Crossed Genres, Issue 4

Issue 4 of Crossed Genres mixes scifi/fantasy with crime. I was looking forward to this as I’ve been known to dabble in the fantasy thriller.

The first story is amazing. The Near-Sighted Sentinel by Adam King is the tale of a superhero dealing with ageing and failure. The Sentinel has to face loss of status and recognition and then finally to face up to not having made a difference. It is incredibly well written and structured. I was totally absorbed and might even read it again.

Time Out by David Siegel Bernstein deals with a complex future society and packs in a lot of worldbuilding. I think the story, one of the disillusionment of the main character, suffers a little for it. Most of the dialogue is exposition and little time is given over to characterisation. I like the idea and the worldbuilding is fascinating. Given the space of a novel, with time to explore the technology and economics and develop convincing characters, this could be really good.

I wasn’t as keen on the third story, Murder at the Tipsy Minotaur by Marie Robertson. The magical fantasy community created feels more like a checklist than sense of place and the characters come across as quite flat. The reveal at the end is done Poirot-style and that’s handled quite well. I liked the title.

Dead Men Don’t Drive by Timothy Friend is a zombie story. I’m not a fan of zombies, especially the shuffling, groaning variety, but this was quite good. The narrator is a not-so innocent bystander to a bigger crime – the details of which are left in shadows. I like that the author resisted the temptation to explain what was going on. It’s worth a read.

It takes a while for Dead Hands by Jason Rolfe to get going. The plot is quite tense with the main character in a lot of danger for most of the story, but somehow the emotional tension doesn’t come across. I never get the sense that she’s really scared. I liked the ending though. It had a nice twist and maintained the pace of the story.

The last story, The Eyes that Catch by Bruce Bretthauer, wasn’t as enjoyable as some of the others. The writing side of things is mostly good, except for a tendency to infodump. It was more the characterisation and stereotypical gender representation that put me off. The characters weren’t very well differentiated or particularly developed. The narrator felt more like a man with female parts than a female character.

So, this issue has been a bit up and down, but there’s a couple of real gems.

Crossed Genres, Issue 5

Issue 5 of Crossed Genres is sci-fi/fantasy crossed with humour. There are five stories.

The first is Archimedes Nesselrode by Justine Graykin. The start of this put me off. I think perhaps this information could have been worked into the story as part of the narrative, rather than as an introductory scene. The setting is lovely but I think Graykin has missed a trick. Her writing is competent but her style is quite matter of fact and works against the picture she’s trying to convey. The characters didn’t really come across well and it didn’t make me laugh.

A Simple Matter by Linda Linsey did make me laugh. I loved the updated take on fairy godmother stories. More could have been made of the ending, which struck me as a little hurried, and the ‘twist’ was telegraphed early on. Although I was amused by it.

I really liked the concept of Condiment Wars by Jill Afzelius. It’s inventive and entertaining. The pacing is good and the author draws the ending out nicely. There were a few moments that made me smile and I’d be interested in reading the further adventures of ketchup and mustard. I found the writing style laboured though. It seemed a little unsophisticated and often the dialogue was stilted. As it’s a dialogue-heavy story (in principle, a good thing) this is quite important. This is a great idea that would have benefitted from a serious re-write.

Story number 4 is A Smoking Idol by Max Orkis. Well, it’s not so much a story as an anecdote. This is some good writing; I’m just not sure this piece showcases it that well.

The final piece is A Tale of Two Bureaucracies by Jeremy Zimmerman. Hee. This is genuinely amusing – or at least, genuinely appeals to my sense of humour. It’s also well written and an intelligent take on bureaucracy. Zimmerman had a story in Issue three that I really liked. And just checking back I realise I haven’t reviewed Issue 4. Ooops. Anyway, this tickled me. Definitely the best of the bunch.

Three out of five of the writers in this issue are women. I’ve no idea whether this was done consciously or not, but I would like to commend Crossed Genres for equal gender representation in this issue.

Time to Write

The day job is going well but naturally a lot of my headspace is being used for learning about the job. Fortunately it’s not completely new and I’m looking forward to being able to write in the evenings once I get to grips with it. I plan to blog at lunchtimes.

Currently I’m reviewing Crossed Genres, Issue 5. In the meantime, I thought I’d post just to have something fresh up here and to let you know that the deadline for Crossed Genres, Issue 9, is 30th June. They are looking for sci-fi/fantasy stories with an alternative history theme.

Crossed Genres, Issue 3

The Romance issue. Five sci-fi/fantasy stories with a romance theme.

First up, Laugh if you Love me by TK Read. It’s a little heavy on the adjectives and adverbs for my taste which makes the writing dense and treacly. That aside, I liked the Galliwoogers and it’s a neat little story that’s short enough for elevenses.

Next is A Crazy Kind of Love by Jeremy Zimmerman. Oooh, I liked this. It defies expectations and the ending is not predictable until the last few paragraphs. I enjoyed the ‘will he, won’t he’ suspense and genuinely didn’t know what the protagonist would do.

I also liked Galatea’s Reaction by Claire Dietrich. The opening is very emotional and engaging. Again, I didn’t expect the twist and the ending is bittersweet. It’s romance for people who like it to hurt.

The fourth story, A Night in the Library by Anne Toole, is disappointing. The opening sentence is great and throughout the writing is good. It’s the cliched relationships and stereotypical characters that let this piece down. The female protagonist falls for the noble man that’s just been torturing her after having been pining after an unavailable womaniser. To be fair, it’s the piece that probably best captures the icky formula of the romance genre, but it wasn’t pleasant to read.

Heartline by CL Rossman is also a litte weak. The fantasy setting felt like mere dressing up for relationships and experiences that are all too familiar. The protagonist’s attitude to his wife was patronising and that niggled me a little. I do think that men’s experience of becoming fathers and the cultural conditioning surrounding masculinity and emotional expression could do with some exploration, but in this case there was too much tell and not enough show. Perhaps it could have been handled better if the piece had been longer.

All in all, I think the fiction in Crossed Genres is getting better with each issue and I very much enjoyed two of the stories.

Crossed Genres Issue 2

Crossed Genres is a new online magazine that specialises in scifi/fantasy stories that have elements of another genre. Issue 2 has four dystopian scifi/fantasy stories.

Of the four, Nesting Instinct is the best. It may be a result of the dystopian theme but I found the stories hard work. Too much telling, too much description of a future world and not enough story for my taste. All of the stories lack action and dialogue; character and plot are sacrificed in favour of describing the dystopia.

Still, Crossed Genres is a new magazine and I’m willing to give it a few more issues to see if the quality varies with the theme.

They have announced that with Issue 4, Crossed Genres will become a paying market. They are looking for fiction, articles and artwork, so see the submission guidelines for more information.