Visions of Paradise

Saturday, January 30, 2010

F&SF June/July 2009

Robert Reed is such a good writer; how many writers could possibly churn out as many stories as he does, with all of them being near or at the top of his talent? An example of why he is so good is the story “The Firehorn,” in the June/July 2009 issue of F&SF. The plot is simple: a group of children aged 8 through 13 have a secret clubhouse where they play the typical games children of that age play. Then the 13-year old boy teases the youngsters by claiming he saw a monster prowling nearby. The 13-year old girl plays along with him and names the monster the “firehorn.”

Somehow the firehorn takes on a life of its own. Soon all the youngsters in town believe in it, and are seeking it out, and even the adults play along. Then somebody actually sees a creature resembling the mythical firehorn, and the practical joke grows into a truly legendary creature along the lines of the yeti or bigfoot.

Fifty years after the “creation” of the firehorn, the originator is hired by a group of AI’s and cyborgs to help them hunt the firehorn, whose existence they truly believe. He wonders why artificial beings believe in such a chimera? This leads to an inevitable discussion about the genesis of both religions and legends, and a story which began as a lark turns into a philosophical treatise with an ending which was absolutely superb. While “The Firehorn” is not a classic story, it is definitely well worth reading.

Another very good story in the issue was Albert Cowdrey’s novella “Paradiso Lost,” a space adventure involving two raw officers who are part of a mission to find a missing space colony which was established by a religious cult several years ago, and now seems to have disappeared. The entire story takes place on the ship and its cast of characters include the arrogant general, his dwarf companion, the female second-in-command, and the grizzled sargeants who serve under the two lieutenants but are their advisors much of the time. While this might sound like military SF, a sub-genre which I generally dislike, it is much more of a human interest story wrapped around two intriguing mysteries. Good stuff.


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