Reviewed by Adrian Fry

Whether you're a member of the small press in-crowd who can put a face to every pseudonym on the Dusksite message boards or a novice who doesn't know his Asimov's from his elbow, The Fix, Andy Cox's handily sized, professionally produced review of small press fiction magazines, provides a useful snapshot of what's out there.

In the issue under review there were two 'non review' columns; a pretentious piece by James Van Pelt about the quest for literary perfection and a witty riff from Peter Tennant on the subject of 'which writers are good in bed'. The Fix certainly needs a few leavening features in amongst the reviews, and Peter Tennant's humour was very welcome, but I'd sooner see interviews with editors, articles on the economics of the small press or features on web based fiction as such thinkpieces, no matter their quality.

But The Fix must stand or fall by the quality of its reviews and I'm pleased to say these are getting better with each issue. Its review team is sufficiently diverse to handle anything from the nuts 'n' bolts sf of Analog to the emotional introspections of Quality Women's Fiction. Reviews are pithy and practical, with plenty of comment on presentational style, layout and the all important if not exactly definable 'feel' of particular publications. All have the authoritative, hands-on feel of users guides and there's a refreshing lack of discursive lit crit blather, ego-boosting or agonising over the future of the short story.

Of course, there are problems. Those magazines (Ambit, for instance) for which poetry and art are more than filler material are reviewed for their fiction alone, with Fix reviewers adopting an attitude of respectful incomprehension. Also, I'm not sure précising every story in a magazine is always the best way to convey its flavour; there are times when these reviews read like a series of one-liner movie pitches to a particularly impatient Hollywood producer, and a number of these reviews read at a sitting can leave you feeling as if every story in the world, boiled down to a couple of sentences, is indistinguishable.

Still, there's more to like than to criticize in The Fix. Like the BBC or the National Health Service, it deserves to be forgiven its shortcomings on grounds of uniqueness alone. And I don't think I can pay it a higher compliment than to say that it has helped both to broaden my horizons as a reader and narrow my focus as a writer.

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