The November/December issue of F&SF is packed with lots of great stories, including tales from Robert Reed, Jeffrey Ford, Carter Scholz, Bruce McAllister, Naomi Kritzer and others.
Robert Turner at Tangent Online enjoyed the issue, particularly the stories by Ford, Scholz, and Kritzer:
In “The Winter Wraith” Jeffrey Ford puts together a tale of dread based only on an old Christmas tree and some uncanny events tied to being home alone in winter. The language is evocative and effectively paints the picture of the house and the narrative voice. The inconclusive nature of the story fits well with the tone and provides the reader with an enjoyable frisson as the tale ends…
“Gypsy” by Carter Scholz is a novella length work that is well worth the time needed to digest. Starting from the standard refugees-from-a-dying-Earth narrative, Scholz creates a believable world in which desperate geniuses make a last ditch attempt to settle a new planet. The differing POV’s and the way in which they create a patchwork story is well done and provides a satisfying read. The story is at its best as the various characters deal with entropy over the course of their trip.
In “Cleanout” by Naomi Kritzer three sisters are faced with the task of cleaning out their mother’s home after she has a stroke. As they do, they come across hints that their immigrant parents came from further away than they had suspected. The story mixes the stresses and concerns of contemporary life with elements of magical realism and the conclusion is pitch perfect.
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
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In his editorial this month, Jason Sizemore gives us the lowdown on the issue.
This month we offer three outstanding works of science fiction to our readers. “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols is that rarest of things — a vampire story in our publication…. completely by coincidence is the use of the word ‘beacon’ in Day Al-Mohamed’s “The Beacon and the Coward.” Finally, we have a story by one of the genre’s rising stars, Sam J. Miller. “To Die Dancing” has a tightly bound emotional core that I think you’ll enjoy.
Gemma Files is one of the best when it comes to writing unsettling fiction. To back my assertion, we’ve included her “Signal to Noise” as this month’s reprint feature.
Rounding out the issue are interviews with author Russell Nichols and artist James Lincke, a thought-provoking essay by Ed Grabianowski titled “Cthulhu Apocalypse and the Terrifying Tradition of Horror Role-Playing Games”, and poetry by Brittany Warman, Chloe Clark, Michael Sikkema, and Julia Kingston. We have three excerpts. The first is How to Pass as Human: A Guide to Assimilation for Future Androids by Android Ø by Nic Kelman. The second is The Flux by [Ferrett] Steinmetz. And, finally, The Weight of Chains by our esteemed managing editor Lesley Conner.
Here’s the complete TOC.
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We’ve got lots of great magazine coverage to point you towards the best new short fiction this month. We started our coverage of Interfictions with issue #6, and reported on the arrival of the massive Best Of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 1. In our reviews section, Learned Foote took a look at Nike Salway’s “The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club” in the October Lightspeed, and Fletcher Vredenburgh highlighted the best in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Swords and Sorcery Magazine in his October Round-Up. For vintage fiction fans, Matthew Wuertz journeys back over 60 years to look at a magazine from January 1953, with fiction by Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak, in the latest installment of his issue-by-issue read of Galaxy.
Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our November Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.
As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines here for every budget, from completely free to $12.95/issue. If you find something intriguing, I hope you’ll consider taking a chance on a subscription. I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.
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Unless you frequent coffee shops, book- or record stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, you probably have never come across the literary journal Whistling Shade, a fine regional publication currently in its fifteenth year. Black Gate readers may want to track down a copy of the Fall-Winter 2015 issue, though, as there is much herein of particular interest. No road trip or airline ticket is necessary: a full PDF replica of this horror-themed issue is available for $1 HERE. All of the issue’s contents are also posted (free) online HERE.
In addition to the horror fiction and poetry, the issue includes two excellent pieces on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Bloch. Sten Johnson’s eight-page essay “The Lonely World of H.P. Lovecraft” is one of the finest introductions of the enigmatic author I’ve seen. It provides not only a lively biographical sketch but does a swell job of situating Lovecraft’s oeuvre in the canon of twentieth-century literature. In “Once More Around the Bloch: The Man Behind the Fright Mask,” Thomas R. Smith provides a tribute to his mentor Robert Bloch that is entertaining, insightful, and thought provoking.
