The Speculative Edge is a brand new speculative fiction magazine with a goal set to push boundaries in the genre by publishing stories, reviews, and other assorted tidbits in a monthly digest form. Its Editor-in-Chief is Mr. Shane Collins. I've reviewed a magazine similar to this before (ResAliens #4, where I was first introduced to Collins' writing) and I enjoyed the short tales quite a bit. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to review the inaugural issue of the magazine.
As explained in the "Letter from the Editor," The Speculative Edge treads familiar territory in the zine world. There are several of these types of things out there, so why add another? The answer, as Collins says, is to create a magazine that caters to the readers by blending pieces from new writers as well as established (i.e. published) authors. The magazine would also contain film and book reviews, excerpts from novels, poetry, essays, and several unique short stories.
The majority of the magazine is devoted to fiction. For this first edition there are two interviews with established authors as well as two excerpts from their respected novels. Additionally there are four short stories, ten poems, a smattering of dated book reviews and summer film reviews, and an essay on genre and literary fiction by the Editor-in-Chief. I like to review these types of things like I review anthologies, by each individual story. I will not be reviewing the poetry or the reviews (although a review of a review could be interesting).
"The Cosmic Stringbusters," by D. L. Chance, opens the magazine's short fiction set with a sci-fi yarn infused heavily with bluegrass. Now since bluegrass runs deep in my veins (being from Western Kentucky, where bluegrass was literally born and living in the selfsame city where the International Bluegrass Museum is located) I was immediately curious about this story. On board a space vessel with a mission of spending 100 years away from earth the people are segregated into two groups: those that look back to Earth and those that look to the future. Suffice it to say that there is some tension between the two. "The Cosmic Stringdusters" is more philosophic than action-filled, but it was nevertheless a rather unique and fun story to begin with.
"Of All the Gin Joints," by C. T. Hart. This is a rather standard android/cyborg story with a slight misfire. I had questions after finishing the very short story, wondering the plausibility. Even so, when the Narrator goes into a normal bar for an evening drink and everything suddenly grows weird, I was left wondering more about the world the writer created as opposed to what just happened.
"Gravity 101," by Christian Riley. Aliens and UFOs appear. The aliens are upset and the earthlings have to pay for it. As uninspired and trite as that sounds, I actually enjoyed this piece a lot. It is another very short story, but I liked the voice of the Narrator. My imagination had fun with this story.
"They Call Her Miss Hood," by Matthew Sideman. I honestly struggled to finish this story. I'm not much of a fan of pulpy noir stuff with a whimsical self-righteous narrator, and after the first two paragraphs I groaned. The gimmick gets old very quickly. This is a story about a private investigator named Miss Hood (the Fable from "Little Red Riding Hood") and her quest to make rent by uncovering the truth from some wolves. I couldn't help but be reminded of Bill Willingham's Fables, of which I've been a fan for many years. This genre is too crowded and I did not like this story at all. Perhaps had it been shorter? Or if the writer had used a different voice?
Skipping over the poetry (Rosie of New Bedford and Asylum were my favorites) and reviews. Mr. Collins' essay, The Writing War, offers a beginners guide to literary and genre fiction. He treads no new territory, but I don't think that he was intending too, either. I've long wondered the same things he's pondered here, why we have the distinction in our books when so many of them span multiple genres. It was also nice to see Mr. Collins in support of expanding one's reading sphere and stretching out and trying new things. I've personally found that to be beneficial and enjoyable.
It's hard to say what my final feelings are concerning the first edition of The Speculative Edge. Of the short stories I enjoyed three of the four. I honestly skipped over the interviews because, well, I almost never am interested in those, regardless of the author. However I did read the two book excerpts--A Tale of Two Moons (George Wilhite) and Fallen World (C. R. Rollinger)--but neither story intrigued me enough to purchase the books. Poetry isn't something I normally read, and having no real gauge for this field I'd give it a mostly passable grade. The reviews were heavily dated, each focused on books that are a few years old. My recommendation for future editions would be to expand the fiction section, lessen the poetry section (but don't get rid of it), and have reviews for somewhat current books. The Speculative Edge is a fledgling magazine. It's not worth the print edition for a subscription, although a digital subscription isn't completely off the table. Much depends on where the magazine goes with the upcoming issues.
If you're looking for a speculative magazine that you can get on your e-reader on the cheap (from $1.99 to $2.99 per issue), then check out The Speculative Edge, especially if you like reading stories by young and (relatively) unknown authors. Check the magazine out at their website, linked here. The first edition hits the shelves August 1.
FTC Thingy: This magazine was provided to me for free because I am ruggedly handsome and have a face made for the silver screen. Sometimes when I smile I literally break people's hearts. There were no monies exchanged between myself and The Speculative Edge, nor were there any baked goods.