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Spectrum SF 1
(Spectrum Publishing, £3.99, 160 pages; published February 2000; ISSN 1468-3903.)

cover scanThe first issue of this brand new magazine from Aberdeen looks beautiful. A slim paperback volume, milk-white cover with only the title and number, contributors' names and a narrow strip of beautifully reproduced colour (the visible spectrum, naturellement). It's a refreshing change from the not-so-subtle artwork of so many sf magazines - Interzone not excepted!

But does the content match the style?

I suppose it doesn't hurt getting a big name like Keith Roberts to open the first issue with "part one of a brilliant new Kiteworld novel" (unread by me, but not for long if Drek Yarman is anything to go by).

Nor can it hurt getting the lovely Keith Brooke and Eric Brown to contribute a story about telepaths and runaways in a dystopian high-rise city. "Mind's Eye", is a short wee shocker about whose setting I'd like to hear more…

And what harm in having Garry Kilworth to contribute an amusing but cautionary tale of genetic tampering and ex-girlfriends? I haven't always enjoyed Kilworth's work previously, but "Bonsai Tiger" has redeemed him somewhat in my eyes.

And of course there should always be some lesser-known talent in any proper magazine, and I do believe there's just the thing here - I haven't heard of either Alastair Reynolds or Charles Stross (sorry, gentlemen) but I hope it's some consolation that "Great Wall of Mars" and "Bear Trap" are to my mind both top-flight examples of what the broadsheets are still calling cyberpunk but which isn't. Not really. Quite contradictory in their respective tones both stories wouldn't have seemed at all out of place in far older and better-established magazines, none of the stories here would.

So does Spectrum put a foot wrong anywhere?

Well, there's not much else in it (which to be honest is hardly a valid criticism, since not much else would fit), but if you like your sf hard but human, from a handful of mostly well-known and mostly fine writers - and I certainly do - then you need to get a subscription off to the fine people at Spectrum Publishing as soon as possible.

Spectrum #1 is really very good indeed. Let's hope Spectrum #2 continues this fine tradition!

Spectrum is available from Spectrum Publishing, PO Box 10308, Aberdeen, AB11 6ZR, UK, priced £14 for 4 issues, £24 for 8 issues; overseas orders are sent by surface mail (airmail rates £17/30). Cheques, postal or international money orders should be made payable to Spectrum Publishing. Payments may also be made by credit card.
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Review by Stuart Carter.

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© Stuart Carter 1 April 2000