July/August 2021 issues of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Cover art by Shutterstock.com, Tomislav Tikulin, and Alan M. Clark
Short story reviews have been part of the genre since the first SF pulps started publishing letters from young fans in the back pages in the 1920s. What’s different these days is that you can read reviews online, get excited about the current issues, and leisurely make your way to your local bookstore in plenty of time to grab the magazines you want.
That’s a consequence of multiple factors — including the move to bi-monthly publication for most major print zines, and the endurance of review sites like Tangent Online, Locus Online, and Quick Sip Reviews, among others — but it’s largely due to a small group of short fiction reviewers, almost all volunteers, who move quickly to read the latest zines and get thoughtful and well-written coverage posted with all dispatch. Here’s what a few of those folks thought of the July/August genre print magazines.
I made an enjoyable foray into the November 1982 “’Science Fiction Summer’ Wrap-Up Issue” of Starlog Magazine over the 4th of July weekend, to see how well the reviews of various films have held up. When were the reviewers prescient, and when were they embarrassingly myopic? Did any of them have a sense that they were reviewing films during a year that is now regarded as one of the greatest ever for genre cinema?
1982 is a pretty significant year for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In retrospect it is kind of incredible how many films that are considered iconic played in movie theaters that summer. Just check out this list of films reviewed: Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Kahn. Conan. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.Blade Runner. Tron. Poltergiest. John Carpenter’s The Thing. And while Mad Max 2 debuted down under in 1981, it made its American debut (as The Road Warrior) in 1982.
Weird Tales, January 1945. Cover by Margaret Brundage
This time we’re jumping ahead in our deep read of the Unique Magazine, to the January 1945 issue. The old guard has largely changed. Howard has been dead for almost six years, Lovecraft out-lived him less than a year. C. L. Moore hadn’t published in WT since 1939, Clark Ashton Smith longer. (Reprints not considered,) That doesn’t mean there were no familiar names. Seabury Quinn, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, and others continued to contribute. New writers, like Ray Bradbury, were coming on. Though the Golden Age was definitely over, that doesn’t mean the magazine didn’t publish quality material.
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #48 was uploaded to the world on May 1, 2021! We’ve got a full compliment, three short stories, three poems, art and audio!
Intrigue in Aviene, by Steve Dilks, Hardened mercenary Bohun of Damzullah, finds himself between wars and trying to get by in the great city of Aviene. But even in peaceful times, there are plots and dangers aplenty.
King Yvorian’s Wager, a classic reprint by Darrell Schweizter, Young king Yvorian is swept up into the games of the gods, and of that most mysterious and dangerous god, Rada Vatu.
A Night in the Witherlands, by Daniel Stride, with artwork by Simon Walpole, Manfred is hired to guard a merchant and his wares through the mysterious wasteland known as the witherlands. The ghosts of the witherlands have different plans for them both.
The Midnight Mail Takes Off for Mars, by Elliott Dold.
From Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories, April-May 1931
I’ve written from time to time about original science fiction art delivered to us by our Friendly Neighborhood Mailman.
Among the various original black and white interior illustrations we own from the science fiction pulps, this is our earliest, appearing 90 years ago. By artist Elliott Dold, it ran as a frontispiece in the April-May 1931 issue of Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories. It was not for any particular story; instead it was a one page feature showing “An Incident of the Future: The Midnight Mail Takes Off for Mars.”
Dold was the art editor of this short-lived title; the April-May 1931 issue was the first of only two. He appears to have been the editor as well, though some sources state that Dold’s brother, Douglas, was the editor. Both Elliott and Douglas, as well as the publisher of Miracle, Harold Hersey, had worked together previously over at the Clayton pulp chain. Elliott and Douglas each had a story appear in Miracle; Douglas’ in the first issue, Elliott’s in the second, dated June-July 1931. In an interview in the October-November 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine, Elliott discusses how Miracle was his brainchild – he’d talked Hersey into publishing it, and obtained all the stories, as well as doing all the art. He blamed its cessation on an illness which made it impossible for him to work on it. Perhaps coincidentally, during this same period his brother Douglas passed away, on May 6, 1931.
Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction & Fact for May/June 2021. Cover art by Shutterstock.com
Sam Tomaino at SFRevuraves over the latest issue of Asimov’s.
The May/June 2021 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction is here and it has two Hugo-worthy novelettes!
“Reclaiming the Stars” by James Gunn. This is the fourth and final story in a series that features the adventures of Harry and Lisa George, who as of the previous story, were physically long dead but survived as personalities in black boxes on an Earth… The story begins with Harry and Lisa working at recreating human life with Lisa more comfortable with that than Harry, who has nightmares about a future Adam being killed by a sea monster. He wonders if there is something wrong with him. But when Lisa has a nightmare of her own about their progeny dying. They speculate that these visions are coming from an outside source. Who or what? Could it be a “ghost” of the AI that they defeated in the first story in this series?
