February Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

ssmJust a little to report from this past month’s excursion into the realm of short heroic fantasy. First, there’s the best issue in some time of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. Second, issue #14 of Grimdark Magazine. While the latter is loaded with good non-fiction articles, there’s only a single, albeit 15,000-word-long, story.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine rarely falls below good, but less often rises to great. I suspect it’s the nature of a magazine that only is able to pay $10 a story. Nonetheless, I found myself not only enjoying issue #72 but, despite not being surprised by anything in them, absolutely loving this month’s stories.

With the first, “Godsteel,” by Michael Meyerhofer, it came down completely to his characters’ voices and relationships. Three archers in the army of the Godprince, stationed in the siege lines surrounding the city of Haltan, are being ground down day after day. The ongoing possibility of a pointless death during an endless blockade brings the trio to a fateful decision that will affect the outcome of the battle and their futures.

During the soldiers’ introductions in the first paragraphs I became wary. While the senior one is named Mennaus, the others were called Tongue, because he lacks one, and Brain, because he hasn’t much of one. I’m immediately leery of any story where everyone has a cutesy nickname based on some trait, a trait which is also usually his singular characteristic. I was relieved to see that wasn’t the case in Meyerhofer’s story.

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Birthday Reviews: Joseph H. Delaney’s “Survival Course”

Monday, February 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ed Soyka

Cover by Ed Soyka

Joseph H. Delaney was born on February 5, 1932 and died on December 21, 1999. He worked as an attorney before he began publishing in 1982 with the story “Brainchild.” Delaney was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1983 and 1984.

He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella three years in a row, beginning in 1983 for “Brainchild,” “In the Face of My Enemy” the following year, and finally for “Valentina,” written with Marc Stiegler, in 1985.

“Survival Course” was purchased for Analog by Stanley Schmidt and appeared in the June 1989 issue. It has not been republished.

“Survival Course” is a pretty typical time safari story, reminiscent of L. Sprague de Camp’s A Gun for Dinosaur and subsequent stories. What sets Delaney’s version apart is that his characters, Clint Mineau and Cletus Running Wolf, have been sent back to the Tertiary period to confirm the cause of the destruction of dinosaurs. Their mission was spurred on by a glancing blow by an asteroid which wiped out millions of people.

Delaney spends quite a bit of the story providing a travelogue of the period, allowing Clint and Cletus to see the local megafauna while they worry that their timing is off. There aren’t as many dinosaurs then they would have expected to find.

Unfortunately, this section runs a little long. Although it sets the scene, it also has a feel of Delaney wanting to share his homework with the reader, catching them up on the most recent (and now thirty years out of date) understanding of dinosaurs. When he finally gets around to the cause of saurian extinction, it almost feels like an afterthought, coming a little too late and a little too slight, and it feels like it lacks originality.

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Birthday Reviews: Alex Bledsoe’s “Shall We Gather”

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jonathan Bartlett

Cover by Jonathan Bartlett

Alex Bledsoe was born on February 3, 1963. His story “The Big Finish” appeared in the June 1998 issue of Crossroads and his first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, which kicked off the Eddie LaCrosse series, was published in 2007. To date, the series includes five novels and a short story. He co-wrote the novel Sword Sisters with Tara Cardinal.

“Shall We Gather” was purchased by Paul Stevens for Tor.com, appearing on May 14, 2013. At the same time, it was released as an e-chapbook by Tor.com, and would later be included in the e-anthology The Stories: Five Years of Original Fiction. It is part of his Tufa series, which began with the novel The Hum and the Shiver and continued through five additional novels, with The Fairies of Sadieville scheduled for an April release.

“Shall We Gather” is set in eastern Tennessee in Bledsoe’s mythical Cloud County, where a fantastic race, the Tufa, have lived since before the coming of the Native Americans. Akin to Celtic fairies, the Tufa do not permit any churches to be built in the county, where most inhabitants have at least some Tufa blood.

When Old Man Foyt, one of the few humans who lives in Cloud County, is dying, he requests that Methodist minister Craig Chess attend to him to help him pass to the other side. After checking with his girlfriend, a Tufa, to ensure that his presence won’t offend the Tufa, Chess travels to help ease Foyt. Before he can enter the house, however, he is approached by Mandalay Harris, a powerful Tufa, who wants him to find out from Foyt whether the Tufa will face the same God as Christians upon their death. She believes that since Foyt has lived his entire life in Cloud County, something of the Tufa has infiltrated him and he might be able to share the answer with Chess at the moment of his death.

Despite Chess’s trepidation about entering Cloud County to perform in his capacity as a minister, all of the interactions between him and the Tufa or humans are completely amicable. The way Harris phrases her question for Foyt is interesting and seems Christiancentric rather than assuming a central place of her own race in her worldview.

