Filler content in which destiny is challenged

A magazine review that originally appeared in The Fix #1:-

CHALLENGING DESTINY #10
Reviewed by Peter Tennant

Canadian contender Challenging Destiny is a neatly produced magazine with a full colour cover by Jason Walton, plus a full complement of interior illustrations, some quite striking, all of it in the traditional SF/F book cover style, by such luminaries as Dave Fode, Chris Jouan and Jeff Ward. There’s a provocative editorial by David M Switzer proposing tribalism as an alternative to civilisation (personally, I think we should try civilisation first) and a lengthy interview with writer Candas Jane Dorsey, while critic James Schellenberg gives an overview of New Wave SF by reviewing some of the most significant books published under that banner, all of which is interesting and well argued.

Title aside though, to judge by the contents of issue 10, there’s nothing challenging about the fiction, most of which is middle of the road with an emphasis on fantasy and humour. Star turn this issue is ‘Lost in the Moid’ by Hugh Cook, the story of one Ida Brahma, who flits from world to world having all sorts of adventures, accompanied by the camera U-scampi. Cook’s a clever writer who milks this scenario for all it’s worth, the understated whimsy a backdrop for barbed satire of advertising, the media etc, in the manner of Sheckley. At the other end of the spectrum David Chato’s ‘Elias Pin Returns to Nature in the Garden of New Eden’ is an artlessly contrived and uninvolving piece on the familiar theme of Ma Nature kicking back. Poor Pin gets in her bad books when he covers the lawn with Plasti Turf, but why Nature’s revenge should take the bizarre form of a poker game with the Four Elements is never satisfactorily explained.

‘The Dragon Laureate’ by Chris Webb tells of an encounter between a dragon with literary ambitions and one of those bands of assorted oddballs who are forever going off on quests in fantasy fiction, amusing enough and with slightly sinister undertones, but you come away with the feeling you’ve read a sample chapter from a novel rather than a self-contained short story. That’s even more true of Nye Marnach’s ‘Demon in the Sea’. The longest story in the magazine, this has a lot going for it. Marnach gives us an artificial world used as a giant aquarium by alien races, a universe in which the angels and demons of Earth mythology are major players, a unique parasitic life form, she stirs in conspiracy and racism, love and intrigue, she keeps all these balls in the air for nearly thirty pages, then the two main characters decide they’re in love and it’s all over bar for the shouting. It’s a good read, but one that ultimately suffers from a surfeit of content and is marred by the lack of a proper resolution to any of the plot strands, not so much a short story as a novel wannabe.

Stories by Karina Sumner-Smith and Matthew Reynolds round out a magazine that, if it won’t cut any edges, shouldn’t dull too many minds either.

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