Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

It says “Issue 53” on the striking cover of Leading Edge, and surely this speaks volumes (excuse the pun). So what do you get for your money? As mentioned, the journal itself is strikingly illustrated and neatly presented in a handy A5 package. There is some excellent artwork inside as well as out. All in all a good product.

But what about the “meat of the correspondence”*?

Well, Leading Edge is a fantasy and science fiction magazine, with the emphasis, in this issue at least, on the fantasy genre. It also features a good number of first-time authors which is commendable.

The stories range in quality, both of writing and content, with some extremely imaginative pieces, such as Shana Lear's Alone, an imaginative and well thought-out piece set in a future world where every human is born with a disposable twin. But who is the real and who the imitation? Jewel of Creation by John W. Otte is a moving fable that works without ramming home its morality-tale message. Artefact by Allan Izen starts well, with a noir-cum-B-movie horror feel but seems to lose its way and momentum as it progresses. Clever though. Nice atmosphere.

There's poetry as well. My Friend Albert by Sankar Roy is economical and sharp with a delightfully witty dénouement. The Gatekeeper by Greg Schwartz holds a chilling secret, an unspoken terror lurking somewhere in the text. Neal Wilgus's Exactly is another witty narrative poem that tells its story with astonishing economy.

Humour plays a big part here, the opener Of Wizards, Dragons and Lessons by Emily Cluff and the later Temp From Hell by James R. Porter being two prime examples. I'm afraid neither story inspired me particularly. The first was a gently amusing Laurel-and-Hardyesque tale of, well, a long-suffering wizard and his well-meaning but clumsy sidekick who gets them into trouble with a dragon. In the latter I found the humour irritatingly self-conscious and the plot a little muddled. The duck stories were lost on me completely I'm afraid. Grumpy Old Man with no sense of humour I suppose.

Along with the fiction there are some helpful and friendly how-to articles, all part of the Leading Edge new writer ethos.

So, Terry's favourite? Love Spells, B A Barnett's craftily plotted gem which has an immensely satisfying twist in its tale, but manages to move the reader at the same time. If you try to cheat the natural course of true love, be prepared for the consequences...

The problem that dogs many of these stories is the language. These tales are set in Sword and Sorcery Land, which is, presumably, a medieval-type world. However, there is a tendency to put modern American speech-patterns and phrases in the mouths of wizards and knights and I'm afraid it irritates me because it shatters the illusion being built by the author.

That said, Leading Edge has an upbeat, positive feel. Its enthusiasm is infectious and its content always entertaining. I also like its encouragement of new writers, and the welcoming feel that makes the awful task of sending your literary baby out into the cruel world a little easier. And Issue 53...definitely an achievement worth celebrating!

* Just showing off. It's a line from Goldsmith's restoration play She Stoops to Conquer. I played Tony Lumpkin (who utters this line--I had to sing as well!) in the Masque Player's 1995 production.

Leading Edge edited by Matthew Gibbons, Leading Edge Magazine, 4064 JFSB
Provo, UT 84602, United States of America. A5, 120pp, US$10/2 (see website for other subscription rates and non-US prices).

Website: - www.leadingedgemagazine.com

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