Before I give you a rundown of the table of contents, please indulge me a moment while I brag a bit as a proud father. This issue marks the first publication for my six-year-old daughter. Her poem “The Ghost that Hides in My House,” which she came up with this past summer and I faithfully copied down, appears on page 2 of Whistling Shade‘s HORROR Issue! In landing her first acceptance at the age of six, she has got me beat by a full decade. The publisher has kindly granted me permission to reprint Irelyn’s poem here (Please check it out just after the “Read More” tag — she’s very excited about it and will be stoked to know lots more people read it online).
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The November issue of the online magazine Nightmare contains original short stories from Matthew Kressel and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and reprints from Gemma Files (“The Emperor’s Old Bones,” which won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Short Story of 1999) and F. Paul Wilson (another reprint from the 1984 anthology Masques).
“Lacrimosa” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The woman is a mound of dirt and rags pushing a squeaky shopping cart; a lump that moves steadily, slowly forward as if dragged by an invisible tide. Her long, greasy hair hides her face but Ramon feels her staring at him. He looks ahead. The best thing to do with the homeless mob littering Vancouver is to ignore it. Give them a buck and the beggars cling to you like barnacles. “Have you seen my children?” the woman asks.
“Demon in Aisle 6” by Matthew Kressel
I first saw the demon the Sunday after you died. It was 11:53 p.m. Just seven minutes until I would have grabbed my knapsack and biked home to Mom and bed and a life of sound sleep. That night the flurries were drifting down like nuclear ash.
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Galaxy rolled along into a new calendar year. Elsewhere in the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower was about to begin his first term in office, succeeding Harry S. Truman. It’s amazing to sit back for a moment and realize how long ago all of this great fiction was published.
“The Defenders” by Philip K. Dick – Humanity has been underground for years while the United States and Russia fight a nuclear war. On the surface, robots called leadys fight for humans, detonating bombs that destroy and irradiate the earth. It’s a harsh life for humans, drudging out their years without sunlight, struggling to survive while producing weapons to win the war. Taylor gets called from his rest period to go with a team to the surface to investigate some inconsistent reports from the leadys. It’s a dangerous assignment, given the amount of destruction and radiation awaiting them, but it’s not one he can refuse.
I didn’t want to give more of a description in fear that I might spoil the story. It has a couple of surprising points – the first of which is somewhat easy to guess. It has a classic, Cold War feel to it, which adds to its charm. Philip K. Dick used the story as a basis for the novel The Penultimate Truth, published in 1964.
“Teething Ring” by James Causey – An alien visits Melinda at her home, though she doesn’t realize he isn’t human. The strange man asks to survey her in exchange for one of his devices. Although she selects something for herself, her toddler son takes interest in a neural distorter and won’t be dissuaded. Melinda offers the man a dollar for it and gives it to her son; after all, it keeps him quiet.
It’s a lighthearted tale, but I didn’t find it that interesting. It does, however, make for a good relief between “The Defenders” and “Life Sentence.”
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Editor John Joseph Adams shares some good news in his editorial this month.
Back in August, it was announced that both Lightspeed and our Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue specifically had been nominated for the British Fantasy Award. (Lightspeed was nominated in the Periodicals category, while WDSF was nominated in the Anthology category.) The awards were presented October 25 at FantasyCon 2015 in Nottingham, UK, and, alas, Lightspeed did not win in the Periodicals category. But WDSF did win for Best Anthology! Huge congrats to Christie Yant and the rest of the WDSF team, and thanks to everyone who voted for, supported, or helped create WDSF! You can find the full list of winners at britishfantasysociety.org. And, of course, if you somehow missed out on WDSF, you can learn more about that, including where to buy it, at destroysf.com.
