fantasy and science fiction book reviewsLore was originally published from 1995 through 2000, folding when the pressure of events and the emerging careers of the editors and publishers became too much. It has now been resurrected as a trade paperback-sized magazine containing some really decent stories.

The opening story, “Enshrined” by Bridget Coila, seems to be about the afterlife of a group of children and Sala, their adult leader. They have been climbing mountains for days, even as the children garner bruises and broken bones that do not appear to hurt them. At the top of the mountain is a shrine, and in the shrine is a former student of Sala’s, who explains, with anguish, why Sala and the children make their climb. However, the story does not provide a complete picture of exactly what is going on here, or how life works on this mountain (or even this planet).

In “Finny Moon” by Keith P. Graham, a man comes back from a fishing trip hauling a mermaid who appears to be dead, as one of the men who greets him ascertains by pinching one of her nipples, hard. They discuss the best way to dispose of her body: should she be stuffed or should she be sliced up to eat the meat of her tail? The men seem less than awed or even surprised by the catch. The problem is solved for them when the sea produces another creature. And again, the men aren’t particularly surprised, only puzzled about how the creatures have sex. It’s a crude story about crude characters.

Steve Rasnic Tem is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. His stories always have a melancholy air about them, and “Congregate” is no exception. In this story, word has gone out that God is returning to Earth, and quite a few people have gotten explicit calls to come to a particular place. Jamie hasn’t gotten a call, but he wants to find out what’s going to happen, so he follows the crowd, waiting to see what will happen. It’s a quiet and philosophical story, but it carries a punch.

“One in a Billion” by Colin Heintze is a heist story on a world that has solved its space and population problem by inventing artificial gravity that is arranged in planes, so that all six surfaces of any living space are completely usable. Sleepy?  Step up to the ceiling, where you’ll find your bed. Hungry? The sink, stove and fridge are on the east wall. The narrator has figured out how to use the gravity planes to rob a bank and get away clean. It’s a strong adventure story based on a cool idea, making this one of the best stories in this issue.

Another of the best stories in this issue is “Electric Souls on a Starless Planet” by J.P. Boyd. A flyer crash lands on an anaster, a planet without a sun, one that has been seeded for terraforming by an alien race. It is covered with plants and trees that are internally fluorescent, and warmed by provoking an internal radioactivity in its core. The plants and trees produce fruit that is edible by the human and Tucumaran (a turtle-like creature) who land there, pursued by the Han — essentially sentient dinosaurs, seeking nothing but the death of their enemies. It’s a hide-and-seek tale on an exotic terrain, nicely imagined and skillfully told.

Stephen Mark Rainey’s “Asylum” starts slowly, but it develops into a horrific tale about a priest who asks another for a particular sort of blessing. How does a genuinely good man react in the face of an evil he had not before contemplated as real? When does one abandon the idea of mental illness and admit that he is faced with a demon?

Nyki Blatchley’s “House of Dreams” is a sort of ghost story, one in which the ghosts are not so much the revenants of the living as their remnants — that which remains when the self gives up. The story does not entirely work, mostly being a tale told within a tale and therefore lacking any sort of action or plot.

On the other hand, one’s appetite for sword and sorcery is nicely whetted by “Lost in Darkness” by Jeremy Harper. This tale of a battle between magicians is well-told and sufficiently original that the echoes it stirs up of other sorcerous duels do not drown out the action. It made me want to reach for the nearest door-stopper fantasy saga, so hungry for magic did it make me.

“Melbourn’s Storm” by Nickolas Furr is another story of magic, about a man who each year visits the shades of all those he has killed in order to ask their forgiveness. It is a powerful story about the need of even the most vicious killers for the good wishes of those they have tortured and killed, and of the growth of a single human man.

I still don’t know what to make of Jeff Samson’s “Can Spring Be Far Behind?” It starts with Brian sitting at a typewriter and thinking about spaceships, which seems normal enough, but within a page we learn that Brian’s hands are grievously injured, the outer three fingers on both hands missing, and different sorts of tools substituted for his index fingers, just enough to allow him to type. Brian also seems to be deathly ill, his small bit of health maintained by his friend, Jurgen, who scavenges for both of them. I think it’s supposed to be a satire about the writing process, or literary criticism, or both, but the story ultimately seems to accomplish nothing but to gross out the reader.

“Tumor Is the Night” by Corey Mariani is another nausea-inducing tale — a reaction that the author seems to strive for, so I suppose I must call it successful on that score, but it’s definitely not my taste. Insanity, cloning, and a long search combine for a story that is mostly a conversation about the ugliness of the world these characters inhabit.

The final story is “Nzambe” by Denise Dumars, about voodoo and zombies. It’s a sufficient twist on the zombie theme to make it interesting, particularly combined as it is with contemporary African and Islamic politics.

Lore offers substantial value: 12 decent stories for a cover price of $10.95. The variety of tales is great, and there’s bound to be something here for every taste. I recommend giving it a try.


  • Terry Weyna

    TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She reads all day long as an insurance coverage attorney, and in all her spare time as a reviewer, critic and writer. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, two rambunctious cats, and an enormous library.