Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fantasy and Science Fiction 665 - Gordon Van Gelder

Having read a grand total of I think two of these American digest magazines in the past, and those about seven years ago, I was interested to check out some again, given recent reading and some suggestions by the last short story project. I do have three old issues of Asimov's that I have never gotten around to.

These more recent mags were bought in an airport on the way to Jamaica at a time I was reading very little, and non-fiction, if that, so a diversion for the occasional story when not occupied with sport and tv. I am pretty sure one of them was an issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Thanks to the same source as lastshortstory, livejournal, I saw a post that said if you wrote to Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine and volunteered to write a blog entry they would send you a copy of the September issue of the magazine. Hard to go past an offer like that. Perhaps it is Assistant Editor's Month or something. :) Generally in cases like this you aren't going to get it sent to Australia I would have though, but, in this case I was wrong, and today the pristine condition digest arrived only a few days after contacting them via the website.

Fantasy and Science Fiction it says, and that is what this issue delivers. You could even go so far as to say 50-50 on story count, even though it has 7 tales, because John Langan's nifty monikered piece could go either way depending on how you look at it, so call that half and half and there you have it.

Now I do subscribe to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and Jim Baen's Universe, both of which also have fantasy and science fiction stories, and generally have a more upbeat sort of focus than a lot of what seems to be wishy washy horror or fantasy type publications on the net, so it was quite pleasing to find a couple of stories here with a definite sense of humour (trivia bees and scouting, in this case).

Actually, my spousal unit opened the envelope wondering what it was, and was promptly chuckling over cartoons she discovered within, so it took a little time to get to it myself, and was something I hadn't expected to find. Also on the back was an ad for some books, including Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein, so I thought that seemed to be a good sign, as well.

There is some non-fiction content, as well, and also worth a look. Generally how I approach magazine rating is to consider the fiction, and give a bonus if anything else is worth looking at.

Here, there is a book review column by Charles de Lint, on whose books I indulged some years ago, so that was interesting. Even more interesting was that one of the things he talked about was the Season 8 Buffy comics. I have read the first of these, and it is definitely good. The possibilities are so intriguing that my romance geek (and also sf fan) sister is even contemplating buying comics, something I don't think has ever happened before, but I imagine as de Lint suggests, she might end up with the trades.

Ever seen Gold Medal Books and amanuensis in the same paragraph before? No, didn't think so. James Sallis is probably the only one that has ever written it, either, so may be in danger of having eyes glaze over before they get to the rest of his article, which is about two books that are of interest to me. The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, and Fast Forward 1. Both likely to be it seems what Gardner Dozois would call centre-core science fiction, a term I saw him use in the introduction to one of the recent Year's Best Science Fiction collections. Hence of more than passing interest to me, especially when it mentions who some of the authors are.

Lucius Shepard's movie reviews are refreshingly blunt, telling us to avoid another dodgy Dick interpretation. He is the first I have seen on casual stumblings across to actually write something about what Grindcore the movie is actually about that is not the cacklings of Tarantino fans, or the droolings over chicks in short skirts. That was definitely cool and something I wanted to know.

There is an article by Murphy and Doherty about watching a solar eclipse in Second Life. Charles Stross could probably have used that as a whacky example of something to inflict on the person from the 70s along with the dead gnome splatter advertising in World of Warcraft. This is a program I have never used, so it gives a brief overview.

The fiction in this mag is good. So far I have rated about 180 anthologies and collections, continuing my study there, and the median average fiction score for one of these books is 3.50 currently, with a touch over 2/3 of the stories rating as above average (3.5) or higher. For magazines, I have mostly only read Australian publications, and they are around 3.25, so I would expect current American magazines to fall somewhere in between those two numbers. My admittedly very limited sample, taking out the 80s Destinies paperback magazines as perhaps unfair draggers-down leaves only a handful of issues, but their average is between those two numbers, and with around 3/5 stories rating over the garden variety 3.

However, this issue of F&SF averages an impressive 3.64. If they are using this issue as a hook to get people interested, then it appears they have picked a fine example. With that rating tnere is absolutely no doubt about it being worth the money.

I had developed a formula to give a rule of thumb weighting to story collections (see The Mathematics of the Anthology in Analysis if you care) to deal with those with lots of good stories or those with below average works, and in this case, there are none of the latter, and the magazine fiction component rating is boosted a bit over 4. The non-fiction is certainly worth some bonus, if not amazing, so as far as magazines go this issue gets an excellent 4.5 out of 5.

FSF 665 : Wrong Number - Alexander Jablokov
FSF 665 : Envoy Extraordinary - Albert E. Cowdrey
FSF 665 : Atalanta Loses At the Interpantheonic Trivia Bee - Heather Lindsley
FSF 665 : Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of Purple Flowers - John Langan
FSF 665 : Requirements For the Mythology Merit Badge - Kevin N. Haw
FSF 665 : If We Can Save Just One Child - Robert Reed
FSF 665 : The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang

Fake phone girl curse removal requires mechanic and martinis.

3.5 out of 5

Diplomatic mission is a gutbusting blast.

3 out of 5

Eye of the Tigris, thrill of the setup for matchmaking A-Team goddesses and relatives.

4 out of 5

Batboy postapocalyptic pregnant prey girl's only chance.

4.5 out of 5

Supernatural scouting.

3 out of 5

Second chance secret clonemaster.

3.5 out of 5

Wormhole time tender's raconteur replay.

4 out of 5

4.5 out of 5

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