Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Magazine Review: The Future Fire Issue 2010.20

'Lo Peoples,

Any reader can sample these narrative goodies for themselves at the following URL:

My participation in The Outer Alliance has exposed me to some emerging markets and voices that make being alive and reading fiction during this period of time exciting. The Future Fire's manifesto draws upon Nietzsche, but requires all submitted works to offer beauty in addition to function. The editorial staff also likes their fiction dark and edgy. As a picky reader, I can appreciate a literary standard like that. LGBTQ-friendly fiction is always a deciding factor for my reading list.

The Future Fire offers free online fiction to speculative fiction lovers. The magazine pays its authors, but not its editors, yet keeps its issues coming. Be a literary hero and make use of the Paypal Donate button. Yes, the reviewer already did. Now, onto the stories featured in The Future Fire's Queer Science Fiction themed issue.

Silence by Alex Fleetwood- In the last days of the world, a lesbian judge upholds her oath of serving justice for her fellow human beings. The story suggests what matters most to being human is the instinct towards interdependence. Silence raises questions of how far would one go to observe one's principles in the face of sheer annihilation. Well-placed as the introductory story of the issue, Silence's title refutes the oft-quoted T. S. Elliot poem's exit line: instead of the expected whimper, the story rests with a line or two of dialogue and a scene of people and animals snuggled together. Beautiful.

Titanium and Silk by Nick Poniatowski- A tortured female prisoner meets with a compassionate female android during a war that requires participation or persecution for refusing. The author Nick Poniatowsk is an Outer Alliance member. Rho, the gynoid, may have lost her memory, but not her ability to decide for herself. Cindel, the human, provides Rho with a reason to abandon the brutal penal work colony where the two find themselves in one another. Extrication in their world is a euphemism for execution. Yoga postures double as protest art and a form of self-soothing. My sole quibble with this stark, romantic piece is not that I ever doubted Rho's change of heart, but the author took such pains to establish Rho's unwillingness to do harm that evidence of her ability to do so took this reader completely by surprise. Read Titanium and Silk to see if you disagree.

Merlin's Dolphin by Erika Tracy- A gay crewman and a wizard bunk together at the captain's behest and face off against Somali pirates together. Attention, Homoerotica fans, Merlin's Dolphin does not fall into the boy meets boy; boy sleeps with boy category. Rather, Merlin's Dolphin is about sheer acceptance for those who are different and the wisdom in standing up for one's shipmates. Jack London's adventure stories share the same rough and tumble minus the magical, shape-changing elements. I especially appreciated the unexpected twist with the female Somali pirate. As an African-descended person, this reviewer is very sensitized to portrayals of other dark-skinned peoples. At the end of the day, Merlin's Dolphin seems to indicate that what matters is less where one's sexual preference lies but to find a place where one can be oneself without incident.

Lastly, Guest Editor and a co-founder of OA, Natania Barron, gives an account of the genesis of LGBTQ advocacy group: The Outer Alliance. One of the general editors, Djibril Alayad, from The Future Fire is also a member. Keep in mind, membership within The Outer Alliance is open to speculative writers and friends for whom positive inclusion of a LGBTQ presence within the genre is a common passion.

Note: This was a pro bono review. Other than OA membership, this reviewer has no affiliation to The Future Fire magazine.

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