This month Lightspeed has original fantasy from Helena Bell and Kenneth Schneyer, and fantasy reprints by Toh EnJoe and Karen Joy Fowler, and original SF by Rahul Kanakia and Caroline M. Yoachim, plus SF reprints by Brian Stableford and Kameron Hurley. All that plus their usual author spotlights, an interview with Ernest Cline, and book and movie reviews. eBook readers get a bonus reprint of Elizabeth Hand’s novella “The Least Trumps,” and an excerpt from Mira Grant’s novel Chimera.
Here’s the complete fiction contents for the November issue.
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According to several reliable sources (and even some photographs), BCS editor Scott H. Andrews was at the World Fantasy Convention two weeks ago. I know most of the editors in the field, but I’ve never met Scott, and that’s an oversight I’d like to correct some day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the con this year. Ah well! Next year for sure.
Issue #186 has short fiction from Bruce McAllister and Tamara Vardomskaya, and a podcast by Cory Skerry. It is cover-dated October 29.
“Holy Water, Holy Blood” by Bruce McAllister
He was comparing me, a peasant boy, to himself, a pope, but this did not feel strange. He wanted us to be friends — that I could tell — so why not make of us equals?
“The Guardian’s Head “by Tamara Vardomskaya
This bridge, I knew, was itself a sign of the empress’s faith in us. A permanent bridge expected the water to yield and hold back.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
“Bloodless” by Cory Skerry
But she wouldn’t let him make it through the gate; the inside guards were there to deal with travelers. Kamalija was here to deal with monsters.
Bruce McAllister has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Shirley Jackson Awards. Tamara Vardomskaya is a Canadian writer who has previously appeared at Tor.com. Cory Skerry’s last story for Beneath Ceaseless Skies was “Sinking Among Lilies” (Issue #92).
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Mark Cole’s nonfiction article “You Wouldn’t Be Reading This If It Weren’t For Buck Rogers,” in the latest issue of Clarkesworld, is a fond look back at one of the most important characters in the history of science fiction, and the famous comic strip he spawned.
Buck got his start in a singularly dull novelette by Philip Nowlan, “Armageddon—2419 AD,” in the August 1928 Amazing Stories (its cover looks so much like the classic images of Buck that no one notices it illustrates E.E. “Doc” Smith’s story, Skylark of Space).
By now everyone knows the story: Rogers gets trapped in a mine filled with a mysterious radioactive gas and wakes up almost five hundred years later. But then it bogs down in endless descriptions of future technology, future history, and future language. Even the “exciting” action is told in a detached tone, more suitable for a history text than a pulp adventure.
Yet, within a year, it became one of the most popular comic strips ever.
Issue #110 of Clarkesworld has seven stories — five new, and two reprints — from Naomi Kritzer, Nin Harris, Sara Saab, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Xia Jia, Tim Sullivan, and Ellen Kushner & Ysabeau S. Wilce.
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Just because I’ve taken a turn toward epic high fantasy in my reading of late doesn’t mean I’ve forsaken swords & sorcery. In fact, here’s my latest look at short stories from a trio of magazines you can read for free every single issue.
I’m starting this month off with Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I’ve written here before about my love-hate relationship with the magazine. Too often it just doesn’t print stories I’m interested in. Even when it does, its editors definitely have more literary taste than the pulpish flavor I prefer in my heroic fantasy. Issue #185 is a reminder of why I still look forward to BCS’s arrival every two weeks. Topped by a gorgeous painting by Feliks Grzesiczek that could easily pass for the locale of a Hammer film, the issue bills itself as “fantastically monstrous…for Halloween.” And it is.
“Demons Enough” by Ian McHugh is a little like Underworld (if Underworld wasn’t awful), set a little to the left of Beowulf’s Geatland. In other words, you get a shapeshifter throwing down with vampires, and folks named Thorfinn and Freydis trying to kill the lot of them. When the component elements of a story have been played with by an untold host of other writers over the years, the author has a lot of work to bring something original to the mix. That happens here with McHugh’s vampires, or leeches as they’re called. Cloaked by night and magic, they take on a more human form. In the sunlight, stripped of most of their power, their true selpulchral nature is revealed. Gloomy atmosphere, gut-squishing violence, and apprehension are delivered with a more than adequate degree of skill.
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