Say . . ., issue #1: was that a kiss?
A question is posed, and answered in prose and poetry. With an essay by Terri Windling and a cover by Thomas Canty.
"Unfairy Tale" by Tim Pratt answers the question with a desert spirit who makes a bargain to guard a sleeping beauty from the hero who plans to awaken her. This is a nicely atmospheric tale, with the encroaching of the green world on the desert creating and illustrating telling contrasts. In four pages Pratt manages to make his protagonist, Molter Keen, memorable and sympathetic. Nice.
"Demon, Star, Alien, Cat" by Greg van Eekhout is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a certain musician who is thawed out in the far future and sets about putting the old band--and its merchandising empire--back together. The fact that the rest of the band is long dead doesn't deter him, and doesn't make the story any less hilarious, while still being affectionate.
Justine Larbalestier's story "The Mark" follows Terri Windling's essay "Fairy-kist," and appropriately so, since the adolescent protagonist finds herself locking lips with a devil, or one of the fair folk, or some tempter betwixt the two. This is a vivid and sensual piece, with an appropriately ambiguous ending.
"The Child in Society" by Scott Westerfield is a disturbing piece about which I honestly haven't made up my mind. On the one hand it's about a pedophile, except that it's not, except that in a way it really is. And then again it's about appearances, and aging, and fetishes. About all I can say for certain is that it gave me icky feelings, which is, I suppose, a good thing.
"Arrange the Bones" by Jay Lake is just a lovely piece about life after death and the importance of ritual funerary practices. Very nice.
Richard Butner's story "The Secret Identity" is a sweet tale of social compartmentalization and just plain cluelessness. It reminds me a bit of Ray Vukcevich, which is not to say that it's not original. I like it.
"The Chambered Nautilus" by Jeffrey Ford is a short memoriam of the protagonist's grandmother, rich with regional magic and detail. There's no bang to this story, but it is satisfying.
F. Brett Cox's "The Sexual Component of Alien Abduction (Three-Headed Alien Blues)" is a story I swear is reprinted from somewhere, or perhaps I'm just insane. In any case, it's entertaining as hell, as Jolene and her partners Chad and Hank work the kinks out of their relationship--which involves a lot of probing, and Jolene leaving the fellas behind. It's not as pornographic as that sounds, however, and there's a blues song included.
"Gypsy Joe" by M. L. Konett is about a boxer and the ghostly little Mexican girl only he can see. See, he got smacked in the head with a brick when he was six, and now she makes it rain for him and spars with him in the ring. The story poses interesting questions about what it's really like to have a divine helper with you all the time, and also illustrates nicely what it's like to lose your best friend.
"Lips" by Christopher Barzak is sort of an anthropological study of the mating habits of, well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? It's amusing and well-imagined.