Review: Red Sun Magazine #4

I’ve had my eye on this magazine for a while and luckily, Editor-in-Chief Ben Richards was nice enough to send me a copy for review! This was a fun issue and as someone going cold into Red Sun‘s purview, I was quite pleased with what I ended up finding.

Before getting to the stories, I want to talk about the articles, reviews, and interview with Nancy Kilpatrick.

All the articles were top notch, I especially enjoyed Jeremy Billingsley’s examination of the past century of American Horror. He unpacks H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King side by side through the lens of Poe and Hawthorne, to better understand which way horror fiction has gone as set up by Lovecraft’s own perceptions. It was an intriguing read and for a semi-novice horror reader such as myself, very enlightening.

The review of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was also pretty good, with Billingsley’s comments measured and insightful. Jason Duke’s articles were pleasant as well to read as they unpacked some things about Ursula Le Guin and Patricia McKillip, the latter who I had never heard of were also informative in their own right.

I have never had the pleasure of reading Nancy Kilpatrick, but the interview conducted by Billingsley was very well done and there was a lot of information to be had for even a seasoned writer. Kilpatrick has obviously been in the game a long time and her comments and observations were very much appreciated. I enjoyed her comments on conventions and conferences since my own experience with them has been very limited. Even with her admitting to not attending too many currently, the long scope of her career involves being a guest of honor to more than a few is an interesting perspective to they entail.

Now, to get to those stories!

“Kingdom of Dust and Boils” by Wendy Nikel

Starting off the magazine is a poignant tale of a keeper of secrets to an Egyptian Prince. The reader follows his initiation ritual into becoming a secret keeper and witnesses years of his service to the cruel prince. This story is a subtle subversion of the classic biblical tale of the ten plagues of Egypt.

Nikel’s writing is both intimate and stark. The pacing of the story is perfect as it journeys through the various plagues that come down on the Egyptian kingdom and particular attention is kept from linking the story too close to that of the plight of the Jewish people and Moses. The keeper’s own plight is enough in this way. There were plenty of bread crumbs to not make the connection too obvious to the biblical roots, but just enough to wink at you all the same. A truly lovely story about secrets and our choices involving them.

“The Immortal O. Ryan” by Deborah L. Davitt

This was an amusing story follows two bantering officers in the Space Marines as they interview new recruits. Everything goes as normal until a certain O. Ryan shows up and completely changes their perspective.

Saying any more will get into spoiler territory, but Davitt’s story is a humorous and interesting reversal of several tropes so common to science fiction and even fantasy. Her story blurs the edges of these two genres and makes them both dialogue with one another. The idea of werewolves, vampires, and the like gallivanting around in a high tech world is always fun to imagine and play around with. Davitt goes one step further by building a world where these “other kinds” have always been in the world, just never accepted into wider culture. The cherry on top is the wealth of military battle knowledge therein, which for the expert won’t hold any surprises, but for the casual reader will be an enriching experience.

“The Death of Giraurd De Vallays” by Alexandru Constantin

And finally coming to the featured military author, that is specific to Red Sun, is a gritty fantasy story about honor, betrayal, and faith. Alexandru Constantin plays with all of these themes to great effect and creates a wonderful portrait of choices and what we must do in order to stay true to our principals.

The reader follows Belsant, who is driven to perform the last rights for her dying liege, but things only become more complicated when her Holy Order is proclaimed heretical and everyone is looking to kill or imprison the apostates. What follows is a deeply personal story, with strong scenes of sword fighting and danger as Belsant confronts not only the tradition of her faith, but the bounds of duty. An overall quick read, which dives deeply into how much faith and tradition plays into belief, while also factoring obligation and duty as well.

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