November Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Whelp, it’s well into December and I’m only getting to the November roundup now. My apologies, and here goes.

oie_146527XTeMGO0FLast month, I promised I’d let you know about Fantasy Scroll #3. Despite its name and its side-of-a-van-worthy covers, the magazine continues to be mostly science fiction or non-heroic fantasy. When you buy something with a cover like the one to the left of this paragraph (<—), and you don’t get a lot of swordplay, demons, and wizards, you might feel like you bought a pig in a poke. Maybe they’ve got plans to mix things up a little more in the future. There are two S&S out of thirteen stories in Issue #3, but I’m definitely hoping for more per issue in the future.

That said, the magazine managed to get a Piers Anthony story, “Descant.” It’s a love story set to music about an intelligent king and princess. There are some awkward sentences and overall I found it a little boring. But it doesn’t have any puns, so it’s got that going for it.

James Beamon’s very funny “Orc Legal” is about the prison and courtroom travails of an orc named Anglewood. He’s been jailed pretty much for being an ex-evil henchman. He takes on the defense of a centaur charged with lewd behavior in order to finish the community service part of his sentence. No Atticus Finch, he uses any tool, from obfuscation to outright threats, to win his client’s acquittal. Beamon has a lot of fun with all the orc stereotypes, and gets a few well-deserved digs at snooty elves as well. I like a funny story that’s actually funny, and this one definitely is.

The First First Fire” by Alexander Monteagudo is a very short story. Ralo, the first man ever appointed First Fire — essentially the tribal wizard –is normally a peaceful man. But a caravan from his home, the village of Pempansie, has been attacked by slavers. While warriors defeated the slavers, everyone knows they’ll be back. This brief tale describes how the young magic user decides what to do in the face of the threat to his family and friends. There’s not much here, but I enjoyed it and would be happy enough to see more of the character.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1952: A Retro-Review

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction April 1952-smallAh, Galaxy. My old friend. I wonder if this is how readers felt by the time the April, 1952 issue rolled out. Officially labeled as Volume 4, Number 1, this issue marked the completion of 18 months for the magazine. You can tell a lot about a magazine by that point in time, especially if it’s hitting newsstands every month. And I think readers could tell that this was something amazing.

“Accidental Flight” by F. L. Wallace — Medical advancements can save people with profound injuries, but in some cases, the patients can’t recover into “normal” status. They might be amputees, lack vital organs, or have any variety of conditions that makes them unsuitable to join the rest of society. These people live on an asteroid, cared for and guarded by medical staff. And though they don’t wish to rejoin society, they do wish to leave their asteroid in order to explore the stars.

It’s interesting to see a cast of characters with disabilities. The story moves well, and I think (or perhaps hope) that this fiction touches on the theme that all people have value, despite what limitations a society may perceive. Wallace later expanded this tale into a novel titled Address: Centauri, published by Gnome Press in 1955, and as Galaxy Novel #32 in 1958 (see below).

“Katahut Said No” by J. T. M’Intosh — A computer system on Earth helps the Economic Center determine unviable towns on Venus. After all, there are only a limited amount of resources available, and the latest analysis shows one of the towns must die. The people would be dispersed elsewhere, and efficiency would increase. Unfortunately, the computer picks Katahut, the first settlement on the planet. And the citizens of the town do not wish to comply.

I liked the politics around this story — how one man tries to rally the town to fight the decision and what that may mean for all of the settlements. But the zinger was the final sentence.

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C. S. E. Cooney Joins Uncanny Magazine as a Podcast Reader

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

C. S. E. Cooney has hair like Medusa seriously it's amazing-smallThe brand new fantasy magazine Uncanny — which we discussed excitedly last month when its first issue went on sale — has shown uncanny good sense by hiring our very own C.S.E. Cooney as a podcast reader. Here’s a bit cribbed from the press release:

Uncanny Magazine is thrilled to announce that the marvelous C.S.E. Cooney has agreed to join us as the second reader on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast! Ms. Cooney is a Rhode Island writer and actor… She loves to read aloud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Some of her narration work can be found on Podcastle and Tales to Terrify. With her fellow artists in the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, C. S. E. Cooney appears at conventions and other venues, singing from their growing collection of Distant Star Ballads, dramatizing fiction, and performing such story-poems as “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” for which she won the Rhysling Award in 2011.

Ms. Cooney will make her debut as an Uncanny Magazine Podcast reader in Episode 3 this January.

So much exciting C.S.E. Cooney news! Just last month, we reported on Amal El-Mohtar’s review of her short story “Witch, Beast, Saint,” and our roving reporter Mark Rigney interviewed her in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we published here at Black Gate, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. Her most recent blog post for us was Book Pairings: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Royal Airs, published last Sunday. She is a past website editor of Black Gate, and the author of How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills.

In other C.S.E. Cooney news, today is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Claire!!

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Science Fictional Solar Pons

Monday, December 8th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

OffTrail_SnitchA few weeks ago, I wrote about the best of all Holmes pastiches, August Derleth’s Solar Pons. I mentioned that Pons had a more open-minded view towards the supernatural. This was certainly reflected in four stories that Derleth co-authored with noted science fiction writer Mack Reynolds.

