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The Case of the Missing Magazines

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction May-June 2020-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact May-June 2020-small May-June 2020 F&SF-small

Every month for roughly the past 40 years I’ve made a pilgrimage to the nearest newsstand to purchase my favorite fiction magazines. The newsstands have changed over the years, and the mix of magazines has too. But it’s a tradition I’ve come to cherish.

Well, this is a time of broken traditions. All the local bookstores are closed (not that there were many to begin with), and I find myself at a loss. New issues of Asimov’s SF, Analog, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction are now available, at least in theory. In practice, I have no way to buy them. And according to their various websites this batch is particularly enticing, packed with new stories by Ian R. MacLeod, Eleanor Arnason, Ian Watson, Bruce McAllister, R. Garcia y Robertson, Dominica Phetteplace, Neal Asher, Derek Kunsken, Richard Bowes, M. Rickert, Bruce Sterling, Robert Reed, and many others. And for the first time in decades, it looks like I’ll miss out.

When I griped about this on Facebook today, there were plenty of sympathetic suggestions. Mark Tiedemann endorsed an independent bookstore that mailed ordered single issues… but it has abruptly stopped carrying magazines. Mark Shainblum suggested digital issues… but I have nearly nine solid decades of print issues of Astounding/Analog, and it sure doesn’t feel right to give up now. Adrian Simmons shared my pain, and suggested he might subscribe, even if sub copies do come with an ugly mailing label. And Darrell Schweitzer shared the hard-won secret of removing those damn mailing labels with a damp cloth.

It was comforting to have so many folks commiserate. And I suppose, in the end, the right thing to do in these tough times is to support the magazines with a subscription. And that’s what I’ll do. If you love — or are curious about — short fiction, I hope you’ll consider doing the same. You can shop for digital and print subscriptions at the Asimov’s SF, Analog, and F&SF websites. Check out the editorial descriptions for each issue below.

First up, Sheila Williams on the May/June 2020 Asimov’s SF.

Don’t miss our May/June 2020 compelling novelettes! In “Tunnels,” Eleanor Arnason escorts us to a distant future where her characters discover a complex web of dangerous intrigue. The world of Ian R. MacLeod’s brilliant tale, “The Mrs. Innocents,” which is both similar and very different from our own, hinges on one woman’s powerful sacrifice.

You’ll find some more exceptional novelettes. “Ronni and Rod” face catastrophic disaster in David Gerrold & Ctein’s new tale; James Gunn’s “Against the Stars” continues the pursuit of a mysterious A.I.; a young woman comes of age in Tegan Moore’s “Perfect Blue”; and in his first story for Asimov’s, Brad Aiken teams with Rick Wilber, one of the magazine’s veteran authors, for a trip to “Ithaca.” Ian Watson’s short story investigates the classic “Brave New World by Oscar Wilde”; torn with guilt, Bruce McAllister’s hero must listen to “The Voice”; new to Asimov’s author Alice Towey takes us to “The River” to experience a young woman’s excruciating adaptation to a brain implant; another new to Asimov’s author Evan Marcroft visits the gods in “Pax Mongolica”; and Dominica Phetteplace imagines a chilling future in “Digital Witness.” You’ll be “Living in Wartime” in the issue’s thrilling novella by R. Garcia y Robertson!

We anticipate a very special Guest Editorial by astronaut Cady Coleman; Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column reels in “The One That Gets You Hooked”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net posits “Two Dooms”; Norman Spinrad’s On Books reviews novels by Chen Qiufan and Ma Jian as well as the anthology, Invisible Planets, edited and translated by Ken Liu, to give us a look at Modern Chinese Science Fiction — Windows into China; plus we’ll have an array of poetry and additional features you’re sure to enjoy.

Get your copy now!

And Trevor Quachri on the May-June Analog:

The celebration continues! Next issue, our cover story is one where alien physiology also leads to alien philosophy: it’s “Moral Biology,” by Neal Asher.

Then we have arguably the most famous piece in our retrospective series: Anne McCaffrey’s “Weyr Search,” with a poignant introduction from Analog’s majordomo, managing (and poetry) editor, the superlative Emily Hockaday.