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Birthday Review: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “The Cave”

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Fantasy and Science Fiction February 1969-small Fantasy and Science Fiction February 1969 TOC-small

Cover by Russell Fitzgerald

Yevgeny Zamyatin (originally Евгений Замятин) was born in Levedyan, Russia on February 1, 1884. He was an early supporter of the Bolshevik Party, joining them before the Russian Revolution of 1917, but he grew disillusioned with their policies following the October Revolution. In 1921 he wrote the essay “I Am Afraid” and also published his major science fiction novel, We (Мы), which became the first work of fiction banned by the Goskomizdat, the Soviet censorship bureau.

The novel was first published in English in 1924 and received a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1994. In 1931, Zamyatin appealed to Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Communist Party and was granted permission to emigrate to Paris, where he died in poverty from an heart attack on March 10, 1937.

Zamyatin’s story “The Cave” (“Пещера) was originally published in Russian in 1922, and reprinted in English in the February 1969 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In Russian the work was seen as focusing attention on the everyday man when they were still trying to establish the Communist State. The story was also seen as a direct challenge to the ideals of the Revolution which Zamyatin has supported only five years before.

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The Late January Fantasy Magazine Rack

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Alter Ego 150 Stan Lee January 2018-small Apex Magazine 104 January 2018-small Galaxy's Edge 30 January 2018-small Meeple Monthly 61 January 2018-small
Back Issue 102 December 2018-small Lightspeed Magazine 92 January 2018-small Lackington's 16 Fall 2017-small Space and Time Winter 2017 130-small

I think my favorite read so far this month has been Alter Ego #150, the special 100-page Stan Lee issue, with a rare interview with Stan the Man conducted in the 1980s, a look at Stan’s non-Marvel work, and tons more. The January fiction mags feature stories by Nisi Shawl, Nick Mamatas, Adam-Troy Castro, Sarah Pinsker, Laurie Tom, David Afsharirad, Patricia Russo, and many others.

Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in late January (links will bring you to magazine websites).

Alter Ego — Issue 150 of Roy Thomas’ Comics Fanzine celebrates 95 years of Stan Lee! 100 pages in full color for $9.95.
Apex — Issue #104 has new stories by Lila Bowen, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, Nick Mamatas, Chi Hui, Armando Saldaña, and Nisi Shawl, plus reprints by Cassandra Khaw and T. Kingfisher
Galaxy’s Edge — The fifth anniversary issue has stories by Laurie Tom, Nick DiChario, Eric Leif Davin, Sean Patrick Hazlett, David Afsharirad, M. E. Garber, George Nikolopoulos, and David VonAllmen, plus reprints by Joe Haldeman, Orson Scott Card, Kij Johnson, and Mercedes Lackey — and the fourth segment of Joan Slonczewski’s serialized novel Daughter of Elysium.
Meeple Monthly — Upcoming games from IELLO, Looney Labs, Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game, Pelgrane Press Ltd, and Steve Jackson Games!

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Birthday Reviews: Monte Cook’s “Born in Secrets”

Monday, January 29th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Cliff Nielsen

Cover by Cliff Nielsen

Monte Cook was born on January 29, 1968. Cook has mostly focused his attention on the gaming sector, working for Iron Crown Enterprises on Rolemaster and Champions before moving to TSR, where he designed the game Dark•Matter.

After TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast, he was put in charge of the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons. He left Wizards of the Coast and eventually started Malhavoc Press and published game supplements. Cook eventually founded another gaming company, Monte Cook Games.

“Born in Secrets” was published in the January 2000 issue of Amazing Stories, edited by Kim Mohan. The story is set in the world of Dark•Matter and the magazine had an essay about the game published alongside the story. Cook would publish a novel, Of Aged Angels, set in the same world the next year.

“Born in Secrets” tells the story of Jessie Campbell and Lewis McAndrews, two hydrogeologists working on a lengthy assignment in South Dakota when they stumble across an old sod house in the desert. Taking a break from their more pedestrian duties, and at Jessie’s urging, they explore the building and find some rusted tools and an old engraving metal platter.

Intrigued by their discovery, Lewis uses the internet to try to figure out what the German engraving means. Although he isn’t able to translate the entire thing, he does come across a reference to “Ministers of the Mind” and tries to learn what he can, sending e-mails to various websites. The few responses he receives are anything but enlightening and he shares them with Jessie before they abandon the mystery to return to their work.

Eventually, they are contacted by people who are tied to the Minsters of the Mind and learn that most of their wild speculations were true. They are now hosts to a second consciousness, which the Ministers believe is the next step in evolution.

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Birthday Reviews: Parke Godwin’s “The Night You Could Hear Forever”

Sunday, January 28th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Kent Bash

Cover by Kent Bash

Parke Godwin was born on January 28, 1929 and died on June 19, 2013. He received the World Fantasy Award in 1982 for his novella The Fire When It Comes. Godwin published the Arthurian novels Firelord, Beloved Exile, and The Last Rainbow as well as the Robin Hood novels Sherwood and Robin and the King. His Snake Oil series was a religious satire. He co-edited the anthologies The Masters of Solitude and Wintermind with Marvin Kaye.

