Issue 14 of Electric Velocipede is notable for a couple of cosmetic reasons which have nothing to do with the fiction contained between the covers. While not an official "double issue", John Klima offers the readers an "extra big issue", so this issue is chock full of more stories. Because it is an extra big issue, this is the first issue with a full color cover. Plus, it is a nice perfect bound digest rather than a saddlestitched chapbook looking 'zine. Nothing wrong with chapbook looking 'zines (I like them), but Issue 14 is making a visual statement.
Oh, and Issue 14 can also be referred to as the "All Female" issue of Electric Velocipede. All the stories, poems, and nonfiction content (not counting the preview of forthcoming issues) are written by women.
But is it any good?
This issue opens with "Hermit Crabs" from Elissa Malcohn, a strange story that begins and what seems like an ending - a teenaged double suicide attempt, but then backs up into the friendship between Mandy and Noah, and then works its way through to the weird part. "Hermit Crabs" is partly a story of adolescent alienation, but I'm not really sure what Malcohn intended with the story. It isn't the strongest opening story, but the image of the attempted suicide is such a striking one that readers will push through to the end of the story and wonder what else Klima has in store for readers of Electric Velocipede.
The third story, Michelle Scott's "Them" is one of my favorites here. It's a story of lies and rumor and those who plant the lies and rumor which get taken as fact. You know what they say, right? Well, "Them" is a story about who they are. Or, just one of them. "Them" is also a story about what happens if a person, one of them, goes against what they say.
The fat policeman nods. If they say it, it must be true. He, for one, would never argue with them. pg 21
Good stuff. On one hand "Them" works because Michelle Scott plays with the idea of "them" and "they" and the trick is the story, but on the other hand, it's just a good story with a great hook.
The story I perhaps most looked forward to here is Jennifer Pelland's "Shashenka Redux". The stories I've read from Pelland have been consistently excellent. "Shashenka Redux" is no exception.
They all led back to a single point: the original Shashenka Medvedeva, who had died under questioning rather than work to cure the invading aliens she had poisoned. The aliens copied here, body and brain, breathed life into the copies, and set them to work on the cure, promising to free the Shashenka who provided it. And when the copies failed, the aliens made multiple copies of each of them. And then made more when those failed. And more when those failed. pg 42
Pelland's words far better explain what the story is than I could. "Shashenka Redux" loops back on itself and is a quest for a cure. Pelland makes it immediate and makes the stakes of the story important, because no matter that more copies will be made (asuming the reader even wants Shashenka to come up with a cure), Shashenka herself wants to live. And so in turn the reader wants Shashenka to live. Why? Because Jennifer Pelland makes the reader care. Pelland doesn't disappoint.
Leslie Claire Walker's "Your Blood" is two thirds of a really good story, with one third "what the hell is this about?", but unfortunately it is the last third that drops the ball. I've read a couple of Walker's previous stories and I think she's a writer with some potential. "Your Blood" damn near sealed the deal, and maybe for other readers it did, but I just didn't get the last bit of the story.
I liked the selfishness in Leslie What's "#1", though given that a woman wants to keep her own kidney rather than donate it to the daughter of a sister she's never had a relationship with, it is difficult to really call it selfish.
But what I really liked what the visions of a woman's future in "Perfect Tense" by Lisa Mantchev. This is a story where a future version of the narrator steps through a doorway to confront the narrator to change her actions which will then change her future. Kind of convoluted when I write it out, by damn if it doesn't work.
Now, not every story in Electric Velocipede #14 stands out, and some just don't work at all (Melissa Mead's "Stepsister", for one), but on the whole, Electric Velocipede #14 is an excellent issue with more good stories than bad, and enough serious quality here that you've just got to pay attention if you weren't already. So pay attention, huh?
I've previously purchased a couple of issues of Electric Velocipede (#11 and #13), so one can guess that I do like the publication, but even granting that, this extra-big issue is extra-good.
The fact that this issue is the "All Female" issue of Electric Velocipede wouldn't matter if the stories weren't good. They are. So, Issue 14 is actually the "Really Damn Good" issue of Electric Velocipede.
Reading copy provided courtesy of John Klima.
(I also reviewed the Wexler chapbook and was less enamored of it. For what it's worth)