CLUBHOUSE: Review: Augur Magazine #8, Vol. 3 No. 2.

Augur seems to be bounding from strength to strength. Quite an achievement.

OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.

AUGUR MAGAZINE issue #8, Vol. 3 No. 2.

Publisher: Kerrie Seljak-Byrne, Augur Magazine Literary Society, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Editor in Chief: Alexander De Pompa. Managing Editor: Lawrence Stewen, Senior/Poetry Editor: Terese Mason Pierre. Graphic Fiction Editor: Amy Wang. Editor: Victoria Liao. Assistant Editors: Vivian Li, Leslie Joy Ahenda, & Avi Silver.

Cover Art: Lorna Antoniazzi.

EDITORIAL:

A Multiplicity of Futures – by Alexander De Pompa

Review:  

De Pompa’s final issue as editor. He will continue as business manager, but a new occupation will consume most of his time. However, he is proud of what he and his fellow team members have accomplished. No wonder! This is the second issue paying pro-rates. And the first AugurCon was a resounding success. Augur seems to be bounding from strength to strength. Quite an achievement.

FICTION:

The Truth at the Bottom of the Ocean – by Maria Dong

Premise:  

Refuges from rising seas live on a giant raft tied to a deep sea oil rig. No one respects them. 

Review:  

This is a difficult story for the literal-minded, in that it involves a kind of evolutionary magic in a confrontation with the hardest of hardline economics. What chance does an individual wave have against a shoreline rock? Yet, ultimately, it’s the rock that wears away. Can a love of nature defeat the necessity to destroy nature? Yet we need to exploit nature to survive. The story offers a partial solution, albeit an unrealistic one.

Reference is made to underwater dredging. I wonder if the author is aware a Canadian company is designing a robot dredger intended to tear apart deep sea vents to harvest the rare metals contained within those rock formations. Perhaps the ultimate in undersea exploitation and destruction. So, mentioning dredging is especially appropriate.

A melancholy, rather poetic, even mystical interpretation of the conflict. Won’t convince an oil rigger to change his mind, or shareholders,  but will appeal to those who want nature (and us) to survive into the foreseeable future and beyond. 

Glass Womb – (poem) by Elizabeth Upshur

Premise:

Glass wombs work.

Review:

But at what price? Even the medical aspect is seen through a mystical and spiritual filter.

Are We Ourselves? – by Michelle Melon

Premise:

The solution to avoiding death turns out to be remarkably inconvenient.

Review:

This story combines a trope that some SF authors had great fun exploring, with a remarkably original interpretation of the long-term consequences of reparations to the black population of the U.S.A.. Leave it to rich white people to figure out how to make a good thing bad. The logic behind the premise turns out to be disconcertingly sound, if extremely annoying, and, were the “impossible” technology to actually be developed, inevitable. Maybe. One would like to think not. But given past history it makes sense. Quite a horror story, really. One lesson is loud and clear. Pay attention to the fine print.

Extinction #6 – (poem) by Morgan L. Ventura

Premise:

Extinction inevitable.

Review:  

Especially for individuals. An extremely tactile poem, allows you to embrace fate.

This Soil Still Gives  – by Natasha Ramoutar

Premise:   

The wars are over. The giant Mechs are being recycled. But memories linger as painful as ever.

Review:

Piloted and/or autonomous giant robots are an incredibly popular sub-genre in Manga and film. This story explores the plight of civilian survivors of such wars. Yes the machines are neat and nifty artifacts, but not so much when your childhood memories include one stepping on your house and reducing it and your ten-year-old sister to flattened rubble. The story captures very well the helplessness and utter insignificance of mere humans in truly MECHanized warfare.

The protagonist, whose nickname is Fangs, and whose gender is unclear to me, makes a living converting discarded Mechs into needful machinery, but now, for the first time, is being funded by an arts grant to convert an SZ-427 Minerva X Mech into a public garden. The Mech wars had destroyed the beauty of nature, along with traditional magic, and the project is a kind of government atonement which means little to the protagonist, who employs what remains of magic in an attempt to understand exactly how and why their sister died.

