Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mythaxis #24 (Dec 2020)

Mythaxis, ed. Andrew Leon Hudson. Issue 24 (Dec 2020). Online at

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Among the token magazines I’ve always been fond of Mythaxis. It’s one of the longest-running token magazines, running since 2008, and its current editor, Andrew Leon Hudson, impresses me with his keen editorial sense and down-to-earth attitude. But the proof is in the proverbial pudding, so let’s make like Paul Hollywood and take a slice. The genres are an enjoyable mix of adventure SFF and mild horror, and the stories themselves… well, it’s a mixed bag. Like most layered desserts, there are bits that I found delicious and bits that weren’t to my taste.

It starts off on uneven footing with “First Breath” by Addison Smith. The concept of an addiction to someone’s breath is oh-so-intriguing, but what was otherwise a nice little cyberpunk heist story was soured for me by the tired use of woman-as-seductress and woman-as-victim. Later on, David Whitmarsh’s “Winter” falls into a similar problem; an otherwise perfectly good post-apocalyptic story falls into the trap of gratuitous sexual violence. (C’mon, dude authors, you know better.)

The next four stories—the delicious fruit filling of our literary trifle—all edge into horror to varying degrees and are all very solid. In “Mine Own” by Sharon Dawn Selby, one of my personal favorites from this collection, a woman explores her roots in Scotland and comes closer to her heritage than she intends, culminating in an ending that’s both creepy and satisfying. “Into the Darkness” by Lee F. Patrick follows plucky Victorian ghosts as they confront a supernatural force greater than their own. Scott J. Couturier’s “Thy Servant, Death” reads like a parable or, perhaps, a cautionary tale; an aging king keeps a skeleton as a servant to overcome his fear of death, only to be undone by it.

But it’s “The Witches Curse” by Matthew Wilson that really takes the, well, cake in this section. Four inmates in a women’s prison beat a child murderer to death, only to discover that the rumors that she’s a witch are truer than they expected. It’s the stylish and unconventional voice—almost no punctuation, sporadic capitalization, every sentence on its own line—that sets it apart.

In the middle of the issue, I struck my teeth on a couple of pits where the tone veers from compelling to baffling. “Every Hat a Crown” by Mike Morgan is a retelling of the Dr. Seuss book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Why? Who thought we needed this? I’ve read the story and I still don’t know. And Martin M. Clark’s “Snow Over Interstate 80,” a fairy-tale-characters-but-gritty story, and would feel tired and unnecessary even if casting Jack Frost in the leading role didn’t leave me trying to work out if it was a Rise of the Guardians fanfic. Please, please, someone put a moratorium on gritty retellings of cute kids’ stories. I had an unfortunate run-in with “Puff the Magic Dragon” last year and I don’t think I can handle any more.

Happily, a couple of stories near the end form a rich and satisfying custard to top things off. In “Stranded at the Station” by Trisha McKee, a woman meets a lover from another dimension—but if he leaves the interdimensional train station, he risks death. I was intrigued by the mysterious and enigmatic differences between our dimension and the other one. The final story, “Spring Man” by Fabiyas M.V., is another major standout. I absolutely thought no one could write a Coronavirus story I would enjoy, but in this story, the pandemic lockdown in India forms a backdrop to an engrossing story about a village terrorized by a supernatural being—or is it? The setting and the voice are refreshing and well-developed, and they create a much-appreciated change of pace from the rest of the issue.

All in all, there were certainly some tasty bits to this confection, and while there are several bits I’d recommend eating around, you may enjoy taking a bite.

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