Our fact article is the rather self-explanatorily titled “Space Dust: How an Asteroid Altered Life on Earth . . . Millions of Years Before the Dinosaurs,” by one of our most popular nonfiction authors, Richard A. Lovett.

Of course we also have part two of Derek Künsken’s serial, The House of Styx — no spoilers, but readers who enjoyed the nuanced characters, hard science, and imaginative world-building in The Quantum Magician and especially “Persephone Descending” will find much to love here.

We’ll also have scores of other stories, about dirty deeds in a mining colony in “A Breath of Air,” from Tom Jolly; an alien getting a wider look at its own culture in Ramona Louise Wheeler’s “The Calm Face of the Storm”; a father try to bond with his daughter in spite of changing technology in Eric Cline’s “It Was Tradition When You Turned 16.”

Get your copy now!

I’ll come back and post C. C. Finlay’s summary of the May-June F&SF as soon as it’s available.

Check out all of our recent magazine coverage here.

22 Comments »

  1. When I was growing up it was easy to find fiction magazines. They were in grocery stores and drug stores. Even as I grew older there were relatively many Borders and Barnes and Nobles with a large selection of fiction magazines. I used to look forward to grabbing a new issue of Weird Tales (Terminus) off the shelves.

    Now even Barnes and Nobles are rare. And the only magazine that I might purchase at a grocery store is a Nation Geographic.

    I have a digital subscription to F & SF. And I get a thrill when I see a new issue available but it is not the same. I miss the old days.

    Comment by Charles_Martel - April 23, 2020 8:16 am

  2. I know exactly how you feel, John. I had a factory job in the early ’70s, on the night shift, and since we got paid on Thursday nights, I’d cash my check Friday morning and head to one or more of 6 different bookstores in town. One newsstand chain owned 4 of those stores, and they tended to keep old stock (paperbacks) on hand long past the dates that national chains like B. Dalton or Walden would observe. I found almost every one of John D. MacDonald’s books (close to 70) in those stores, as well as Ace “D” and “F” titles — and even an occasional “S” title. All of these stores stocked the SF/Fantasy mags as well. Bought my first such mag, “Fantastic” (May 1968), fresh off the racks. I was able to maintain my collecting up to the mid-’80s, when grad school took up my time, and lack of a decent job gave me less disposable income. I sure miss those Friday morning jaunts to the bookstores (but I still have about 90% of what I bought!)

    Comment by smitty59 - April 23, 2020 8:50 am

  3. Nothing can replace going to a store and buying a book from the racks. But I got pretty pumped yesterday to see Tales From the Magician’s Skull #4 in the mail yesterday.

    And they don’t put the sticky mailing labels on the cover. I’m surprised magazines still do that.

    Comment by Glenn - April 23, 2020 9:02 am

  4. > I used to look forward to grabbing a new issue of Weird Tales (Terminus) off the shelves.

    Charles,

    I remember buying those at Borders as well! Boy, what a treat those were when they showed up. I miss the days when the magazine rack was packed with surprises.

    For those too young to know what we’re talking about, from 1988 to roughly 1998 Weird Tales was revived by Terminus Publishing (George H. Scithers, John Gregory Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer), who returned it to pulp-size format (perfect bound) with gloriously colorful covers and a quarterly schedule. That lasted until 1998 when DNA Publications took the reins and cut the size of the magazine considerably.

    Here’s an assortment of Terminus issues (click for a bigger version). It was always a delight to see them on the stands.

