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May 30, 2008

F&SF July 2008

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine have just sent out another batch of review copies to bloggers, and they were nice enough to send me one, so here's my review of F&SF July 2008.

Look and Feel
First off I should say that I've never read a copy of F&SF before, although I've read many of the Hugo nominated stories published in it that get posted online. It's not a magazine that appears on the shelves of UK newsagents and so subscription is the only real way to get it, unless you opt for an ebook version (and I have no decent ebook reader). Picking up the magazine it feels strangely foreign: the digest format, the strange retro adverts, the book quality paper. It's completely different to the average UK magazine and a million miles away from the super slick 21st century Interzone. However, it's nice to read, book sized to hold, book-like print and font, the only annoyance the cardboard subscribe form in the middle.

Now onto the content.

Short stories

Reader's Guide by Lisa Goldstein

This is my favourite story in the issue. It begins as a reading guide to a story, about which we know nothing. Gradually we learn not only about the story being commented on, but also about the narrator, who turns out to be a resident of the library in which all stories are held. I loved the comments on cliches and writerly laziness, and yet at the end the message is hopeful, suggesting that every author can write a worthy story, that there are always new stories to tell. The tale had a warm but off-kilter feel that was reminiscent of Kelly Link. Lovely.

Enfant Terrible by Scott Dalrymple
A short one idea story about a child who is super-intelligent. It's pretty much a one joke/idea plot, and once I knew what was going on the interest was gone. Diverting whilst being read, but not a story that kept me thinking after.

The Dinosaur Train by James L. Cambias
A story of a travelling Dinosaur show, on the surface about an ill dinosaur, but really about the relationship between the family members who run the show. I found it hard to get into this story, and never really cared about either the dinosaurs or the family. It felt like an old idea that didn't really offer anything new.


Fullbrim's finding by Matthew Hughes
A space detective story, where the main character tries to discover what has happened to the Fullbrim in the title. Although the final twist/idea is nice, and left me pondering for a while, the story didn't offer me much up to that point. Only the hook kept me going.

Poison Victory by Albert E. Cowdrey
Alternate history set in Russia after World War 2. The problem I find with Alternate History stories is that you have to know the period of hostory well enough to understand how clever it is. Which I never do. So although the story had some nice characterisation, an interesting emotional core and a nice ending, it didn't really grab me as a story I love. One to appreciate instead.


The Roberts by Michael Blumlein
A rambling story about an architect, his life, his loves, his work... This story left me conflicted, at times I wished it would get to the point, and yet a lot of the impact only arrives due to the extent with which we've come to know the details of the protagonists life. There's some very touching moments and some lovely insights, but length made the reading a little more arduous than it should have been. Maybe this is just due to the fact that I read very few novellas?


The regular columns should also be mentioned. The book and film reviews are intelligent and entertaining, and the Paul Di Filippo coloumn is an entertaining jokey short story.


So in all there was one stand-out story, one that was quite good, three that were okay and one I didn't really like. That's not enough to persuade me to subscribe, I'd rather read the year's best in an anthology, I think.

1 Comment

F&SF is available from myself (FantastThree) and some other specialist SF booksellers in the UK. Watch out for my eBay 'buy it now' for current issues of this and other SF magazines including Locus, Asimov and Analog. Back issues available of all on request.