Thursday, August 8, 2013

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #18

   Good and eh in this month's issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine.  Still, for something you get for free and the writers barely get paid for, you can't go wrong devoting a half hour or so of your life to reading Issue #18's pair of stories.  In fact, if you want to support S&S as a genre you should feel obligated to read the magazine.
   "Skullwitch" is by returning S&S Magazine alumna, Rebecca L. Brown.  Her previous stories, "The Open Pouch" (S&SM #10) and "Shadow of Ragnarok" (S&SM #8), were both fine pieces.  The only real action in either story is psychological.  "Skullwitch" is in the same vein, contemplative and a little moody.
   Brown's story is about a young man named Jaten and the prophecy about his life delivered by the Skullwitch, the town seer. At his birth she told his father, "Lasseus, we name your firstborn Jaten. Raise him well and he will make you proud. His first kiss will be given to a maiden's lips - and it will be her very first kiss and her last."   
   Faced with this prediction about his future, Jaten is unable to court the girl he loves from afar.  Burdened by fate he hates and curses the Skullwitch.  How the prophecy unspools is the heart of the story.  Again, Brown's not writing S&S here, but she is writing good stuff.
   Ivan Ewert's "The Fate of Donaldo" is a Lovecraftian Dream Landeques (really, more Lumleyesque) S&S story.  A daring thief named Faisha snipes a job offer out from under a another thief.  With a story of past daring and a quick sword, she convinces the sorcerer Vornak to hire her to deface the sanctuary of another wizard, Donaldo, and if present, steal from him a vial of mystical drug.  
   On its on the story's alright, I just never felt like the Dream Lands elements were really more than purposeless chrome.  The references to Leng and the Hounds of Tindalos were really just distractions.  There's also some clunky writing.  The opening paragraphs read: 
   "The gibbous moon shone upon the streets of Dorath Vur, her visage pierced by the great minarets which clawed hungrily toward the jewels of the stars. 
   Dorath Vur! City of greed, whose streets ran equally with filth and spices, coin and offal - Dorath Vur, the sweetly perfumed groin of the world. Its winds blew from the south and the sea this night, carrying the clean tang of salt waves and the sickly scent of beached idolfish alike, and through the winding harbor alleys stalked Faisha of Adorann."  
   It's all a little too purple, a little too much.  Still, there's a decent adventure in the story and a nice  bit of goofy detail at the end.  
   So that's the July issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine.  Not the best magazine out there, but one which keeps chugging along.  Looking back at the last year and half of stories it's carried there are several really good ones.  Mr. Ellett really needs to be commended on supporting and publishing short fiction in a genre dominated by back breaking tomes.  

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