Lovecraftian Horror, Robot Musicians, and Alien Monsters: March/April 2021 Print SF Magazines

Lovecraftian Horror, Robot Musicians, and Alien Monsters: March/April 2021 Print SF Magazines

Covers by NASA, Maurizio Manzieri, and Warwick Fraser-Coombe

My regular trips to Barnes & Noble to pick up the latest print magazines are usually a fun affair. But it was bittersweet last month as, due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Interzone (and the planned retirement of its editor, Andy Cox), I assumed the Nov-Dec 2020 edition currently on the stands would be the final print issue of Interzone. Fortunately the magazine appears to be continuing, as least for the short term.

First up — the latest Asimov’s SF, with stories by Greg Egan, James Patrick Kelly, Kali Wallace, Michael Swanwick, and Black Gate‘s Saturday night blogger Derek Künsken. Here’s the highlights from Victoria Silverwolf’s review at Tangent Online.

The magazine opens strongly with “Glitch” by Alex Irvine. The setting is a future in which one’s consciousness can be recorded and then downloaded into a new body after death, if one can pay the price. People can also swap minds, using similar technology, or hitch rides inside the bodies of other persons. The story begins with the protagonist in a new body, after being killed in a bombing. The terrorists tried to block the minds of their victims from being resurrected, but a technical problem caused the main character to share his body with the mind of the bomber, who also died during the attack. He struggles to prevent the terrorist from taking over completely, while evading the authorities and fighting to stop another bombing. The author creates a vivid and suspenseful tale…

“Mrs. Piper Between the Sea and the Sky” by Kali Wallace is a tale of alternate history set in the 1940s. Aliens arrive on Earth, ending the Second World War when they destroy both Germany and the Soviet Union for refusing to cooperate with them. The protagonist is a British secret agent, sent to the United States to capture a former war hero who chose to work with the aliens. If necessary, she is ready to kill to accomplish her mission. She witnesses the devastating effect the arrival of the aliens has on plants and animals, and learns something about the relationship between the married couple. The premise is intriguing… The story’s mood ranges from Lovecraftian cosmic horror to spy thriller to domestic drama…

All the characters in “Flowers Like Needles” by Derek Künsken are alien inhabitants of a planet orbiting a pulsar. Their society is divided into warriors belonging to various philosophical schools and those who serve them. One such warrior seeks out a legendary master, in search of ultimate knowledge. The quest leads to battle as well as revolutionary ways of thinking. The author creates a truly weird setting and unique characters…

In “Sentient Being Blues” by Christopher Mark Rose, a robot is trapped with human workers in a mine. Unable to save their lives, it makes their last moments more bearable by performing blues. The narrator, working for a music company, takes the unexpectedly talented machine on a successful concert tour. An attack by fanatics who oppose robots acting like people leads to a crisis…

The main character in “Dream Atlas” by Michael Swanwick is a researcher who discovers a way to communicate through time while dreaming. After a conversation with her future self, who shows her the way to achieve great success as a scientist, other beings become involved…

Here’s all the details.

Asimov’s Science Fiction

Let’s start with editor Sheila Williams’ issue description from the website.

Greg Egan’s March/April 2021 novella, “Light Up the Clouds,” is a far-future novella about a civilization living in the floating forests of a gas giant closely orbiting a dwarf star. Eons ago, catastrophic changes in their environment caused some of the population to flee the planet. As disruption threatens once again, the survivors must contact their long-lost “cousins” to determine why . . .

After a brutal attack, the confused victim of a “Glitch” must face a team of terrorists in Alex Irvine’s thrilling new novella; Felicity Shoulders returns to our pages with a powerful and disturbing novelette about “Somebody’s Child”; Rudy Rucker tells us the rollicking story of “Mary Mary”; Michael Swanwick cautions a young scientist in “Dream Atlas”; a mining robot singing “Sentient Being Blues” becomes a sensation in Christopher Mark Rose’s first tale for Asimov’s; new author Anya Ow poignantly whips up “The Same Old Story”; new author A.T. Greenblatt reveals the temporally complicated and ultimately heartbreaking correspondence “RE: Bubble 476”; the master of quiet terror, Kali Wallace, does it again in “Mrs. Piper Between the Sea and Sky”; Derek Künsken makes a sharp point in “Flowers Like Needles”; and James Patrick Kelly brings us an unsettling future, a plucky heroine, and “Grandma +5°C.”

Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column laments “Betelgeuse, We Hardly Knew Ye”; “The Games Afoot!” in James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net; in On Books, Peter Heck reviews work by Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Carrie Vaughn, Cat Rambo, and others; plus we have an array of poetry and other features!

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.


