- File Size: 7994 KB
- Print Length: 184 pages
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- Publisher: SciFanTM Entertainment (January 1, 2017)
- Publication Date: January 1, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01N1V3B81
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,687 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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SciFan™ Magazine Issue 1: Beyond Science Fiction & Fantasy Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
There are several strong stories such as "The Tot of Wonder" and "Orlok's Song."
This volume also includes excerpts from novels in the genre. Though I'd prefer more original stories intended for the magazine, these intro chapters did entice me to look further into the works of the respective authors.
It's a commendable first volume in what promises to be a thriving magazine.
Think of Star Wars and its mystical Force overlain by the trappings of a science fiction universe. Or the almost (and sometimes genuinely) magical abilities of comic book superheroes. Or even the Weird stories of Lovecraft, where god-like entities are explained scientifically as incomprehensibly powerful alien entities, and magical incantations are revealed to be instructions for opening gateways through time and space.
The authors and editors of SciFan magazine are attempting to bring awareness of this genre to a wider audience. The contents of this debut issue cover a wide spectrum, from space opera to horror to superhero to a newer, obscure genre of fantasy called LitRPG (more on that in a bit). With so many styles and genres in one magazine, it can be a bit hard to pin down precisely what makes these science fantasy as opposed to just straight up fantasy or science fiction. But perhaps that’s the point. Science fantasy is a liminal genre, a transition from the real “what could be” world of science fiction into the magical impossibility of fantasy.
Many of the tales in this issue are excerpts from novels, which is good for getting a taste of the author’s larger work. It can be a bit frustrating, though, since these samples don’t really work as stories on their own- you just start getting into the narrative, only to be cut off suddenly and encouraged to seek out the complete novel. That’s fine for one or two stories in an issue, but reading through several samples in a row can be jarring.
So let’s see what stories they offer in this issue.
Octav’s Rise to Ainorean
by Dawn Chapman
Right out the door we find an excerpt from Chapman’s larger Secret King series. Commander Octav Broki, under orders from the King and his close friend Prince Kendro, defends his home world from enemy attack. But victory carries a grave price.
This tale has the feel of classic space opera with lots of swift interplanetary combat and political drama with an added dose of magic from the strange croex energy fields that the characters possess.
I admit this story was a bit hard to follow. There are so many names and strange terms dropped constantly that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Dawn Chapman has clearly developed a rich, vibrant universe, and reading her full length novels would most likely put this tale in better context.
Séance on Death Row
by Douglas Kolacki
A more traditional horror/Weird fiction story here. A reporter attends a séance in a maximum security prison to contact the ghost of a murdered girl who has been haunting the place. A pretty good entry in the classic “ghost seeking revenge” theme.
The Tot of Wonder
by John Taloni
A lighter tale about a superhero dad taking care of his super-powered son. I particularly like the scenes showing the precautions Omni-Man’s non-super wife has to take to make sure her kid doesn’t crush her like a piece of origami.
by Kyle Hemmings
A lonely, awkward banker develops feelings for a woman at his job who seems just as disconnected from the world as he is. Then things get weird.
This is one of those stories that I would consider straight science fiction as opposed to science fantasy. There really isn’t anything that’s outright magical or fantastic about it. But taken as it is, it’s a good self-contained piece.
by David Castlewitz
A family of reptilian beings wanders a dirty city, having been driven out of their forest home by increasing human encroachment. They’re searching for a hidden community of their fellow creatures that have made a haven beneath the steel and concrete, but when they finally do discover this new home, it’s not what they expected.
Voices Beneath the Ice
by Matthew McKiernan
Three astronauts from diverse backgrounds land on the icy surface of Europa, only to find there’s something sinister lurking in the ice. Something that doesn’t want them there.
I enjoyed the brief character sketch of the protagonist, a man who scrambled his way up from poverty in Haiti and is determined to prove himself as a famous astronaut. It’s easy to understand his anger and resentment at the comparatively easy lives that his fellow explorers have led.
Secret of the Old Ones
by Blaise Corvin
This story is part of the LitRPG genre. LitRPG stories are, in essence, literal narratives of computer or tabletop RPGs. Stats, skills and number-crunching are actually incorporated into the story. It’s basically like sitting on the couch and watching your friend play a computer game.
