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Reviewing the Pulps: Amazing Stories

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Nothing like a revamped old standby magazine to get you suckered in. Standing in the bookstore waiting for Realms of Fantasy to pop in I see Amazing Stories. Spider-Man adorns the cover but that can be forgiven. Realms of Fantasy as a horrible track record of using over exposed commercial crap trap for cover subjects, helps raise interest I guess. But on to Amazing Stories. Lower right is a yellow splotch touting the mag as the “First Issue of the 21st Century. Guess that’s real important stuff you know. So it’s a revamped variation of Amazing Stories which died off years ago and anyone telling you thee are mysteriously descended from it are lying or marketers. Also it has a big splotch of Spider man on the front a movie that has been covered in numerous other medias. Spider-Man may be an ok movie for all I know but overexposure tends to dull my enthusiasm. So far two strikes and it’s going for $5.99. Now I hate to be crass but for that amount of money I do expect more then just eighty-six pages. I buy it anyway thought because I’m a sucker for new short stories. Nice short stories I can read with little investment in time and concentration.

So I guess its stories we go to first. “The Spider’s Amazement” by Bruce Sterling will be the first speak out since it hit me the strongest. A strange dictator type of person is somehow stored over the centuries. He was on the run from political enemies and needs a good century to wall up in you know. So he’s sleeping whatever sort of sleep he has been chemically blessed with and wakes up in a far ahead future where the human race has annulled itself. Yippee no more humans our nameless time traveler calls himself ruler of the world and celebrates.

That was the point of the story and it sticks to me. It sticks to me because it was told with suck explicit detail of the unnamed dictator’s body rotting from disuse. It sticks to me because the mind of an egotistical lunatic is explored with the grace and poetry of a noble character. It sticks to me because even though the formula of the story is old Mr. Sterling has found a way to storytell it in a unique gem.

I have my days about “Human Subjects” by Ray Vukcevich. It’s supposed to be a bout a man who is the test animal for aliens. See every alien has a test human and every human has an alien watching over him or her. Except that’s not what the story is really about and what the story is really about is rather mundane and boring. It’s “Will he still love me tomorrow nonsense” at its heart. Well-written nonsense but still nonsense.

“Monster” by Gene Wolfe can count in as a grower. It didn’t hit me all at once but it sort of grew and grew in the back of me head. It’s got a nice nestled little place back here with all my other haunting and twisted memories of stories. Guy has a Siamese head attached to him. Guy falls in love and Siamese is a pain. Go figure. What happens next enters spoiler country so forgive me for the lack of detail. Another strong piece.

Then there’s the Harlan Ellison piece. Two hundred words. It’s a game Amazing Stories wants to play with some of the authors. With a picture give out a story in one thousand words. Ellison naturally bucked it and gave two one hundred word segments with Gaiman supporting him writing eight hundred. It’s not worth the effort. The blurb next to Ellison’s name mentions his lawsuit against Internet pirates. He won you know. Whoopity doo da. Temptation begged me to type out his two hundred do nothing story. Begged me I tell you begged me because I swear to Hell and the gods that it wasn’t worth paying for. Neil Gaiman does an introduction for the piece jesting that it’s a long lost Harlan Ellison classic. Started out at 2,000,000 words but Harley just kept trimmin’ and a trimmin’ until eventually we got down to two hundred. Gaiman’s introduction is more entertaining then the piece itself. I was going to write “actually” after is up there but why dilute the truth so? Of course it’s more entertaining then the two hundred worded whatever they hell it is that Ellison typed in. The hundred-word story after a picture routine is supposed to be an ongoing feature with the new version of Amazing Stories and I can only hope that there is a series of protest letters deriding this aberration of art.


Tried to get through “Proof” by Timothy Zahn. Still having trouble. Supposed to be about a prison where the mind is manipulated until there is no identity. Sounds cool in theory but in structure it’s just not holding very well. On the verge of giving up.

Out of eighty-six pages twenty-one were related to fiction. Kind of lopsided if you ask me. Editor David Gross warned me in the editorial about this. Amazing Stories will cover a mix of storytelling media in order to ensure that every Sci-Fi girl and boy can get their rocks off. Sounds fair and I was warned. To add there is a wide range of articles here. There’s a Robert Silverberg interview, a piece about the radio adaptation of the Twilight Zone, and a retrospective of Sci-Fi past. Even has some book and movie reviews worth looking through. It’s not a bad read and it passes the time reasonably. Potato chips are not a bad snack and it fills your hunger reasonably. The articles could have been written not just better but thicker. I feel like I’m getting the Reader’s Digest version of Speculative Fiction articles. Once again for $5.99 I expected a little bit more.

Unfortunately I’ll have to pass on Amazing Stories for a little while. Maybe after they beef up this taco a little it’ll amount to something but as for now its just junk food.

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