The cover to this one features the artwork of Wendy Froud. Wendy Froud is also one of the artist's profiled in this issue's artist gallery, and, as with last issue, the cover illustration also appears in the artist gallery.
A rundown of this issue's nonfiction is as follows:
In the movie/TV column, Resa Nelson covers the movie, Eragon; in the folkroots column, Midori Snyder writes about the magic of food; in the adult books column, managing editor Laura Cleveland reviews Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, the first authorized sequel to J.M. Barrie's original story, Gahan Wilson reviews Here Comes a Candle by Fredric Brown, and Paul Witcover reviews Tourmaline by Paul Park, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke, The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner, and Ex Cathedra by Rebecca Maines; in the YA books column, Michael Jones reviews Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, Changeling by Delia Sherman, Troll Bridge by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, No Place For Magic by E.D. Baker, River Secrets by Shannon Hale, Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld, and Catalyst by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; in the artist gallery, Ari Berk interviews the aforementioned Wendy Froud, and also Brian Froud; and in the games column, Eric T. Baker reviews the board game, War of the Ring, based on Lord of the Rings, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, "for the PC and every game system except the Wii and the PS3," Spectral Souls for the PSP, Disgaea 2 for the PSP, Yakuza for the PS2, and Test Drive Unlimited for XBox 360 and the PC.
On to the fiction ...
It's worth noting that this is the first issue where all the fiction contributors have had stories appear in earlier issues of the magazine. Considering that this is the seventy-fifth issue of RoF, that's quite an achievement. It clearly demonstrates the magazine was very consistent in publishing new talent and/or established authors who hadn't appeared in the magazine before. And since by this point there were a ton of regular contributors as well, RoF really did and still does strike a great balance between the regulars and the new. What makes this all the more interesting is that most issues contain 5-6 stories. But this issue contains 8 stories. Not bad!
The lead story is "Three Wishes" by Bruce Holland Rogers, which marks his tenth appearance in the magazine. In this rather short piece, a man finds a genie in a bottle and his granted the standard three wishes. Only Rogers takes things in a somewhat different direction when the man doesn't use any of them. Art to this one was provided by William L. Brown
Next up we have "Looking After Family" by Carrie Vaughn, which marks her fifth appearance in the magazine. This one is set in the same universe as her very popular Kitty Werewolf novels. In this piece, a young man whose father hunted werewolves was killed by one of these creatures. The young man is taken in by his father's family. The son wishes to take up the father's work and perhaps wreak a little vengeance in the bargain, but when the opportunity presents itself, is he willing to follow through at the cost of the lives of his family. Art to this one was provided by Scott Anderson.
Then we have "Spare Change" by Chuck Rothman, which marks his second appearance in the magazine. It's worth noting that Chuck's first appearance in the magazine was in the very first issue. Interesting RoF factoid: to date, he remains the only author from the first issue to have a second story appear in the magazine. As to the story itself, a man has had his life ruined by a mysterious organization known as THEM. But when he has an opportunity to end his suffering by passing it along to another, unexpected results occur. This one had an sf vibe to me, and at times the vibe reminded me of the movie, The Matrix. Of course, I like The Matrix, so this is hardly a shot at the story. Art to this one was provided by Janet Hamlin, which marks her second illustration in the magazine.
After this we have "Syren" by Graham Edwards, which marks his third appearance in the magazine. This is another one of his gumshoe detective tales, the third such to appear in the magazine. With this story, Graham really begins to open his universe up. Until this point (at least in RoF), his stories in this world mostly seemed to be a blend of contemporary fantasy and mythology. And while these elements are still present, with this story, a decided cyberpunk bent also starts to emerge in this universe. It's with this story that I pretty much stopped thinking of the protagonist as the gumshoe detective, and started thinking of him as the cyber detective. As to the story itself, our cyber detective gets pulled into a case he'd rather not be a part of it, but favors are owed and powerful people are doing some big-time arm-twisting. And so the detective must hunt down the son of a titan of industry, while navigating through golems, cybernetic syrens, temporal thieves, crooked cops, and of course, the perils of misguided love. Art to this one was provided by Scott Grimando, which marks his thirteenth illustration in the magazine.
Following this we have "The Devil and Mrs. Comstock's Snickerdoodles" by Eugie Foster, which marks her third appearance in the magazine. In this lighthearted tale, a reporter investigates reports of the Devil ...only when he arrives on the scene, he finds that the purported Devil is in the form of a cat. Very naturally, he is inclined to dismiss this report as a hoax. But as well know, the Devil can come in many shapes and sizes. Is this cat one of them? Perhaps. ;) Art to this one was provided by Lori Koefoed, which marks her eleventh illustration in the magazine.
Then we have "Number of the Bus" by Jay Lake, which marks his sixth appearance in the magazine. In this world, wizards find their magic through stories. And in this tale, our young protagonist's magic is based around the stories of those people circulating through the transit bus. And not just the living people, for there is a regular ghost on this bus as well. And when a living version of that ghost one day steps onto the bus, it throws everything into question. Numbers and particularly prime numbers factor heavily into this tale, for every bus has a number and follows its own schedule. Math was my worst subject in high school, so I took a lot of what the author told me at face value in this one, but I would imagine the math geeks out there will get an extra thrill from reading this one. Art to this piece was provided by Andrea Wicklund, which marks her fifth illustration in the magazine.
The next story is "Circus, Circus" by Eric M. Witchey, which marks his third appearance in the magazine. This also marks the 450th story to be published in RoF. As to the story itself, it's a rather touching tale. A young boy makes a request of the spirit of the circus, for all circuses have a spirit. He wants nothing more in the world than to be a circus. Not to run away with the circus, but to be a circus. It seems like an impossible request, but when tragedy strikes, we learn exactly what a circus is capable of. Art to this one was provided by Val Bochkov.
And finally, we have "In the Thicket, With Wolves" by Josh Rountree, which marks his fourth appearance in the magazine. In this one, a young woman is pregnant and the father has taken off. She's struggling to make enough money, and to add to her worries, it seems as though her child will be born with complications. Desperate, she turns to the mystical thicket wolves to strike a bargain that will ensure her child is born healthy. But like the oldest of fairy tales, we all know bargains such as these come with a steep price. Art to this one was provided by Patrick Arrasmith, which marks his fifteenth illustration in the magazine.
So that wraps up this issue. Next time around I'll dive into the April 2007 issue. Until then ...