Just last week, John O’Neill wrote a post about Anthony Boucher. As he mentioned, Boucher, along with J. Francis McComas, was the founder of the seminal Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

In January of 1953, they wrote to Derleth. Reynolds had submitted “The Adventure of the Snitch in Time,” a pastiche in which Sherlock Holmes receives a visitor from an alternate time-space continuum. The editors loved the idea, but, “Unhappily, Mack did not in any sense of the word recreate Holmes, Watson, or Baker Street! Outside of the plot idea, the story was, to be wholly frank, lousy!”

Also, to avoid trouble from those pesky Doyle brothers, none of the characters were named: wholly unsatisfactory.

So, the two editors wrote to Reynolds, suggesting that they have Derleth rework it into a Solar Pons story. Reynolds loved the idea, sending back, “I’d appreciate it if you’d give Augie Derleth first chance at it. It was after reading his Solar Pons stories that I got the idea for Snitch. Besides that, I’m an admirer of the old Seigneur of Sauk City and it would be a privilege to have a story appear under a collaborative by-line…”

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Fantasy Keeps You Young

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

John O'Neill at Capricon 2014 (photo by Patty Templeton)

John O’Neill at Capricon 2014 (photo by Patty Templeton)

Some years before I started Black Gate magazine, I was editing a science fiction fan site called SF Site. It’s still going strong today, managed by my old partners Rodger Turner and Neil Walsh in Ottawa. It was nominated for a Hugo award in 2002, and a World Fantasy Award in 2006; in 2002, it won the Locus Award for best webzine.

Anyway, before all that fame and glory, I was still struggling to get the damn site off the ground. That meant a lot of hard work, writing and posting articles that nobody read, late into the night. Around 1997 or so, I hit on an idea to give my site a higher profile: offering free hosting to the major SF and fantasy magazines, none of which had websites at the time. This worked splendidly, and over the next few years, Rodger and I launched sites for Analog, F&SF, SF Chronicle, and many others (meaning that I made a lot of phone calls, and Rodger did all the actual work.)

In 1998, shortly after we launched the Asimov’s SF site, I wrote A Brief History of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, to celebrate the magazine coming on board. I wrote about finding the second issue in 1977, the summer I discovered SF magazines. In my first draft, I said something about Asimov looking elderly and distinguished on the cover.

I ran the draft past Sheila Williams, then Executive Editor of Asimov’s, and received a very cranky note in return. She strongly objected to my wording, saying “Isaac was barely fifty when that photo was taken — hardly elderly!” I puzzled over that for a long, long time. What did she mean, exactly? It didn’t make any sense. Finally, I had an epiphany. Sheila was probably really old, too. She might even be approaching 50 herself! And as everyone knew, old people shouted at everybody, and didn’t make much sense. I tweaked my wording enough to pacify her and we published the article.

I’ve thought about that exchange a few times since I turned 50, just a few months ago.

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Astounding Science Fiction, February and March 1953: A Retro-Review

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 | Posted by Rich Horton

astounding science fiction February 1953-smallI thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at John Campbell’s Astounding, from the early ’50s, after its dominance of the market had been shaken by Galaxy and F&SF. So here are two 1953 issues.

I bought these two issues because the March issue has John Brunner’s first story for a major market, “Thou Good and Faithful.” I noticed that that issue also has the second part of a Piper serial that I hadn’t read, so I bought the February issue to get part 1.

Details, then. The February cover, for H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire’s serial “Null-ABC,” is by H. R. Van Dongen, a pretty good one with a skull on a reddish background (flames and smoke, I think), and books and test tubes in the foreground.

The March cover, for “Thou Good and Faithful,” is less to my taste. It’s by G. Pawelka, an artist with whom I am unfamiliar, and it features a robot with a monkey-like creature on his shoulder, holding a globe of sorts — a very accurate depiction of a scene from the story, but not a picture I fancy much.

The features in each issue are the usual: Campbell’s editorial (“Redundance,” about information theory, in February; and “Unsane Behavior,” about war and the naivete of both those who think it works very well, and those who think stories of Atomic Doom will prevent it, in March); In Times to Come, The Analytical Laboratory, Brass Tacks, and P. Schuyler Miller’s review column.

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Voices in Fantasy Literature, Part 4

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

no-lonely-seafarer-208x160It’s not just Hallowe’en, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, but it’s also that time of year when I try to catch up my 2014 short fiction listening so that I’ll be ready to make some choices about the Nebulas, the Hugos, and the Auroras.

This is a good kick in the pants for me, and it lets me pick up the thread of my Voices in Fantasy Literature series (see parts I, II, III). I started with Lightspeed magazine and three stories I loved in my first batch of listening.

No Lonely Seafarer” by Sarah Pinsker tells the coming-of-age story of Alex Turlington, an intersex orphan being raised by a tavern-keeper in a sea-town. When a flock of sirens set up a nest overlooking the harbor, all the sailors are trapped in the town, until one captain has an idea of how to get past them, and it involves Alex. There’s some beautiful, closely intimate language, but the strength of the story is in Alex’s growth. A great listen in under 40 minutes.

