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    Posted: Mar-05-2015 at 8:05am

Horn of Plenty, by Daniel E. Blackston

originally published 5/28/2002
Whether you're a virgin or a veteran of Firebrand Fiction Reviews, you clicked over at the right time. We've prepared a cornucopia for you this bi-week, stuffed with some of the richest, most innovative, and most exciting SF available. Best of all, one of the finest stories reviewed in this bi-week's column is available through a free link!

First, Lady E. praises her pick for the #1 source of print SF in the U.S.A.

The best tribute I can think of to pay DNA Publications (and they deserve many) is that their Publisher/Chief Strategist, Warren Lapine, has seemingly solved the riddle of the print/electronic debate by vaulting right on over it. In an industry where it is increasingly rare to unearth innovation and ingenuity, DNA shines like a polestar for print publications. Also, due to a successful distribution strategy, it's both easy and affordable to hook up with any of their fine titles.

All of DNA's magazines have recently shifted to full glossy pages with imaginative high-quality art for the covers and interiors. A certain alchemical recipe is at work here; an almost ineffable "knack" for the memorable and intriguing permeate all of DNA's pubs. What's more, each pub has a unique mood and flavor. It's like knowing several members of a well-liked family, who have soothing similarities, but also exhilarating differences.

A good place to start is FANTASTIC STORIES OF THE IMAGINATION. With a name destined for diminution, FANTASTIC STORIES is a quirky, rebellious, and deeply creative pub. Edited by Edward J. Mc Fadden, the magazine seems to be a law unto itself regarding both content and attitude. Be forewarned, this pub is not for the faint of heart or narrow-minded. Such stories as Tom Piccirilli's "Come Back to Tell You All", a Satanic cowboy story rife with sex and blood, or, "Containment Syndrome", a futuristic "killer's journal", penned by fifteen year old newbie-author, Thomas Seay, blossom with dark irony and violence. Nonetheless, if you'd like to take a walk on the dangerous side of town, stalk on over and subscribe.

The best story from the Winter 2001 issue is, "The Lion and the Lamb", by William R. Eakin. This socially incisive tale kicks like the recoil of a shotgun with dense irony, philosophical parody, and a sinister sting against Platonic idealism. Professor Kendrick Lamb, an almost-octogenarian, ascends as a futuristic Timothy Leary whose drug-induced, neo-platonic teachings garner him a following of student radicals, intent on making 'revolution'. As the tale unfolds toward an increasingly apocalyptic denouement, we realize that Professor Kendrick's motivation for revolution has more to do with personal revenge than revisionism. Eakin has fashioned an incredibly dense, very powerful tale here and this type of unique fiction is the hallmark of FANTASTIC STORIES. It's safe to say, you won't find a story comparable to, "The Lion and the Lamb", through any other venue, for this exactly the kind of innovative and challenging piece that often winds up in limbo, with no pub willing to take a chance on it. Eakin's dour inversion of Platonic ecstasy resounds with dark observations on sex, hallucinogenic drugs, political oppression, and intellectual vanity. A must read, and re-read, guaranteed to surprise and astound.

DREAMS OF DECADENCE is DNA's Vampire pub, edited by Angela Kessler, who also serves as Art Director. Aesthetically, the interior-art in DOD is provocative , but clearly on the pulp-side of design. The fiction, however, is far superior to what you might expect given the pub's often-riffed theme. DREAMS OF DECADENCE boasts fine, lyrical writing and will successfully captivate even the most ardent vampire aficionados who think they've seen/ read it all.

We recently reviewed a story from Winter 2001 issue #16, "Red as a Cherry Blossom, White as the Snow", by Fiona Avery, in our "Spine Tingling Fiction" column. Another great piece from the same issue is, "A Different Hunger", by Terry Haymen. A blind vampire and a teenage prostitute have a date with destiny in this highly inventive and compassionately written story. I am still in awe of Haymen's prowess in setting free his characters from threatening clich?s. The tale moves at a suspenseful pace and casts the vampire in a wonderfully new guise, as Redeemer through compassion -- and a very capable street vigilante. Haymen writes tenderly when needed, but also explosively and bitterly, painting this piece with an original and exciting palette.

The fiction in DOD is well-worthy of your attention, whether you're a vampire fan or not; however, the poetry in DOD probably won't appeal to you unless you really like vampires. This is a great magazine and we commend Angela Kessler for her innovative and discerning selections of fiction.