Harry and Lisa have one last adventure and the series concludes in a perfect way. This story will be on my shortlist for consideration for a Best Novelette Hugo Award next year.
The issue concludes with the novelette, “Flattering the Flame” by Robert Reed. The Great Ship has two possible routes, the Prudent or the Impetuous. The Impetuous takes them through a very ancient developed system inhabited by the people known as the Flame. The Flame knows of the coming of the Great Ship and plan to take it for their own, led by their captain, Fierce. But Washen, the Great Ship captain, has other ideas. Another wonderfully rich tale from one of the genre’s most unique writers.
The May/June Dell magazines also contain stories by Neal Asher, Lettie Prell, Dominica Phetteplace, Ray Nayler, David Moles, and many others. Here’s all the details.
Venture Science Fiction, November 1957. Cover by Emsh
In this series of essays I have been taking a close look at stories I find interesting, trying to figure out how they work. So far the stories (and one poem) I have discussed are pieces I find particularly good – and this is hardly surprising, as surely it’s better to know how and what good stories do than weak stories. But this time I’m taking a look at a story I enjoy, but that I also think deeply flawed. Why? Partly because it’s by Theodore Sturgeon, one of my very favorite writers. But also this story seems very Sturgeonesque – so I hope that I can understand better what Sturgeon tries to do in his most characteristic stories, and why sometimes even while he does what he wants to do the story qua story doesn’t wholly work.
My favorite Sturgeon stories are “The Man Who Lost the Sea,” “A Saucer of Loneliness,” and “And Now the News …”. There are other very good and very well-known stories by him: “Baby is Three,” “Mr. Costello, Hero,” “Bulkhead,” “Affair with a Green Monkey,” “And My Fear is Great …”. And there are early stories that seem less truly characteristic of the mature writer, though they are still well-regarded: the SF Hall of Fame story “Microcosmic God,” horror stories like “It” and “Bianca’s Hands,” the possessed bulldozer piece “Killdozer.” I love a late ‘40s sense of wonder thing, “The Sky Was Full of Ships,” but that too is not core Sturgeon. But there are a few stories from his peak period, the 1950s, that have the emotional punch, and the moments of utter beauty, of the best of his work, but that for one reason or another don’t stick the landing. “The Golden Helix” is one. “The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff” is another – a novella that for half its length bids fair to be as good as anything he ever wrote, but which can’t quite find its way to a satisfactory resolution. And there is “It Opens the Sky,” the story I mean to treat here, which has pages of sheer loveliness, passages of great power, and a message that is Sturgeon at his most tender and optimistic. It is a story that brings me to tears, and yet frustrates me.
Amazing Stories, November 1989. Cover by Janet Aulisio
An unexpected issue came up during my reading of the November, 1989 Amazing Stories. In 1979 I was 10 years old, and I barely remember being 10 years old. In 1989 I was 20, and I remember being 20; maybe not 100%, but I remember enough. In fact, I remember enough to know what 20-year-old me (20YOM) would think of the stories in the November, 1989 cadre. Sometimes, 20YOM’s views conflicts with 51-year-old-me (51YOM). So there are times I am literally of two minds!
H. Beam Piper wrote a great deal about Time. His books and stories seem split into two types: travel via mechanical means, such as in the Paratime Police stories, and consciousness travel, such as in “The Edge of a Knife.” This article will look at both.
Piper wasn’t the first to write science fiction about parallel realities. Murray Leinster was the groundbreaker for that in “Sideways in Time” (1934). In 1947, Fredric Brown brought us his delightful parallel reality story, What Mad Universe. That same year, H. Beam Piper published his first time travel story, “Time and Again.” This was not a tale about purposeful travel but accidental, through a hellacious explosion. And it wasn’t about physical time travel at all, but consciousness travel. We’ll return to this type of time travel later in the article.
Verkan Vall is the hero of most of the Paratime police stories. His official title is Special Chief’s Assistant to the chief of the Paratime Police — Tortha Karf. Through his adventures we learn about the Home timeline of the First Probability Level and get a look at the complex spider web of realities that the Paratime Police oversee.
SPI ad in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1978
I’ve been spending some time over the past few months getting my SF digests back in order. While those on the shelves were in order, I had bunches in boxes that needed to be incorporated, so it’s been a bit of work. But it’s been fun to look at them as I’m organizing them (which of course just slows that process down!)
I’d remembered that the first SF digest I subscribed to was The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but had forgotten that the first issue of my subscription was December 1976. My copy still has that helpful mailing labeled plastered over it. But on that copy at least, from the perspective of 45 years later, I don’t mind it being on there at all.
I’ve had great fun looking again at the various SF and fantasy gaming ads that were running in digests during that period. I think that the first game I ever ordered was TSR’s Lankhmar in early 1977 (being a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fan, I couldn’t resist!), while I was in eighth grade, followed later that summer by SPI’s Sorcerer and Metagaming’s Ogre. Once I’d ordered a few things, my name found its way on to many mailing lists, so I wasn’t limited anymore to what I saw advertised in the digests.