Pulphouse #15

Pulphouse is the only fiction magazine that I subscribe to at the moment. No, that’s not right. Try again. Pulphouse is the only fiction magazine that I receive by subscription, having received a free subscription to it after I sold them a story in March of last year. This issue is the first one I’ve read from cover to cover, not because of anything in particular, other than the guilt associated with receiving a magazine and not reading it.

This is also the first issue under new editor Jonathan Bond, with a redone “look.” I like the new layout. It still suffers from DTP disease (that is, the malady of Desktop Publishers everywhere, characterized by the phrase “we’ve got all this technology and, by God, we’re going to use every bit of it”), mainly in typographic effects. But the new logo is well done, as is the choice of body text, the use of drop caps and pull quotes. I don’t think much of the end symbol but at least it’s consistent, which is more than can be said for the story titles.

Enough of aesthetics; what about the content? The editorial by Bond doesn’t say anything new. We saw the same type of editorial from Harlan Ellison in Dangerous Visions, and we’ve seen it from almost every new, young editor since. Barry Malzberg’s column is more of the same from him, which is not bad, but appeals only to those who like that sort of thing (including me). Ditto for Esther Friesner’s column. I missed Jack Chalker’s column on the small press, and hope to see it return next issue. Charles de Lint’s review of Michael Scott Rohan’s Chase the MorningĀ provided me with a few good laughs since he thought Chase the Morning worked, while I didn’t.

Richard Sutphen wants so badly to be a splatterpunk, or at least some kind of punk, considering his self-published collection Sexpunks and Other Savage SagasĀ and the story here, “Roadpunks.” Unfortunately, Sutphen has only seen the surface of the various punk movements (although I will freely admit that some of them aren’t too deep in any case). While this story isn’t badly written and has the requisite amount of gore for a splatter story, the plot is a cheap imitation of Joe Lansdale. If I wanted to read cheap Joe Lansdale, I can go read Lansdale’s stories in Night Visions, thank you very much.

Steve Schlich’s “Hard Ball” is a one-joke story. What if in marketing meetings, playing “hard ball” was taken literally, as in a free-for-all fight with the winner’s product getting the green light? This could work as an extended metaphor for the marketing process, sure, but Schlich forgets that he’s touting metaphors and plays the story straight. It ends up reading dumb.

Connie Willis said in a recent panel at the Little Bookshop of Horrors that there are three stages in writing science fiction (I’m paraphrasing from memory, so forgive me if I’m quoting you wrong, Connie). The first, and easiest, step is compared to living in 1900 and foreseeing the automobile. The second stage is foreseeing the national highway system. And the third, and hardest, stage is foreseeing traffic jams. Although it isn’t strictly SF, Adam-Troy Castro’s “Playing With Dogs” is a second stage story. It has wondrous promise, but ultimately isn’t strong enough. It’s like Thomas Harris Light–all the great disturbing bits with two-thirds less depth.

Lucy Taylor’s cover story, “Extinction,” is a well-done post-nuclear holocaust story. I’ll admit that I hate post-holocaust stories, but I managed to read the whole things, so that speaks for something.I think Martin Limon’s “Nightmare Range” was the best story in the issue. It wasn’t all that unique, but it was consistent, well-written, and the ending had an emotional punch. Ray Vukcevich’s “Ornamental Animals” tried hard to have an emotional punch, but I thought it was telegraphed, and was able to duck under it. I hated Kelly Eskridge’s “Somewhere Down the Diamondback Road.” Stories adrift in time, space and logic seem to be the coming thing for horror (then again, it may have always been there, and I’m finally noticing it), but they do nothing for me.

Mike Resnick’s latest Lucifer Jones story, “Slave Trading,” was great fun. No hard thinking here, just clever writing and plotting, intended for laughs. Resnick could go places with this if he can manage to get in front of the right audience. Unfortunately, I don’t think the readers of Pulphouse are that audience. I skipped Chap. 22 of S.P. Somtow’s Jasmine Nights, the serialization, since I haven’t read Chaps. 1-21.

J. Steven York’s “Defense” was a cute short short. Long enough for the set up, short enough to avoid the groans.

[Finished 1 June 1993]

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