“Glitch” by Alex Irvine
“Light Up the Clouds” by Greg Egan


“Somebody’s Child” by Felicity Shoulders
“Mary Mary” by Rudy Rucker


“The Same Old Story” by Anya Ow
“Mrs. Piper Between the Sea and the Sky” by Kali Wallace
“Grandma +5° C” by James Patrick Kelly
“RE: Bubble 476” by A.T. Greenblatt
“Flowers Like Needles” by Derek Künsken
“Sentient Being Blues” by Christopher Mark Rose
“Dream Atlas” by Michael Swanwick


Time Traveler at the Grocery Store circa 1992 by Kristian Macaron
The Destroyer Is in Doubt About Net Neutrality by Martin Ott
Sometimes a Poem by Jane Yolen
I Get a Call from My Estranged Father and Let It Go to Voicemail by Aaron Sandberg
We Chose Titan Together by Lauren McBride
The Appeal of Time Travel by Kimberly Jones


Editorial: Pandemic Editing by Sheila Williams
Reflections: Betelgeuse, We Hardly Knew Ye by Robert Silverberg
On the Net: The Game’s Afoot! by James Patrick Kelly
Next Issue
On Books by Peter Heck
The SF Conventional Calendar by Erwin S. Strauss

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact

Next up, Analog. Here’s editor Trevor Quachri’s  issue description.

Something unknown to humans is killing squid in huge numbers off the coast of Monterrey, and Emilia, a marine biologist, is trying to unravel the mystery, but it may just put her and her daughter’s lives at risk if she can’t solve it, and quickly. Follow her, in our March/April cover story, “Flash Mob,” by Meg Pontecorvo.

Then when a woman goes missing on an alien planet and no one seems willing to help, one man must venture into terra incognita with a local guide to try to find her, no matter the cost, in Catherine Wells’ “Invasive Species.”

Climate change isn’t just about temperature, as we see in our fact article for the issue, “From Atmospheric Rivers to Super Typhoons: The Future Looks Bright for Weather Disaster Fans,” from Christina De La Rocha.

And of course we have plenty of other stories, from Sean McMullen, Tony Ballantyne, Sean Monaghan, Brenda Kalt, Ray Nayler, Tom Jolly, Marie Vibbert, James Van Pelt, Aimee Ogden, and more, plus all our regular and (regularly excellent) columns.

Here’s the complete TOC.


“Invasive Species,” Catherine Wells


“Flash Mob,” Meg Pontecorvo
“Tail Call Optimization,” Tony Ballantyne
“Damocles,” Sean Mcmullen
“Problem Landing,” Sean Monaghan


“The Trashpusher Of Planet 4,” Brenda Kalt
“It’s Cold On Europa,” Filip Wiltgren
“The Acheulean Gift,” Matthew Claxton
“If A Tree Doesn’t Fall,” Jerry Oltion
“Thh*sh*thhh,” Aimee Ogden
“John Henry Was A Steel Driving Man,” Shane Halbach
“Recollection,” Elise Stephens
“The Burning Lands,” Tom Jolly
“Hillman, Charles Dallas, Age: 35, No Partner, Parents: Deceased,” Ron Collins
“Have Loved The Stars Too Fondly,” James Van Pelt
“The Pond Who Sang,” Charles Hand
“Second Hand Destinies,” Marie Vibbert
“The Shadow Of His Wings,” Ray Nayler


“The Last Science Fiction Story,” Adam-troy Castro


Constructing A Habitable Planet, Julie Novakova


From Atmospheric Rivers To Super Typhoons: The Future Looks Bright For Weather Disaster Fans, Christina De La Rocha


Mostly Hydrogen, Jack Martin
First Scientist (? –?), Jessy Randall


Guest Editorial: Better Than Being Fossilized!, Ian Watson
The Alternate View, John G. Cramer
Guest Alternate View, John J. Vester
In Times To Come
The Reference Library, Don Sakers
Brass Tacks
Upcoming Events, Anthony Lewis


Technically this is the November-December issue of Interzone (there was no January-February 2021 issue, for reasons), but calm down. it’s still the current issue.

Anyway, I’m very relieved to see Interzone is continuing, at least for the short term. Here’s Andy Cox’s issue summary from the TTA Press website.

Interzone #289 is packed full of modern science fiction and fantasy, with new stories by Tim Lees, John Possidente, James Sallis, Matt Thompson, Françoise Harvey, Cécile Cristofari, plus the latest James White Award winner. Our 2020 cover artist is Warwick Fraser-Coombe (another wraparound this issue), and interior colour illustrations are by, amongst others, Richard Wagner, Vincent Sammy, and Jim Burns who also writes this issue’s editorial. Features: Ansible Link by David Langford (news and obits); Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe (film reviews); Book Zone (book reviews, including Duncan Lawie on Stephen Baxter’s World Engines and Maureen Kincaid Speller on Alex Pheby’s Mordew); Andy Hedgecock’s Future Interrupted; Aliya Whiteley’s Climbing Stories.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.