Illustration sketch of  woman with eagle wings, made with digital tabletThe Quality of Descent” by Megan Kurashige is a different kind of fantasy voice, one that is confused, vacillating, self-deprecating, and self-eviscerating by turns, a thematic match for this love collision story. The narrator gets unusual animals and items for parties and performers, and is visited by a vagabond girl with wings on a bicycle. They are both broken in different ways and this is that kind of love story. Beautifully done. Worth listening to a second time. Clocks in at 32 minutes.

The last story, “Thirteen Incantations” by Desirina Boskovitch, is a bit of a cheat for me, because this is a 2011 story from fantasy magazine and was only recently reprinted in Podcastle, but was such a captivating listen that I couldn’t leave it off.

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The Dark Issue 6 now on Sale

Friday, November 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dark Issue 6-smallThe sixth issue of The Dark, cover-dated November 2014, is now on sale.

Truthfully, I haven’t paid much attention to The Dark magazine recently. But at the World Fantasy Convention I picked up a free sampler, containing an assortment of fiction from past issues, and crammed it into my travel bag. Of all the things I could have read on my flight back to Chicago (and believe me, that bag was so stuffed it barely fit under the seat in front of me), it was that sampler that seemed most intriguing, so once we were off the ground I pulled it out, reclined my chair, and started to read.

It only took a few minutes to convince me that overlooking The Dark has been a serious mistake. A quarterly magazine of horror and dark fantasy co-edited by Jack Fisher and Sean Wallace, The Dark has published short fiction by some of the brightest stars in the fantasy firmament, including World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor, Angela Slatter, Rachel Swirsky, E. Catherine Tobler, Stephen Graham Jones, and many others.

Issues are available in digital format for just $2.99. Each one contains four short stories (roughly 40 pages), and is available through Amazon, B&, Apple, Kobo, and other fine outlets. They can also be read for free on the website. The sixth issue contains the following:

Calamity, the Silent Trick by Sara Saab
The Three Familiars by Eric Schaller
Mourning Flags and Wildflowers by Patricia Russo
Home at Gloom’s End by Naim Kabir

If you enjoy the magazine as I do, there are plenty of ways you can help support it, including by buying their books, reviewing stories, or even just leaving comments. See the Issue 6 story summaries here, and their complete back issue catalog here.

November/December Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction now on Sale

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy and Science Fiction November December 2014Editor Gordon van Gelder kicks off the Nov/Dec issue with the following, disguised as part of the intro to Paul Di Filippo’s “I’ll Follow the Sun”:

There was a time — or so it seems to your editor — when writers turned to science fiction to explore ideas they couldn’t touch in any other medium. A fair number of stories regarded as classics today were transgressive when they first came out.

These days, however, the internet seems to thrive on posts by people who aren’t keen on tolerating viewpoints that differ from their own, and some of those posts focus on the science fiction and fantasy field. They’ve inspired us here at F&SF to give this issue an extra helping of stories that deal with touchy themes or go beyond the bounds of Political Correctness.

Quite an intro. There’s an impressive list of contributors taking part in this rebellious experiment, including Albert E. Cowdrey, Scott Baker, and David Gerrold.

Even film reviewer Alan Dean Foster gets in on the act with a little honest blasphemy in his column, “On Novelizing Noah,” a meditation on adapting last summer’s biblical-themed movie, written as a conversation with God.

Here’s Tangent Online reviewer C.D. Lewis on Gerrold’s contribution.

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October Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1851216pr439k8tThe last few weeks have been particularly busy for me in my real life (as opposed to the one I lead as a dashing blogger-about-town on all things old school Swords & Sorcery) so this won’t be as complete a roundup as I’d like it to be. Fantasy Scroll #3 will have to wait until next month. As for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I failed to read either issue last month, but looking at October’s authors, I see World Fantasy Award-winning (for the splendid “The Telling“) Gregory Norman Bossert, along with some other talented writers, so let’s just assume you should go check them out for yourself.

What I did manage to read were magazines I never miss – Swords and Sorcery Magazine (#33) and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (#22). I’ve been following the former since the third issue, so I never want to miss out on what happens next. As for HFQ, it’s consistently the best — and my favorite — magazine for heroic fantasy, which means as soon as it hits the electronic superhighway, I try to check it out.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #33 presents us with its usual quota of two new stories. In ages past, Jonathan Nathaniel De Este, commander of Queen Isabella’s Dark Army and protagonist of Alex B.’s “Black Water“, “drank the Black Water and took the Darkness upon his spirit.” Every other man who did that found himself transformed into a bestial man or a complete beast. Only Jonathan has managed to hold onto a portion of his humanity and prevent himself from being changed externally as well as internally.

It’s an interesting story filled with grisly bits. There’s real potential for some exploration of Jonathan’s past and motives, but it’s not supplied. The mystery over his relationship to a picture of a princess is left only vaguely answered at best.

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