Review: PULP Literature: Winter 2014: Issue 1

It took me over a month, but I finally handed over my (okay, our) copy of the first issue of PULP Literature to Steph on Monday. And promptly realized that I wanted to write about it here. Oops.

Beer Fairie Pulp Literature issue 1 cover

This first issue of a brand-new cross-genre Canadian magazine starts off with an eerie short story by CC Humphreys entitled “Where the Angels Wait.” My complaint in high school about short stories was that they were usually cryptic and dead depressing. Humphreys’ tale, as he says in the introduction, is certainly pared down, and employs brief sketches that give just enough information to engage readers’ imagination and keep them hoping for more. The conclusion – ah, I won’t give it away, but involves a deft play on words. Chilling!

Mel Anastasiou’s novella “Stella Ryman and the Case of the Third Option” is a lovely look into events in a care home with an octogenarian protagonist who is tart-tongued and kind. Stella is prepared and willing to die until Mad Cassandra intervenes, and her own zest for adventure and desire for justice return. Relationships and personal politics among the inhabitants (or denizens) of Fairmount Manor as well as Stella’s past and interior life make this novella a humourous, sympathetic glimpse of what it is for one woman to be as sharp as a tack and yet occasionally and bewilderingly uncertain of her surroundings as memory temporarily fails. I would like to read more about Stella Ryman and Fairmount Manor.

Regrettably, I can’t properly review Beverly Boissery’s poem; I remember thinking I would have to reread it slowly, word by word, to do it justice; and then I handed the book to Steph. Sorry.

S.L. Nickerson’s post-apocalyptic “Only the Loons Know” has the most explicitly Canadian content (Humphrey’s protagonist mentions Vancouver, but most of the action takes place in Spain). Graduate students at McMaster University (in Hamilton, Ontario) struggle to survive after as winter approaches and food, painkillers, and certain other supplies grow increasingly difficult to find. The protagonist considers the meaning of the new names she and her three companions chose after The End as she draws on her heritage – and on her lover’s practical medieval scholarship – to keep the four of them alive and find hope for the future. And who knew you could fit TimBits into a post-apocalypse?

“Of Siege and Sword” by Tyner Gillies offers comic relief, as well as a lesson in practicality for all you would-be villains out there. *Ahem, Ambrosius Goldenloin, I’m talking to you*

“The Glass Curtain” by Susan Pieters is polished and lovely. The tension within the narrator-protagonist is so tangible and infectious that, reading, my concern for her almost distracted me from the beauty of the prose. The writing draws the reader emphathetically into the protagonist’s experience. No spoilers… but the ending was all I could have hoped for.

I’m not a terribly experienced reader of graphic novels (I should hand the baton on to Yash for this one), and I happen to like details. Lots of details. “The Mechanics,” a graphic novel (er, graphic short story?) by Angela Melick did as many graphic novels and short stories do and left me wanting more. This piece felt a bit like a prologue to a larger story; I’d be curious to find out if this is so. The mix of genres/art forms in one magazine is exciting; the (very slight) downside is that I’m not fit to offer opinions on all of them :p

“Allaigna’s Song” by J.M. Landels is rich in high fantasy, music, court intrigue, and complex sibling relationships… bring it on! This first selection of a longer story (the prelude, if you will: each chapter gains its title from a musical term and the chapter’s focal character) set in a shared world introduces the main players (so far!) and grounds the reader in the immediate and concrete experience of Allaigna’s early childhood. Into this central narrative are woven tantalizing mysteries, including glimpses of Allaigna’s mother as a young woman; a mysterious stranger who intrudes into Allaigna’s life for an instant before vanishing again; and a bard, whose surroundings, chronologically speaking, are significant and unrevealed. The illustrations are very appealing and add to the characterization; the problem is waiting to find out what happens next.

The verdict: well worth reading, and I look forward to the next issue.