses on individuality, as opposed to acceptance by others. The Freak Show and its characters are a charming addition, although most of them are only fleeting presences. To be fair, characterization is not the main point of this piece, but once the Queen of Beards, the Alligator Man, the Wolfman, and an interesting old little girl make their appearances, one does want to hear about them too.