New Scifi Magazine: Bastion
Posted May 10, 2014on:
Bastion Magazine is a new monthly science fiction magazine. They’ve recently put out their second issue, and I was lucky enough to get a review copy. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would this be like one of those runs hot ‘n cold anthologies that gets returned to the library half read, forcing me to mumble excuses while avoiding the editor? Would the quality of the stories be sub-par? New magazine, editor I don’t know a thing about…. you never know with these things.
Well, now I do know. I should never have worried in the first place. The May issue of Bastion Magazine contains nine short stories (holy crap, nine? that’s practically an anthology right there!), most in the eight to ten page range, which fit my attention span perfectly. Check out Bastion Magazine on their website, where you can read excerpts from both the inaugural April issue and the current May issue. And stay tuned, because in a few days I’ll be publishing an interview with the Editor in Chief of the magazine, R. Leigh Hennig. Oh, and the stories? Damn good for the most part. The further I read, the more impressed I was by the quality of the writing.
Confession: did I love every single story? Nope. But take that with a grain of sand because I don’t love every story in every issue of Asimov’s either. I’m still bowled over by the sheer quantity of stories in here. As I usually do with magazine issues and short story collections, here are a few words on some of my favorites (and when I say favorites, I mean more than half the magazine).
Moving Past Legs by Jamie Lackey – Editor R. Leigh Hennig chose one helluva an opener, that’s for sure. Humanity has figured out how octopi think, we’ve built neural nets so people can “plug into” them. You can walk into any pet store, buy the set up and the young octopus, go home, plug in, and get a high off the experience. It’s completely legal, and employers aren’t supposed to fire people just for being octo owners, but they still do. The ethics of the entire situation are incredibly fuzzy. Jeremy loves his octopus, Legs, so he lets her go. He even helps a movement that is working to stop pet stores from selling and breeding intelligent animals alongside kittens. What happens in this story will burn a hole right through you. Who are we to decide what Octopi and other intelligent creatures want? They aren’t going to want the same things we want, and they may never thank us for being uplifted, for lack of a better term.
Worried About by Brandon McNulty – This one falls into the category of “been done a million times before” but I so enjoyed McNulty’s treatment that I didn’t care. Mia struggles as much with her relationship with Jake as she does with her job, and trying to kick this stupid cold. Pregnant , being pushed towards a promotion she doesn’t want, and stuck in a shotgun relationship, Mia’s life is filled with worries. Her mother mails her a little “get well soon” gift, some tiny voodoo “worry dolls”. Attach a worry to each doll, and the dolls carry the worry away. Job, pregnancy, boyfriend. Mia follows the instructions that come with the dolls, but she keeps losing them, until there is only one left. When Jake notices some changes in her demeanor, he gets an inkling of what might be going on, so Mia is going to just have to stop worry about him too. And don’t you just feel so much better when you have nothing to worry about? there are some nice little horror story things happening in this one.
Vines by G. J. Brown – An old school noir tale with a scifi twist. Detective Spiros needs some leads on his new case. A color woman and a gray man found dead in an apartment, the word “vines” scrawled on the bathroom wall. First question, what was a color doing shacked up with a gray? Grays will often try to pass as color – cosmetics to change their skin tone, wigs to hide their hairlessness. The grays don’t get cancer, don’t have to worry about addictions, are faster and stronger than the colors, so it’s no wonder the colors have an inferiority complex. But what exactly are the greys? aliens? mutated humans? Spiros doesn’t care, he’d rather solve this case so he can finally spend some quality time with his family. If you like noir mysteries, you are going to love this one.
A Considerate Invasion by Mark Patrick Lynch – An invading alien race, the Mernon, is slowly destroying humanity. They infected us with a virus that switches off the genes that allow us to reproduce, while at the same time making us nicer, more complacent, less likely to be angry about the whole thing. All the Mernon need do now is wait for us to die off, and Earth will be theirs. In the meantime, they are friendly and patient. But Ashton isn’t nice, isn’t complacent, is burning with anger about the whole thing. He’s convinced he was immune to their contagion, and a Mernon meets with him to try to convince him otherwise. Ash was changed by the original contagion, just not in an expected way. As much as I’d love for aliens to visit us, I sure hope they never figure out how to do what the Mernon do.
Zombie Limbo Master by Rosemary Claire Smith – what a fun, weird, absurd zombie story! (“absurd” is a compliment, by the way). A high school football field plays host to a grotesque limbo contest, between a mortal and a team of zombies. The carved tusk that serves as a limbo pole, the Caribbean music, the dancing contestants, the human believing her freedom is just a few musical beats away. But will the Zombie Limbo Master keep his promise to free her if she wins? Did he even actually promise her that? Give this one a read, for the pure zany absurdity it delivers.
Nigh by Eric Del Carlo – The Nighters had told Aaron Lavoie what day he was supposed to die. He goes to bed, tries to relax after the day of being terrified. And then wakes up. Was it possible that the Nighter who gave him his deathdate was wrong? Or that it was someone impersonating a Nighter? Or perhaps the Nighter wasn’t wrong, wasn’t being impersonated, but was truthfully telling Aaron the day of his last day being a human. He needs to know for sure. His suspicions confirmed by a Nighter who takes him under her wing, Aaron begins his new life. Frightened, anxious humans come to him, asking what day they will die. He doesn’t know the answer until it leaves his mouth, but he’s always right. A pattern starts to emerge, one that even the Nighters fear. I kept my comments sparse because I didn’t want to spoil anything for you, but Del Carlo packs about a novels worth of fun ideas into this gem of a short.