“Cryptozoology” by Tim Lees, illustrated by Richard Wagner

I’d seen forests on TV but I’d never thought about the way they smelled – not fragrant like a garden, but dark and complex, rank with rot and ordure and the sharp, sweet tang of pine.

That was the first day.

The second day, we found the stink.

“The Ephemeral Quality” of Mersay by John Possidente, illustrated by Jim Burns

Dateline: Humboldt Station, GEO
‘Two Found Dead After Solar Storm’
Byline: Debin, CEJ#220377 (Prob.)

Today I spent way too much time inside the old nuclear power core, hiding from the sun while three people died outside.

“The Way of His Kind” by James Sallis

When you were born, you didn’t cry. The nurses in the tiny hospital where we then lived grew concerned. They feared you’d been damaged in the birthing, that you were deaf, or worse. Whenever anyone came close, you’d meet their eyes and hold on them till the faces above went away. Even then there seemed within your own eyes a deep intelligence, as though you were merely observing, piecing together these bits of the world offered you before committing to stay.

“Smoke Bomb” by Matt Thompson, illustrated by Vincernt Sammy

She was older than the usual type you get in the Fix, maybe eighty or so, with early-’90s style glass-tinted hair braids and a silicone-toned torso that bulged discreetly beneath her corset. She’d settled into one of the private booths furthest from the entrance. It wasn’t so uncommon. Sometimes you’d see ones like her coming in on their own, dead eyes lighting up at the sight of the mixing girls displaying their enhanced anatomies, money suddenly no object to gratifying their desires.

“There’s a Gift Shop Now” by Françoise Harvey

The set up is so: walls painted black and white only – the purest black and white, no specks or flecks marring the clear outlined shapes. The effect, looking at them, is of the light that flares after a punch in the eye. The surfaces of the walls are perfectly smooth, no possibility of a finger-hold, no invitation to clamber or deface. They are set to lean 95 degrees out from the floor, creating a slight blossom of roof, a suggestion of space overhead so that if a person lay on the floor the top of the wall might not immediately infringe on the eye. There’s freedom if you only gaze at the sky, though of course anyone was free to leave and go home, should they wish. The music is piped room to room, never the same song repeated, but every one of them has a crunching beat like the steps of a parading army on gravel.

“The Third Time I Saw a Fox” by Cécile Cristofari

“You know what I think, the world is going bonkers,” the circus man says.

I nod, draw a gulp of burning coffee from my thermos flask. A decent night watch needs to start with a little bitterness on the tongue, the first drink just a little too hot before the next cups fade to lukewarm. It’s the only excitement I’m afforded, after all. No one ever breaks into natural history museums.

2019 James White Award Winner: “Limitations” by David Maskill

To my great disappointment, I remained unmauled by a vicious alien monster.


Guest Editorial by Jim Burns

Future Interrupted: Cancelled Futures, Possible Worlds, by Andy Hedgecock

Climbing Stories: A Farewell to Worms, by Aliya Whiteley

Ansible Link, David Langford


Book Zone

Duncan Lawie: World Engines Destroyer + World Engines Creator by Stephen Baxter • Stephen Theaker: Machine by Elizabeth Bear + The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem • Maureen Kincaid Speller: Mordew by Alex Pheby •Juliet E. McKenna: Divine Heretic by Jaime Lee Moyer + Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke • Jack Deighton: Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

Mutant Popcorn
Nick Lowe

Films reviewed include Bill & Ted Face the Music, Tenet, The New Mutants, Carmilla, Wolfwalkers, Possessor, Love You Forever, Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!


Interzone’s 2020 cover artist is Warwick Fraser-Coombe. This image continues on the back cover.

Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction and Interzone are (usually) available wherever magazines are sold, and at various online outlets. Buy single issues and subscriptions at the links below.

Asimov’s Science Fiction (208 pages, $7.99 per issue, one year sub $35.97 in the US) — edited by Sheila Williams
Analog Science Fiction and Fact (208 pages, $7.99 per issue, one year sub $35.97 in the US) — edited by Trevor Quachri
Interzone (96 pages, £7 per issue, subscriptions are no longer available) — edited Andy Cox

The March/April issues of Asimov’s and Analog are on sale until April 20, and Interzone until some time next month, maybe? See our previous coverage of print SF here, and all our recent magazine coverage here.

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When my subscription copy arrived, I was glad to see Felicity Shoulders’ name on the cover. Her output is sparse, but she is one of my favorite authors. The story in this issue is great too.

Her story Small Towns, which was published in F&SF sone years back, is one of my all-time favorite works of short fiction. I believe it may be available to read for free on her website.

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