Category Archives: E-Market / Monthly

Futurismic, March 2005

Never has a story surprised me more than "Strike A Pose" by Donnàrd Ricardo Sturgis found at the online ‘zine, Futurismic. Talk about fiction that strands a person at an intense level of uncomfortable. Drag queens, sorority houses that function like gangs, rape, and violence all find a cozy little home in the world of Glamtasia. The warning at the beginning of the story about the graphic nature of the text is an understatement. If you’re prudish, extremely conservative, or drag queens make you squeamish, then you probably should avoid this story. However, if you choose to skip it, you’re missing out on something fantastic.

From the elaborate character descriptions, down to the nuances of this world, the story drips with originality. The plot follows Cindy as "he/she" takes us through the futuristic drag queen subculture of Glamtasia, and prepares for the Future Legends Ball where the winner gets a modeling contract with the House (kind of a cross between gangs and sororities) of their choice. Meanwhile, enemies of the protagonist want to impede him from winning the Ball. Some of the plot is fairly obvious because the whole story is structured around the Cinderella archetype. However, the originality of the setting and the nuances of the world create a Cinderella-tale that defies anything ever done before. Even the Grimm Brothers could take a few notes about writing dark fiction from Donnàrd Ricardo Sturgis

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the fantasy elements, which revolves around Caribbean religion and magic such as Voodoo and Santeria. For example, there’s one point in the story where one character uses voodoo to subdue another character. It’s in this scene in particular that the magic seems a little off, especially since the author already developed the character’s personality so that the reader could easily believe that character to be subdued without magic. So it works like a cheap cop-out.

Then as the storyline progresses, more magic appears, this time from the Santeria religion. The earlier scene now seems less like a cop-out and more like an element thrown in to prepare us to suspend disbelief for this later scene. Additionally, the appearance of magic also relies on the Cinderella archetype. So the magic is a mixed bag in that it works because of certain elements in the story, but at first almost unravels a really cool science fiction story. In the end, we get a story that contains both science fiction and fantasy elements that breathes and grows outside of the archetypal fairytale it’s based around.

The author’s ability to extrapolate a futuristic world around drag queens and Caribbean culture is downright amazing. The quintessence of how to extrapolate a believable and quirky future . Other writers should spend time studying this story to learn how it’s done. Not to mention the dialogue and descriptions of the drag queens’ appearances are very believable. This story does mostly everything right.

When I first volunteered to review Futurismic here at Tangent, I thought the stories would be more traditional science fiction offerings. By the time I finished reading "Strike a Pose," I recorded Futurismic as a magazine I would want to read again in the future, offering original fiction with a capital "O" that can keep pace with much of what the top markets offer these days.

Transfinite #2, February 2005

ImageTransfinite #2 comes to us with three works of fiction this month.

The first is James Targett's "Empires Rise, Empires Fall," a story of combat with a nanotech monster. While the idea of the monster is somewhat interesting, this story is a mess of infodump scenes, poor plotting, and scenes that have no relationship to the rest of the story. This story feels like it was a novellette or novella shoe-horned into a long short story.

"By Virtue of Our Humanity" by Corey Kellgren details human aggression getting us in trouble with a supernaturally powerful race that has a strong sense of justice. Corey Kellgren handles the story well. I did think the communication method was a bit awkward, but I get the sense that this might be intentional. Overall, "By Virtue of Our Humanity" is an acceptable read.

The issue ends with the second part of George Brereton's serial that started with "Counting Sheep."  "Counting the Cost" continues with Brereton's brisk style and crisp characterizations, while raising the suspense from the first installment. I would recommend reading "Counting Sheep" before the second part of this serial, however. And I wish editor R. E. B. Tongue had warned us this was going to be a serial, rather than a story of two parts, back in issue #1.

Transfinite #1, January 2005

ImageTransfinite is a new PDF zine from Britain. In addition to fiction, it has articles and essays. And the "cover" art for issue #1 is first rate.

The fiction opens with the action packed "Counting Sheep" by George Brereton. "Counting Sheep" is being published in two parts. The first half of this story is engagingly written and the action holds the attention with its tale of attack on a mine and factory in an unknown setting. But you never really learn what this story is about, why things are taking place. The second half of the story is in Transfinite #2.

Matthew Frank is next with "Thief," a story about identity theft. The first half of the story is relatively strong. However, "Thief" goes astray from its main thrust with strange diversions that have little to do with the rest of the story. The ending is an attempt to bring the story back on point, but it ultimately fails after the strange ramblings that took the story adrift.

Another story about concept of identity, "Vocal Concern" by Duncan B. Barlow details the story of a man confronted with himself. Barlow's effort succeeds in the meat of it, but the setting of the story is very esoteric—the world of music recording. If you can get past the setting to the conflict, you will find a story that has the power to engage. However, I did find the end of the story a little weak, and rather predictable.

"A Time to Stay" is the weakest story of this issue. Werner A. Lind writes an unengaging time travel story that doesn't have any real conflict, nor has it anything to really hold the interest. It's a relatively uninspired character study wrapped around a strange plot device and provides nothing new to the time travel genre. Indeed, the story ends before it really even had begun.

The final story is the contribution of Transfinite editor, R. E. B. Tongue. "The Last Raid" is a reimagining of manned spaceflight, with Britain making the first manned flight. It's fairly well written, but fails to answer the important questions that one would imagine would arise from such an alternate history. This would be the second story in the issue that fails to tell the whole story but stops at the setup.

I rather enjoyed Brereton's "Counting Sheep," but I am rather disappointed that the decision was made to publish this story over two issues, especially given that I found at least some of the remaining fiction lacking.

The Spook, June 2002

"The Sparklers" presents a confused picture of a young woman coming to her own as a self-defined Guardian pledged to protect humankind from the ravages of supernatural nasties called Sparklers. The Sparklers are busily killing off every man, woman and child on Earth as the story opens, and it's up to our heroine to track them down by driving her SUV into a dreamworld with a secret weapon epoxied to her dashboard and her cat in the front seat. In the dreamworld, she discovers that the Sparklers have been unleashed upon the Earth by her dead mother, who for some unknown reason believes that she will achieve goddesshood if she kills everyone else off. The stage is set for a showdown that ends with a whimper rather than a bang.

Sloppy writing full of cliches and underdeveloped characters further undermine an already weak story.

This is the only fiction offering in this month's issue of The Spook, which seems bent on presenting every obstacle possible to reading its contents. Available only in online format, it is full of memory-hogging, flashy ads of the type found in print magazines, and tiny type that forces you to squint while pressing your nose against the screen to decipher it.

Michael Belfiore lives in New York State's Hudson River Valley, where he runs a writing-for-hire business with his wife Wendy Kagan. Visit him online at www.michaelbelfiore.com.