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2013 Stories 84 - 89

Still waaaayyy behind as far as reading a story a day. Been reading novels when I've been reading.  I recently read the Spring 2013 issue of ICARUS: the magazine of gay speculative fiction.  You don't have to be gay to enjoy the sf, fantasy and horror stories selected by editor/publisher Steve Berman each issue. There's a chance this will be the final year of Icarus (spring 2014 being the final issue, I think), so get in on this while you can. Check out this link for information on buying single issues or a subscription, in print or ebook formats.

Now, on to my thoughts on the stories:

84. THE COUNTRY OF DEAD VOICES by Sam J. Miller  The issue starts of strong with a disturbing bit of light horror. Miller's story doesn't involve zombies, vampires, werewolves or supernatural serial killers. It revolves around a simple phone call to a phone sex line, and in the process of a conversation lays bear the narrator's troubled past and feelings of guilt associated with former lovers. Is the voice on the other end of the call a ghost from his past or something quite different and equally as disturbing? I won't spoil the outcome. I'll just say that Miller's narrator's voice felt real and personal and the sense of unease that permeates the story is pitch perfect.

85. WILLIAM WILLIAM by Vincent Kovar  I have a love-hate relationship with stories in which I feel the narrator is "unreliable." Sometimes that sense that we're only getting half the story is a wonderful thing, and sometimes it is just annoying. Kovar's story falls more onto the "wonderful thing" side of the scale. There was one small moment that threw me out of the story, but ultimately that moment ties into the story's satisfactory resolution.  William narrates his tale of high school hero-worship taken to extremes with just a touch of narcissism and an equal touch of unease.

86. SIRENSONG by Adam Lowe  Lowe imbues his story of an encounter between a lonely gay man and a merman found in the belly of a beached whale with a distinctly palpable sense of longing. I didn't feel at all connected to the main character, but did feel connected to that sense of longing that stays consistent throughout the story.

87. ENCOUNTER by Hagy Averbuch Sorry to say this was my least favorite story in the issue, possibly because it feels like it covers the same territory as Lowe's story: lonely (and in this case horny) gay man encounters equally lonely (and in this case horny) mythological creature (in this case, a centaur). The encounter in this story is apparently subject to rules (tied to sexual release) that I didn't quite understand, and I didn't feel any emotional connection to the human character or to the centaur.

88. THE GHOSTS OF EMERHAD by Nghi Vo  Another haunting story, in a fantasy setting I'd like to see more of. As his main character navigates through a city he hasn't set foot in in over a decade, trying to find the ghost of his lost love, Vo drops plenty of details that hint at a deeper history -- for the characters, the city, and the world -- that increased my curiosity. But Vo does it in a way that does not overwhelm the immediate story or focal character. There's a growing sense throughout the story that the main character getting what he wants may not be the best thing for him. The past can influence our future but can also save us from our mistakes.

89. THE BOHEMIAN METHOD by Lara Donnelly Another intriguing fantasy setting, and my favorite story in the issue. We don't see much, if anything, of magic in the story, but Donnelly introduces us to Aristide, a very Wilde-like character in personality if not looks, and the political intrigue that drives him into seclusion/exile in the Curran Pass. Of course, Aristide's past comes knocking very shortly after the story begins, and Donnelly effectively alternates the present tension with the past drama. Both spools of storyline play out strongly, with the reader being fed slowly what we need to know of the characters' past to heighten the mystery of what did happen as well as what will.

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