It’s a rather odd weaving together of disparate strands, but Ramoutar manages to make it work. Precise identification of the main character, or even the country and location of the city where the story takes place, doesn’t matter. What counts is the conflict between the ongoing search for peace of mind and the continuing presence of the painful past. The story is well written, beautifully written, with masterful flashbacks, deft details, and a description of peace I found quite striking. In fact I consider this tale about the aftermath of lumbering Mechs surprisingly subtle and deeply moving. Impressive.

No More Monuments – (poem) by Mikaela Lucido

Premise:

Love abandoned.

Review:

Cannot be grieved? Depends. Some vivid images of loss. Sad, yet peaceful.

Junkhead – by David F. Shultz

Premise:

Neoma is the sole survivor of a crashed colony ship. Unless you count the robot who takes forever to power up and who isn’t much use. At least the planet, as promised, is Earth-like, but that, it seems, is the biggest problem of all.

Review:  

More of a vignette than a story, the fascination for me lies in the details of the wreckage. You’d think a huge colony ship would be a cornucopia of technological delights, but not one as damaged as this. Neoma has a matter-of-fact approach to her tasks, but then she has no choice. Survival is problematic. How do you cope in act and thought in order to keep going? Shultz explores possible strategies. Practical mechanisms of purpose and deed. Me? I’d just go bananas and wind up talking more to the robot than I should. Neoma seems more sensible, but probably deep within her emotions she is feeling as rumpled and crumpled as the wreckage. If she breaks she won’t survive. How long can she last? How long can any of us? That be the point, methinks. An exercise in vulnerability.

Fearsome Figures – (poem) by Yara Farran

Premise:

Self-aware A.I. enjoys human myths.

Review:  

Delivers a sense of gleeful anticipation as humans on the verge of discovering what they have unknowingly unleased. Reinforces my fears for the future, actually.

Electrify the Bones – by Ren Iwamoto

Premise:

Preobrazhensky is the Tech in charge of the Mechs. She’s the one who hooks the trainees to their machines. They all think her odd.

Review:  

A short story perhaps inspired by aircraft groundcrew in wartime. Both machines and pilots come and go, but the work is never-ending. Attrition is constant. The overall ambience is a perpetual sense of loss. But there’s no time to rest, no time to recover, only the urgency of the task almost literally 24/7. This, too, is a story about coping with the unendurable. Within the context of the premise, an effective solution is offered, though not one I would consider user-friendly. Merely useful. Often that’s the standard in the real world, alas.

When I Could Draw a Sun in the Sky – (poem) by Manahil Bandukwala

Premise:

A trickster spirit, or possibly a shaman or wizard, delights in glorious mischief.

Review:  

A rather surreal poem with an emphasis on playful impulse. Not sure if I like the main character or not. But I envy some of their skills. Call it magical freedom, something we ordinary mortals will never experience in life, but can in art. Perhaps it is a poem about the value of art combined with our imagination?

Moon Gazing – (graphic art) by Michelle Theodore

Premise:

A young black boy sees the Moon in the daytime sky. Would like to visit some day. But what about his father?

Review:  

This encapsulates the enthusiasm of youth and the mellowing of purpose as one ages, yet illustrates how each can support the other, the one to grow, the other to remember. It also demonstrates that the exploration of space is not just propaganda or economics, because it has a genuine if subtle emotional impact that transcends generations. Short and simple, yet this graphic tale contains a great deal to unpack as you contemplate its meaning. Well done.

Creation Myth – (poem) by M. Darusha Wehm

Premise:

What if there are no gods but instead merely eternal hackers?

Review:  

That considered, their creations are still rather splendid. So, nothing to worry about.

X.O. Tempo – by Frankie Diamond

Premise:

A half-Cree, half-Black D.J. with a limited audience feels she’s on a fast track to no-where. Then she discovers a comic book featuring a look-alike heroine who’s the most popular D.J. in the Galaxy. Was this meant to be? Is there some hidden secret? Perhaps a message?