I’ll admit right now I am not a fan of this genre. I’m an avid role-player myself, but I hate number-crunching. I really could care less about farming gold or accumulating stats. I don’t like constantly being pulled out of the world’s narrative to be reminded that my mana level is at 67% or that I failed my Persuasion skill check. This genre is definitely not for me.
However, looking at it objectively I can see the appeal of LitRPG. There is that vicarious thrill from seeing your skill points go up, or unlocking a treasure chest to find that sword that gives you +3 to damage. It’s the same thrill, I’d imagine, that football fans get from watching the Monday Night Game.
The story itself is about a hard-core role-player named Trent who comes across a powerful artifact in the game that grants him incredible power. However, Trent quickly becomes a target for other less scrupulous players. It’s not entirely clear why they want him, though, since again this is just a sample from a larger work. The story does seem interesting enough, and I’m sure someone who is more into LitRPG will enjoy it quite a bit.
An interview with the author, Blaise Corvin, follows the story. He gives some decent advice for new authors looking to expand their market.
The SciFan Universe: A Scientific Creationist Story
by Jared Fleming
From what I’ve read on the SciFan page, there is a fleshed-out pre-existing world associated with the magazine. This story is set within that universe. It’s a war story about a fight between the armies of an apparently divine figure known as Father against the amorphous, demonic minions of an invading force of evil. The way religion is welded to technology reminds me a bit of the Imperium of Man from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game.
The battle scenes are quick and written well and the pacing feels natural. Definitely one of my favorite stories in the bunch.
by Tom Falwell
Another novel excerpt, though this one feels more self-contained than the others. A man wakes up in a crater in the middle of a field with no memory of who he is. He soon begins to suspect that he is not a natural human being and his suspicions are confirmed when he runs across a woman who knows him, though he has no idea who she is.
Spacejacking First Act
by Russell Hemmell
Another story that seems more hard scifi than science fantasy. A mission to explore the Asteroid Belt is suddenly interrupted by an alien presence appearing from nowhere. One of the two astronauts is seemingly killed in the encounter and her partner spends the next seven months grounded on Earth at a desk job. Things get strange though when his partner apparently returns from the dead with a message from the aliens.
The Brat and the Other Country
by David Perlmutter
A bonkers story about superheroes and a Roger Rabbit-esque world of living cartoon characters. This one is a fun, weird ride, although a tad heavy on expository dialogue. I’d love to see this expanded out into a full novel.
In the Hot Mists
by John A. Frochio
A neat steampunk story about an airship race, mechanical men and alien invaders. There’s a lot packed into this thankfully self-contained story, but it works well. Especially if you’re already familiar with the steampunk and planetary romance genres.
The Keystone Islands: Portals of the Grave
by Lander Allen
Another novel excerpt. Several children fall through a dimensional portal in the middle of a rocket test and are narrowly saved from incineration thanks to a young engineer’s sacrifice. The story quickly cuts to several years later when the kids are full grown adults dealing with a plague that turns humans into violent monsters. The sample ends before events really get going, but it seems like a fun ride.
This is a decent start for a magazine dedicated to Science Fantasy. There’s a diverse range of styles and themes, giving you some idea of the breadth of the genre. I would have preferred fewer novel excerpts and more self-contained stories, but hopefully this is just an Issue One quirk.
The first, ‘Octov’s Rise to Ainoren’ by Dawn Chapman, is an excerpt from the novel Lethao: The Secret King, which I've already read. Chapman’s work is excellently written, with strong detail and description and otherworldly characters who are familiar enough for the reader to empathize, yet whose otherworldly attributes and powers create a sense of wonder while reading. This particular excerpt is full of action and intrigue, and I liked it.
The second, ‘Séance on Death Row’ by Douglas Kolacki, is a short horror story in which a group of people, including a murderer, hold a séance to speak with the murderer’s victim. It was an older style of horror, relying heavily on implication and imagination, with dread permeating the story and with the horror stemming from forces beyond the grave which may be seen but not fully understood. It reminded me of Edgar Alan Poe’s work. I liked it.
The third, ‘The Tot of Wonder’ by John Taloni, is a much more lighthearted and goofy tale of a superhero father who lives with his non-super wife and his super-powered toddler son. There’s not a whole lot to it, but I think it’s geared more toward a young audience. It felt a little out of place in this magazine, but as a work for children I suppose it’s fine.
