Another issue of Curtis Ellett's "Swords and Sorcery Magazine" went up the other week and I finally got around to reading it (yeah, I've been slack in keeping up with the magazines of late). Not as good as the last few but still better than the first several I read.
The opener, "Calling Fire" by Jarod K. Anderson, is really more an introduction to a character than a full blow story. An unnamed narrator introduces the reader to a world where fire callers exist, peddling their skills at summoning heat and flame like any other tradesman.
The narrator is setting out for an annual journey to the plains in order to let loose a year of self-control. After limiting his talents to heating kettles or lighting candles he needs more. More means setting the plains alight.
Unfortunately, there are those who consider fire callers demonic and the narrator meets a trio of such people. Up until the confrontation with the trio, I found the idea of a fire caller wandering about selling heating services a little pointless. Several bits of information regarding the caller's trade are made clear at this stage that changed my mind.
Anderson's writing works well at conveying the joy of the fire caller's use of his talents. Still, it's not much of a story and, as is often the case with shorts, feels like it's been shorn from a larger piece of fabric.
"God of the Mountaintop" by John Grover I like only a little. Dorrin, a swordsman, and his companion Vess, a siren (like from the Odyssey) are traipsing about the countryside when they enter a village that's clearly been through the ringer. Cattle lay dead (with bites taken out of them) in the fields and the town center's a shambles. A brief interaction with a young boy named Sebastian reveals that only recently has new god appeared atop a nearby mountain. Said god is always demanding offerings of food but the villagers' tithes are never enough. Now they're contemplating a virgin as the next gift. Sensing a scam at hand, Dorrin and Vess declare to the villagers they will right the wrongs and set them free from the false deity's bondage.
There are some nice bits to "God of the Mountaintop", such as Dorrin remembering how he met Vess and later telling her why he's such a good guy. The psychological problems of the villains is a nice bit of cleverness as well. Still, everything felt a little too familiar and by the end I was a bit bored.
So, click your bookmark, and read this month's stories. I need to get back on track because it's only a week and half away until the next issue.