“The Night You Could Hear Forever” has only appeared in its original publication, the September/October 1992 issue of Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine, edited by Dean Wesley Smith.

“The Night You Could Hear Forever” isn’t really a science fiction story, except in the way it describes the way people use technology. Its viewpoint character is located in Truckee, California and when he can’t sleep at night, he signs onto his ham radio equipment.

On the night Godwin describes, the atmospheric conditions are perfect and he is able to connect with other ham operators located in New Jersey, Utah, and Mississippi, each of whom are known to each other on the radio, but not in person, and only by the names of their states. In many ways, their relationship mirrors many relationships people now have online. Although the characters all have very different political views and backgrounds, they are able to remain friends, even as they disagree.

Unlike the online medium, using their voices allows them to get additional context and humanizes them. As they discuss the problems with the state of the country, they are joined by a new voice, from Maryland, who has not joined their nightly rap sessions, although Utah thinks the voice is familiar. Today’s world is mirrored in this story, although the technology has changed tremendously. The internet, however, causes anonymity without the sound of voices and inflection, so the friendship Godwin’s characters have managed to build despite their differences seems rarer in the modern era.

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Birthday Reviews: C.L. Moore’s “Lost Paradise”

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Margaret Brundage

Cover by Margaret Brundage

C.L. (Catherine Lucille) Moore was born on January 24, 1911 and died on April 4, 1987. From 1940 until his death in 1958, she was married to science fiction author Henry Kuttner. The two had their own careers and also collaborated together, although they claimed that they each worked on all of the other’s stories, sitting down and continuing whatever was in the typewriter at the time. Moore (or Moore/Kuttner) also used the pseudonyms Lawrence O’Donnell, C.H. Liddell, and Lewis Padgett.

In 1956, their collaboration “Home There’s No Returning” was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novelette. She received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 1972, the Forry Award in 1973, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1981. Moore was the Guest of Honor at Denvention Two, the 1981 Worldcon in Denver. Posthumously, she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998 and, along with Kuttner, was named the recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2004.

“Lost Paradise” is one of her stories featuring her space-faring rogue Northwest Smith and was originally published in the July 1936 issue of Weird Tales, edited by Farnsworth Wright. Moore included it in various collections, including Northwest of Earth, Shambleau, and Scarlet Dream. It has seen additional reprintings and has been translated into French and Italian.

“Lost Paradise” is essentially a bar story with a twist. Northwest Smith and his Venusian friend Yarol are enjoying a meal in New York when Yarol sees a strange man walking along the street below them. When the man is mugged, Yarol manages to retrieve the man’s package and, having recognized him as a member of a strange, secluded race, the Seles, who live in central Asia but don’t intermingle with any other peoples, he tells him that the only reward he desires is to know the great secret of the Seles.

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Worlds of If, November 1969: A Retro-Review

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Worlds of If November 1969-small Worlds of If November 1969-back-small

This is Part 4 of a Decadal Review of vintage science fiction magazines published in November 1969. The previous articles are:

Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1969
Amazing Stories, November 1969
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1969

The cover is by Gaughan, and although it is not specifically stated, it could be influenced by “To Kill a World” and/or “Genemaster.”

Editors Page, “The Dream Keepers” by Jakobsson.

A brief, and perhaps overly-stylized, write-up of the 1969 World Science Fiction Convention — the banquet and Harlan Ellison’s speech, specifically.

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Birthday Reviews: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Cruxifixus Etiam”

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Astounding Science Fiction February 1953-small Astounding Science Fiction February 1953-back-small

Cover by Van Dongen

Walter M. Miller, Jr. was born on January 23, 1923 and died on January 9, 1996. He is best known for his novel The Canticle for Leibowitz, which won the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He had previously won the first Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “The Darfsteller” in 1955. He wrote numerous short stories and edited the anthology Beyond Armageddon with Martin H. Greenberg, and left a partial manuscript for a sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz at his death, which was completed by Terry Bisson and published as Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.

“Crucifixus Etiam” was originally published in the February 1953 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. It has been reprinted numerous times, including under the title “The Sower Does Not Reap” in The Best Science Fiction Stories: Fifth Series, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T.E. Dikty (although it was published under its original title in the first edition of the book). Miller included the story in his collections The View from the Stars, The Science Fiction Stories of Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Best of Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Darfsteller and Other Stories, and Dark Benediction. It has been translated into Croatian, Dutch, German, and Italian.

“Crucifixus Etiam” tells the story of Manue Nanti, a poor Peruvian who has signed an indenturement contract to work on Mars for five years. Nanti figures that with little to spend the money on while he’s working, he can save up and have a good sized nest egg when he returns to Earth. Shortly after his arrival, however, he realizes that conditions on Mars are not exactly as he had expected.

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