Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Review copyright 1997, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

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Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine # 35 yet another excellent issue. I thoroughally enjoyed every single story in it, as well as the editorial and columns. I often think this magazine is the only one to which I subscribe that I regularly read from cover to cover solely for pleasure, and only then come back to re-read and study for writing craft purposes. (Unfortunately there are several major magazines in the industry, whom I shall leave unnamed out of professional courtesy, whose stories I have to force myself to read in order to study them).

This is the main reason that I have never voted in the Cauldron. How could I possibly select a first, second and third best from so many excellent stories? Each is wonderful in its own way, which makes comparing them very difficult. Can one really compare a light-hearted piece like "Opportunity Scratches" or "A Proliferation of Potatoes" (and I loved the magical use for a potato's "eyes") with a chilling one like "Temple of Stone" or "The Rose, the Rich Man and Mother Berchte"? Each of them was excellent in its own way. Or how about "Aisha Awakened," which combined humorous elements with some serious magical menace?

I also enjoyed Laura J. Underwood's latest tale of Anwyn and Glynnanis, and hope that they will be returning to the pages of this magazine in a few more issues. And I found "Maiden Phoenix" very touching, although I have to confess that I missed the point of the ending the first time I read it. I sat there trying to figure out what in heaven's name the author was trying to pull by suggesting that Oberon called King Arthur back to life to fight in the Napoleonic Wars -- until I recalled the name of the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. (I've always been partial to his naval counterpart, Admiral Lord Nelson). Both India Edghill and her sister have a talent for writing poignant tales of love and sacrifice.

Anne Sharp provides us with an excellent article on avoiding stereotypes and clichˇs. I think that every beginning writer for some reason has to rewrite all the major clichˇ'd plots in the business -- the deal with the devil, the time travel story, the alien invasion story, the final exam for mages story, etc. And even after that's done, it's still sometimes a struggle to distinguish between clichˇ'd elements and original ones, since one has to play one's originality within a framework of storytelling. I'm still struggling with that one.

Review posted January 1, 1999

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