Review:  

This story is all about self-esteem. In one sense it is a spoof of any fan who takes their idol seriously as a role model. There’s a science fiction element which may or may not be relevant, which may or may not elevate the premise to the level of wish-fulfillment, or at least the promise of such. Either way, it stresses the value of positive thinking. A cheerful story.

We Sell Skin on Sale – by Rachael Lachmansingh

Premise:

Want a new skin? No problem.

Review:  

A one paragraph story exploring a surprising number of possibilities given certain developments in biological technology. Considering human nature, I don’t have any problem at all visualizing this as a genuine sales pitch should what it promises become feasible. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the labs producing artificial skin for burn victims aren’t thinking about these possibilities even now. Especially when you consider how much in demand and how profitable plastic surgery already is. This is one piece of science fiction I think is 100% prescient and will probably happen within our lifetime. I suspect the first customers will be in either New York or L.A. depending on which is the trendiest at the time.

My Body the Nest – by Sienna Tristen

Premise:

Two lovers may well be unique harbingers of a new era.

Review:  

Pretty much a prose poem drenched in imagery suggestive of flight, new beginnings, yet also comfort and belonging. As both individuals are gender fluid there seems to be an underlying theme that each represents the totality of both, each thoroughly understanding every aspect of the other. Maybe a description of total, perfect love beyond the capacity of most mortals? Implying that such lovers are not to be despised (as so many do) but to be envied? At any rate there’s a Phoenix-like triumphal air about this piece. Nothing apologetic or self-deprecating here. I figure gender-fluid people, so often the victims of prejudice, will find this prose poem refreshing and inspiring.

As a Perry Como avatar I find the affair described rather complex and perplexing, but one that grants me insight into a state of being previously beyond my ken until it became a common topic of conversation and debate in the media. Besides, when I reduce everything down to nitty-gritty basics, it describes two people lucky to find one another, and isn’t that what love is really all about?

The Bananas TM Barcode – by Barton Aikman

Premise:

William and Carl work in a banana plantation. They earn enough to eat AND drink booze, but life isn’t easy. Climate refugees, those darn mutants, might show up any time.

Review:  

In 1981 I took a University course which consisted of a month long study of MesoAmerican Art and Architecture in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Trip of a lifetime. Among other places we visited the ruins of Quirigua which lies in the centre of a vast Chiquita banana plantation. I remember being horrified at the sight of the Guatemalan peasants working the plantation. Some of them had large, open sores on their arms and faces. This told me two things: the region was unhealthy, and available medical care was extraordinarily poor or non-existent. I hope things have improved since.

Point is, I am able to identify with the sense of hopelessness among the banana workers in this story. And they’re the lucky ones, in that they have artificial mouths that enable them to eat and drink. The refugees, their mouths don’t work so well. Seems the world environment has become toxic in the extreme. “Mutants ‘R Us” seems to be the norm. Survival is almost not worth pursuing. But one can always get drunk, so long as you show up sober for your next shift.

Aikman has done his research. I’m sure the technique for harvesting bananas is authentic. But what rings true for me, based on my personal experience passing through a banana plantation, is that it is not only a hard place to work but also a horrible place to work. Thus the idea that it is seen as a desired refuge speaks volumes about what the rest of the world must be like. This is a grim future and a grim story. Sent some chills down my spine. Too close to home, as it were.

CONCLUSION:

Overall, a pleasing mix of “multiple futures,” albeit most of them not really something you’d like to be a part of. Some entertaining, all intriguing and thought-provoking. Two stories are illustrated with colorful and evocative art by Victor Martins and Madi Ems. Excellent issue I enjoyed reading. I look forward to the next issue which will be the product of several new editors. Will be fascinating to see how this worthy magazine evolves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Check it out at:  < Augur Issue 3.2 – Augur Magazine >

 

 

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