For Science Fiction with a flair for the lyrically heroic, look no farther than ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE. This pub recently "swallowed" another of DNA's mags, ABORIGINAL SF and the most recent Spring 2002 issue sports both titles on its cover. Inside, you'll find five stories ranging in quality from the tender and poetic, "Carving" by J.F. Peterson to the plodding and expository, "How We know What Happened", by Uncle River.

DNA's Maestro, Warren Lapine, functions as editor-in-chief and Art Director for ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE and there is a distinct tone to this pub which is a shade more optimistic than most Science Fiction mags. In this pub, you may be lectured to by a severed, drooling head, as in Robert A. Metzger's, "Bandwidth to Burn"; nevertheless, by the end of the lecture you'll find that friends lie in unsuspected places, or, as in Barry Longyear's, "Just a Touch of Chocolate", that hope glimmers even for a sociopathic killer at the mercy of prison psychiatrists.

"Just a Touch of Chocolate" , is a commendable "twist" story that begins like an homage to Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine", rises through complications that recall "A Clockwork Orange", and resolves in a heady blend of euphoria and tragedy that will wound all but the most hardened cynics. This was a story I kept wanting to disregard as I was reading it because the lyrical lushness of Longyear's nostalgic prose seemed too obviously headed for disaster. Longyear, however, has the last bittersweet laugh, as he pens his climax with cleverness and originality. This is definitely one of those stories you'll tell other people about after you've read it.

ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, like all of DNA's quarterly fiction pubs, is a worthy investment at a mere $16 a year. If you love the magic of heroic and intellectually gratifying Science Fiction in print, this pub should go up top on your "to buy" list.

In our opinion, DNA's crown-jewel is , WEIRD TALES Co-edited by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer, this pub never fails to astonish, tease, provoke, and terrify. A fascinating blend of humor, pathos, myth, and oblique imagination, WEIRD TALES is a must-subscribe.

"The Gravedigger's Apprentice", by Alvin Helms, gets our vote for one of the most underrated stories from recent issues of WEIRD TALES. A blend of gallows humor and quick-witted narration, Helms' tale of Simon the journeyman gravedigger, and his mentor Jonah, will have you alternately laughing and shuddering. This is a quick, boisterous read and embodies the lethal undercurrent you can expect from most of what WEIRD TALES publishes. We tip our starry wizard caps to Alvin Helms whose command of description, dialogue, and narrative pace is outstanding.

If you haven't read this superb and creative tale from issue #325, click over to the DNA site and order a back-issue. Better yet order the back issue and then subscribe to WEIRD TALES, a truly entertaining and unique pub unlike anything else at the magazine rack these days.

In addition to the four pubs mentioned above, DNA offers MYTHIC DELIRIUM, a magazine of Speculative Poetry, and SF CHRONICLE, an indispensable trade journal for SF writers and editors. DNA is also involved with distribution for the SF magazine ARTEMIS, and has recently acquired a new interest, THE WHOLE CAT JOURNAL. We highly recommend any and all of the fiction pubs and encourage you to subscribe. DNA offers varied subscription rates for subs to multiple magazines and their prices are quite affordable.

Speaking of affordable... our link to free fiction this bi-week is a real gem! "Freedom, Spiced and Drunk", by M.C.A. Hogarth is a stunning story available absolutely free from STRANGE HORIZONS. This story, posted May 27th 2002, packs in more originality in the short story form than we've encountered in ages. Hogarth's ingenious conceits harmonize like the inspired melodies of a jazz virtuoso and his penetrating parodies on gender mutation, social hierarchy, and the nature of mysticism are mesmerizing. You can count on a more detailed review of the fiction at STRANGE HORIZONS in a future column. While you're waiting, click over and read this piece, an unqualified triumph of creativity and a thought-provoking SF you're sure to remember after you shut your computer down.

This bi-week's Great Fiction Brand is white-hot and ready to be stamped squarely on the writing hand of Daniel's chosen recipient!

Without hesitation, we burn our Brand into William R. Eakin for his story, "The Lion and the Lamb", from FANTASTIC STORIES, Winter 2001. Congratulations Mr. Eakin!! Should your name ever appear again in this column, it will be followed by our G.F. brand, in recognition of your narrative mastery. This also marks the second Award won by a DNA writer, the first of course, being Darrell Schweitzer at WEIRD TALES. Yet another reason to get your subscriptions in!

Until Next Time.
Daniel E. Blackston
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