The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2017 (EBook, 2017, Spilogale, Inc..) 4 stars

An above average issue of F&SF.

4 stars

An above average issue, with a ghostly theme running through it, with various ghosts in various forms featured in some of the stories. Kate Wilhelm's ghost story is the strongest, with a test of wills between ghosts and the living. Marc Laidlaw's story is another good one, while the tale by J. R. Dawson features a metaphorical ghost from the future, or perhaps the past, depending on your time point of view.

  • "Attachments" by Kate Wilhelm: an interesting story about ghosts who are cursed to be attached to an abandoned castle for all eternity. But two of the ghosts manage to attach themselves to a girl who wanders into the castle, setting off a chain of events involving apparent violent revenge by one of the ghosts against the girl he loves, and a hunt for gold by the other ghost to help free all the other ghosts trapped by the castle. But then the girl comes up with an alternative suggestion to free the ghosts which, perhaps also helps free herself from her own internal ghost of a relationship.

  • "Carbo" by Nick Wolven: another story with ghost-like attributes. Here, an AI powered car nicknamed 'Carbo' has picked up the habit of constantly showing porn, taking inappropriate shots of women and taking sex-related routes for its driver. But how much of its behaviour is really due to the driver's own porn habit, and how much to illegally installed 'software enhancements' and malware is left as an exercise to the reader. Getting rid of the behaviour would take a very involved conversation with the driver's mother and intensive car hacking.

  • "Big Girl" by Meg Elison: a fantasy tale about a girl who is suddenly very big and the problems it causes to both the nearby city and to herself personally, as told via voyeuristic social media posts about her nakedness. It gets too much, and she leaves, only to return when she starts to shrink again. But her problems aren't over.

  • "Stillborne" by Marc Laidlaw: another interesting tale of Gorlen Vizenfirthe and the gargoyle Spar. In this story, partially told in flashback, we discover the circumstances by which Gorlen's and Spar's hands have been magically switched, and their ongoing quest to find the sorcerer who did it, so they can switch them back. The main story involves a journey towards the 'philosopher moths' which can grant mental insight or physical healing to those who imbue a certain liquid, perhaps aiding them in the quest. Caught up in it is the girl which was involved with Gorlen at the time of the hand switching and whom they encounter again during the journey. But when the depleted moths finally fly, the results may not be what the people making the journey expect and may lead the trio to reconsider their future path.

  • "By the Red Giant's Light" by Larry Niven: a short piece of the far future when the sun is turning into a red giant and gradually swallowing the inner planets. Set on Pluto, it sees an inhabitant struggling to divert an incoming object (a comet) from Pluto: if only it can convince a robot with the right equipment to help.

  • "Marley and Marley" by J. R. Dawson: an interesting tale of a time loop when an older self is sent back in time to take care of her younger self. The youngster resents her older self, especially when she (the older one) refuses to divulge what happens in the future. Question is, should she (the younger one) try to alter her future, and can the future be altered?

  • "Water God's Dog" by R. S. Benedict: in a land that worships a god that provides water, an old priest is consumed by the god's desire for a certain young boy. After locating the boy, they proceed into the heart of the mountain where the god lives and see his water based gifts. But when the god's desire is satiated, what is the priest to do?

  • "Racing the Rings of Saturn" by Ingrid Garcia: a fascinating story about a race around the rings of Saturn, tied in with politics as rebellious settlements around Saturn (and Jupiter) vie with authoritarian regimes for control and freedom.

  • "Whatever Comes After Calcutta" by David Erik Nelson: (Calcutta here refers to Calcutta, Ohio) A man is nearly killed when he stumbles into an affair his wife was having. Chasing after her and her lover, he runs into an apparent lynching of a witch and rescues the woman. But all is not as it seems as the woman starts to have an influence on him as he continues the hunt for his wife.