    Weird Tales Terminus issues-small

    Comment by John ONeill - April 23, 2020 9:39 am

  5. John,
    I contacted the publishers through the customer service email and they were happy to sell me individual copies of Asimov’s and Analog. Got both the Mar/Apr and May/Jun issues. $9.95 each including shipping
    Chuck

    Comment by Chuck Timpko - April 23, 2020 12:43 pm

  6. Chuck (or John), do you know of those individual copies come in envelopes? I would think so…

    Comment by Mark R. Kelly - April 23, 2020 6:39 pm

  7. You may recall about me that I’ve had subs to those three for a long time. (I guess, despite my long-ago, comic-book-collecting days and the anal retentiveness it either inspired or fed upon, that I don’t have a problem with the damage that occurs in mailing; I just want to read them.) And that I have complete collections of all of them (and Galaxy…and Black Gate, of course!), all the way back to the first, late-1949 issue of F&SF. (And Darrell Schweitzer was one of the people on eBay who helped me fill out the collection. I bought a lot of issues from him.)

    For recent issues that I was missing, I was able to buy them all from the publishers. I did that as recently as five or six years ago. Getting recent issues on eBay is trickier.

    Comment by Allen Snyder - April 24, 2020 8:09 am

  8. Don’t give up John! If you can’t get them now, tap the back issue market in a month or so’s time. Actually I wonder how it works in the states in terms of unsold shop stock? If it gets sent back to the distributor and gets sold off at bargain price for job lots or what?

    I can commiserate in a bit of an obtuse way. Finally stumped up to buy the last issue of Fantasy Book magazine to round off my collection and bought some other old SF mags while I was at it (SF Chronicle, SF Age, Cosmos, Heroic Fantasy) . They cost an absolute fortune in postage totally no logic can justify, but that’s how it works with international post. Anyhow lo and behold I get a note from eBay, the parcel has been returned as it cannot ship due to COVID-19. I suppose distribution centres closed etc.

    Comment by Tony Den - April 25, 2020 2:01 am

  9. > I’d cash my check Friday morning and head to one or more of 6 different bookstores in town.

    Smitty,

    Now that’s the devotion of a true collector! I remember when I got my first (and very long awaited) paycheck at my first summer job, I made a pilgrimage to Fandom II, the legendary games store in Ottawa, to buy items I’d had my eye on for months. That day lives in my memory still.

    > (but I still have about 90% of what I bought!)

    What do you primarily read these days? Books from your collection, or new ones? There were years when I primarily read older stuff, but it’s new science fiction I chiefly enjoy these days.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 25, 2020 10:45 am

  10. > I got pretty pumped yesterday to see Tales From the Magician’s Skull #4 in the mail yesterday.

    Glenn,

    Wot?? I didn’t know it was out yet. Great news! I will keep my eager eyes on the mailbox for my copy!

    I’m especially interested in the next installments from John C. Hocking and James Stoddard, and the new stores from Ryan Harvey and Milton Davis

    Tales From the Magician’s Skull 4-small

    Comment by John ONeill - April 25, 2020 10:54 am

  11. > I contacted the publishers through the customer service email and they were happy
    > to sell me individual copies of Asimov’s and Analog. Got both the Mar/Apr and May/Jun
    > issues. $9.95 each including shipping.

    Chuck,

    Man, I wish I’d thought of that! That’s a great idea, and I’ll do that same.

    When I posted a link to this article on Facebook, Darrell Schweitzer asked:

    > Will the publishers take mail order for specific issues?

    And F&SF publisher Gordon VanGelder responded:

    > F&SF does. The page for ordering the issue won’t go up until next week, though.

    That’s great news. If all the publishers do something similar, I’ll update this article with links to order pages.

    Thanks for the suggestion, Chuck.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 25, 2020 10:59 am

  12. > Chuck (or John), do you know of those individual copies come in envelopes? I would think so…

    Mark,

    Great question. In that same Facebook discussion (see my response to Chuck above), Derek Kunsken said:

    > A subscription is a great option to support the magazine for a couple of years and they
    > come in plastic, so I don’t think the sticker is straight on the cover.

    I didn’t know that, but it makes a big difference for me.

    Here’s the full discussion on Facebook:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156829542352680&set=a.10150495106787680&type=3&theater

    Comment by John ONeill - April 25, 2020 11:02 am

  13. Come on John, you have to go right for the Enge story like I do!

    Comment by Glenn - April 25, 2020 10:35 pm

  14. John: Note that while back issues I’ve ordered have been well packaged, none of F&SF, Asimov’s, or Analog subscription copies come in any protection, and the mailing label is on the front cover.

