Lately, I’ve been thinking about narrowing the scope of this blog and, as I put it, reading more like a normal person. In other words, reviewing less of what I read.
I’ll probably continue to do the weird western stuff though. It gets a moderate amount of interest, and it’s an area not a lot of other people cover
Review: Science Fiction Trails #12, ed. David B. Riley, 2017.
In 2017, David B. Riley gathered the posse for another ride in Science Fiction Trails.
That magazine’s successors, Steampunk Trails and Story Emporium, didn’t generate a lot of interest, and Riley wanted to still provide an outlet for writers of weird westerns.
Counter to that was Riley’s perennial problem in even getting enough submissions for the magazine.
So, it’s no surprise that all the members of the posse are old reliables from previous issues.
Not only this is a shorter issue than regular, but it’s even got a couple of reprints.
First up is “Belfrey’s in Your Bats!” from Aaron B. Larson. There is nothing wrong with the story. It gives a hat tip to probably one of the most popular weird westerns of all time, the tv show The Wild Wild West (the other being, perhaps, the Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter). But it’s not the best of the stories collected in that powerful parcel of weird western fiction: The Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones which I’ve reviewed at length elsewhere.
The other is Dan Fitzimons’ “Lawman” which I reviewed in Heat of the Midday Sun, another Science Fiction Trails publication. It’s a good story but, of course, already familiar to me.
One of the best things about the early issues of Science Fiction Trails is how many stories were weird western stories of the science fiction variety that didn’t run down the usual paths of aliens or time travel.
I’m afraid only one story here meets my standards that way. It’s Henry Ram’s “The Tavanier Purple”. For once, this isn’t one of Ram’s, Potbury the Necromancer stories. Rather it’s a cat and mouse game between two magicians: Harry Blackstone and Colonel Natrone. Blackstone has publicly announced he plans on stealing the titular gem from industrialist Cyrus Gildersleeve as its shipped from coast to coast via rail. Natrone is hired to stop that. There’s a twist ending and a less than adequate automaton named Blue Boy. It met my aesthetic standards, but I have to admit it wasn’t my favorite story.
That distinction goes to Joel Jenkins’ “It Fell from the Nighted Sky”. Again bounty hunters Lone Crow, Six-Gun Susannah Johnson, and Isidro Acevedo are tracking down some desperadoes. But their quarry, the Talbot Brothers, have made the mistake of seeking treasure at the site of a fallen star and a whole lot of extra trouble ensues.
The badman in Sam Knight’s “Going to Hell on the Noon Train” is out of place in the Kansas Territory of 1860. He really hails from “the Nuragic civilization in ancient Italy”. And another time traveler, Barbara Randall, Malefactor Acquisitions Agent for Her Majesty’s Time Continuum Exploration, Expansion, and Exploitation, is set to bring him in. It’s adequate entertainment with its vision of Her Majesty’s hellish prison and Barbara’s leering at the women she meets.
“Red and the Big Bad Wolf: Monster Hunters” from J. A. Campbell is a fantasy, not science fiction and, seemingly, a take off on Little Red Riding Hood. Red’s a woman. Bad’s a werewoman.
Naturally Karl, the Dinosaur Sheriff, puts in an appearance with a column about how ludicrous ghost hunting dogs are, and we get a column from one of them, dog Brown, star of many a J. A. Campbell ghost-hunting tale.
There are also two interviews with David B. Riley and Lauren Givens (frequent cover illustrator for Science Fiction Trails) about their dos-a-dos novels in Legends of the Dragon Cowboys which I’ll be reviewing in the future.
Overall, it was good to see the return of this magazine, and I hope that future issues can attract more talent to contribute to it, and it can recover past glories. But, if you’re new to Riley’s publications, this isn’t a bad place to start.