The fourth, ‘Miss Soames’ by Kyle Hemmings, was an odd one. I can’t say much about it without completely spoiling the story, but I didn’t like it very much. The prose was okay, but the plot was kind of nonsensical, a sort of bait-and-switch horror story that was so busy trying to surprise the reader that it forgot to be scary.
The fifth, ‘Orlok’s Song’ by David Castlewitz, was my favorite in the magazine. In this short story, there is a sentient species called the Peet (animal-like beings) who have been driven from their forest homes by human enterprise. Orlok is the father of a family that tries to survive in the new concrete forest of city slums. The writing in it was beautiful, and the story was brief but excellent in its narrative and conclusion. I'd definitely recommend this one.
The sixth, ‘Voices Beneath the Ice’ by Matthew McKiernan, is a sci-fi story with horror elements involving a trio of astronauts who land on Europa (a moon of Jupiter) and begin to find strange reasons to hate each other. I liked the concept a lot, but some of the prose needed work. I think this story has a lot of potential, and could be really great if some more time was given to it.
The seventh in the magazine is an excerpt from the book Secret of the Old Ones by Blaise Corvin. Its genre is given as LitRPG Sci-Fan™, in which the real world and the world of gaming are both important to the narrative. The only issue I have with the excerpt is that the character never seemed to really be in danger, but since it’s just an excerpt of a larger work, I’m sure there will be more conflict and excitement later in the story. I really liked this excerpt, and I’ll probably read the book at some point.
The eight is also an excerpt, titled ‘The Stirring’ by Jaren Fleming. It was something like Christian creationist science fiction, about a planet that serves God (here called The Father) at war with gooey alien beings that serve Satan. The whole excerpt was nothing but combat, and the writing was good, but I hope there is character development and more fleshing-out of the story in the larger work. I wasn’t a huge fan of the premise, but I can imagine other people liking it quite a lot.
The ninth was ‘Stormguard: The Invisible War’ by Tom Fallwell. It was another case of Christian-themed action sci-fi. I can’t say much about it without spoiling the whole story, but it starts with a man waking up in a crater with no memory of who he is or where he came from. The writing was okay, but I thought the premise was kind of a cliché. This was an excerpt of a larger work as well, but I probably won’t seek out the larger work.
The tenth, ‘Spacejacking’ by Russell Hemmell, seems like it may be an excerpt from a larger work, but it was unclear to me. It’s a futuristic tale of an alien abduction during space exploration, and the subsequent consequences. Again, I can’t say a lot without giving away the entire story, but I liked this one. It had some interesting and unusual ideas in it, and if it is part of a larger work I’d like to see where the story goes.
The eleventh story, ‘The Brat and the Other Country’ by David Perlmutter, was a real oddball. The premise was similar to the film ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’, if that film was a story about superheroes rather than a detective story. In the story, the cartoon characters of Earth actually live on another planet, and the main character is a superhero human who works alongside superhero cartoon characters. I can imagine other people really loving the premise, but it was just a bit too much of a stretch for me.
The twelfth story, ‘In the Hot Mists’ by John A. Frochio, is a steampunk tale about an airship race in which one airship has an unfair advantage because it’s crewed by extraterrestrials. Strange as this premise is, I liked it. The writing was good, it put a new spin on a familiar story, and I think lots of other people would enjoy the story too.
The last story (good job for sticking with me this long!) is ‘The Keystone Islands: Portals of the Grave’ by Lander Allen. It’s the first three chapters of a larger work, a soft sci-fi work set in a universe where Earth is a cultural center resented by the other planets. The tetrapath infection turning its victims into horrific monsters, and the protagonists have come from who-knows-where and are trying to figure out their past in the midst of this plague. It’s well-written and very intriguing, and I’d like to see where the story goes.
So, those are the thirteen stories from the January 2017 edition. I expect to read later editions of the magazine as well, as it seems like a great way to see at a glance what’s going on in the indie fantasy and sci-fi community.
Works like Octav's Rise to Ainoren by Dawn Chapman will capture you, draw you in and leave you wanting more.
A great read from front to back.
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