    Comment by Allen Snyder - April 26, 2020 9:09 am

  15. > I have complete collections of all of them (and Galaxy…and Black Gate, of course!), all
    > the way back to the first, late-1949 issue of F&SF.

    Hi Allen,

    Yeah, I remember that you have a very impressive digest magazine collection. Are you caught up on your reading? What’s your favorite magazine these days, and why?

    Comment by John ONeill - April 26, 2020 7:29 pm

  16. > Don’t give up John! If you can’t get them now, tap the back issue market in a month or so’s time.

    Tony,

    Perhaps, but that’s risky. My big concern is that I am by no means alone, and sooner or later there will be PLENTY of folks looking for these missing issues. Assuming things get back to normal in two months, these two issues will be the ones everyone is trying to find.

    > Finally stumped up to buy the last issue of Fantasy Book magazine to round off my collection
    > and bought some other old SF mags while I was at it (SF Chronicle, SF Age, Cosmos, Heroic Fantasy).
    > …lo and behold I get a note from eBay, the parcel has been returned as it cannot ship due
    > to COVID-19. I suppose distribution centres closed etc.

    Ouch! I’m so sorry, man. That sounds like a terrific collection.

    I hadn’t realized items on eBay were not being delivered. Is that just international packages?

    Comment by John ONeill - April 26, 2020 7:34 pm

  17. > Come on John, you have to go right for the Enge story like I do!

    Glenn,

    LOL, right you are. But I don’t come across stories from John, James, Ryan and Milton nearly as much as James Enge these days, so I’m always excited to see them.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 26, 2020 7:38 pm

  18. > while back issues I’ve ordered have been well packaged, none of F&SF, Asimov’s, or Analog
    > subscription copies come in any protection, and the mailing label is on the front cover.

    Allen,

    Ah, that’s great to know. Thanks for the clarification!

    Comment by John ONeill - April 26, 2020 7:39 pm

  19. >I hadn’t realized items on eBay were not being delivered. Is that just international packages?

    John I think it depends on each country. Over here they took pretty heavy preventative action in terms of a nationwide lock down, which included international fights. I assume mail centres were also affected. But all good the seller seems like a nice guy and will re send when we get the all clear.

    Comment by Tony Den - April 27, 2020 3:16 am

  20. Ha, ha, not even close to caught up. I can barely keep up with new issues, much less older issues (not to mention, all the probably thousands of yet unread books!).

    I don’t think I have a favorite; I’ve found new favorite authors in all of them. If absolutely forced to choose, I’d probably go with F&SF.

    Comment by Allen Snyder - April 28, 2020 9:10 am

  21. > I contacted the publishers through the customer service email and they were happy
    > to sell me individual copies of Asimov’s and Analog. Got both the Mar/Apr and May/Jun
    > issues. $9.95 each including shipping.

    Coming back to this thread to note that Chuck is correct!

    I emailed Penny Press, and here’s what I got back:

    > Dear Mr. O’Neill,
    >
    > Thank you for your interest in Asimov’s Science Fiction.
    >
    > Yes you can order double issues of “Asimov’s Science Magazines”. The
    > cost per issue will be 7.99 + 1.50 for a total of 9.49. If you wish to
    > place an order please contact Customer Service @ 1-800-220-7443. We
    > will be more than happy to assist you.
    >
    > We look forward to serving you.
    >
    > Sincerely, Sandy Marlowe Readers Services

    I called the number this morning, and placed an order for both issues (plus a copy of the latest Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, as long as I’m making the effort). They said they’ll go in the mail today.

    Easy! I already ordered the latest F&SF from their handy Paypal order button right on the issue page:

    > https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/current.htm

    Looks like I won’t miss the issues after all!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 15, 2020 12:44 pm

  22. John,
    Should note that the 4 issues arrived today, each nicely packed in a padded envelope. Of course they took about a month to arrive ! Better late than never of course.
    Chuck

    Comment by Chuck Timpko - May 18, 2020 6:27 pm


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