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7 September 2014

large size soft cover. 2nd annual. 103 pages. 10 short stories, 5 more flash, plus articles and editorial.

Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

This anthology is a very nice piece of work. Stunning cover art by M. Wayne Miller -which was picked up as the plot behind J.A. Campbell’s story. (RCAF Royal Canine Air Force) a fun tale that balanced the artwork very well. Peter J. Wack’s Shell Games is a longer story, an interesting take of skewed history and missing diamonds, which I enjoyed. As I did Jessica Brawner’s Bad Altitude (clever title) and Steam Powered Camera by Lyn McConchie. Altitude deals with spies, lies, and airships, while Lyn’s tale looks at a new invention and how dangerous it turns out to be. Lian Hogan’s Horse, is an excellent tale, it required suspension of disbelief, but with that achieved it was a wicked little tale with a rounded-off finale.

In fact all of the stories in this issue were good. However I personally found A Cure for Boundary Pirates the best. Here in New Zealand it resonates powerfully, since we don’t allow medical marijuana, not even the fake stuff which has recently also been banned. And since both varieties can alieviate severe symptoms in a number of medical problems and diseases, this has left some people of whom my wife and I know one – for whom it works far better than other medications – with the option of being much worse off, or breaking the law but living in improved conditions/with much less pain or nausea.

The short >300 words stories, all on the theme of fog were uniformly solid. It always interests this non-writer to see how an author can cram a good story and interesting characters into such a small word count. And the articles covered a wide range while all being interesting and informative. J.A. Campbell’s article on Tumbleweeds surprised me, I had (as she said people do) supposed them to be natives of America, and found to my astonishment that they are actually of Russian origin. But then, I suppose that to tumbleweeds there is no difference between the American west and the Russian Steppes and they are at home in  both places. But any article that tells you something that’s both new and interesting is a good article.

David Riley also provided both with an article on a mysterious airship that terrorized an area of the USA in 1896. I initially supposed this to be a spoof article, but looked up the references and found that, on the contrary, his account is genuine and information on this and other airships is even listed in Wikipedia under http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_airship and yes, there have been books on the subject. So, all in all, another good annual, the editor seems to have a knack of choosing well-written stories and articles, and the publisher of finding artists that do good work. I am sorry to hear (as my friend Lyn informs me) that the publisher has decided to discontinue the SF Trails series. But at least readers will still have this annual and other anthologies that he produces. And I notice that other editors are taking up the weird-western sub-genre of late with a steady trickle of new anthologies being produced, some via kickstarter, covering weird western SF and F, ghost, and horror. Long may it continue.

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