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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 08:31 pm:   

NOVELLAS

Sergeant Chip -53- Bradley Denton

SHORT STORIES

Rain from Another Country -8- Mark W. Tiedemann
Designing with Souls -39- Robert Reed
Falberoth's Ruin -99- Matthew Hughes
Peter Skilling -116- Alex Irvine
Gasoline -130- J. Annie MacLeod
I Am the City -142- Richard Mueller

DEPARTMENTS

Books to Look For -30- Charles de Lint
Musing on Books -34- Michelle West
Films: Adventure Is the New Boredom -110- Lucius Shepard
Coming Attractions -160-
Curiosities -162- Paul Di Filippo

CARTOONS: S. Harris (29), Danny Shanahan (115).
COVER BY MICHAEL GARLAND FOR "SERGEANT CHIP"
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kjn
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 05:03 am:   

Woohoo! The september issue is when my subscription starts so I'll get to read those stories! :D
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John Thiel
Posted on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:21 pm:   

hm, hound-dog on the cover. F&SF, must be a werewolf. The illo's for "Sergeant Chip." It's a dog, not a wolf, but still, similar to a werewolf, and also telepathic and a cyber-pooch to boot, working for the K-9 corps. What's the point, that war gets more rugged with each passing era?

"Gasoline" features a car full of magic and more lycanthropy and a surprise at the end, the author knocks you out with "turned toward the city," turn the page and there's a story called "I Am the City."

Good story order in Tidemann's story. Poetic title, too--those don't hurt.

Cartoon p. 29, that's what science gets to, right, they start ****ing off.

Seeing a vampire ad in the marketplace reminds me, I've advertised a number of times in the Big 3 Marketplaces without receiving any answers whatever to my ads. I guess the real buying and selling must be going on on the computers.

Keep 'em coming--it lights up my day to find an issue of F&SF in my mailbox.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 06:45 am:   

I got my September issue in the mail yesterday (Wednesday). Sat down and read "Sergeant Chip" last night. Great story, I can see why it was chosen for the cover. Reminds me of an Andy Rooney comment, "The average dog is a better person than the average person."

I actually shed a few tears at the end of the story. Whether it was for Chip's plight or dedication, I don't know.

Of course, I'm a dog person.
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John Thiel
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 07:57 am:   

There's nothing more loyal than a good mastiff.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 08:51 am:   

Ooo! A new Brad Denton story! I must track down a copy of this issue. Brad has published far too little recently, and I've been having withdrawal symptoms.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 08:57 am:   

I'm considering moving into the 21st century and buying an e-copy from Fictionwise. Anyone else do that? How well does it work?
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bryan
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:14 am:   

can anybody provide a complete list of matthew hughes stories and where they are available?

i really got a kick out of 'a little learning'. it has an intelligent pulp feel to it that i really dig.

is there anybody else writing stories in this vein?

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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:23 am:   

Try Matt's homepage: http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/

Google is a wonderful thing...
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bryan
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:41 am:   

i tried to read jack vance's 'tales of dying earth', but for some reason i just haven't been able to keep up with it. i've started it a couple times, and it just resulted in my putting it down out of boredom. i think it might be his prose.

i feel like i should like it because a lot of the authors i read (and really like) cite him as a major influence. am i weird for feeling this way? is there a better place to begin the jack vance experience? what am i missing?
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 11:24 am:   

bryan:

I have just launched a new web page at www.archonate.com/ with a complete bibliography of my stories and novels, both sf and suspense. You can also read the first chapters of my sf novels.

The best introduction to Jack Vance is The Dragon Masters, a Hugo winning novella often reprinted as a short novel or back-to-back with The Last Castle, another quintessesntial Vance novella. Or look for a collection of short stories entitled The Moon Moth.

Vance is not to everyone's taste, but those who like him like him a lot. He's influenced a lot of writers, definitely including me.
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JJA
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:26 pm:   

Patrick,

I read Analog & Asimovs in e-editions from Fictionwise, and I think they're great. Of course, in the e-editions you don't get the cartoons (though with Asimovs & Analog that's not an issue).

If you're reading on a PDA, the best format is probably Mobipocket (you can download the free reader program). It's a very readable format, and quite customizable. It also makes good use of the table of contents page, using hyperlinks to take you to each section or story. With some of the other formats (I don't recall which ones), you have to use the search feature to find the stories.


John --

It's not a mastiff, it's a labradoodle, though the cover image does look a lot like a mastiff.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 01:53 am:   

Thanks, JJA.

Why don't the cartoons come with the e-editions? (I'm thinking of downloading the PDF, at least initially. I do have a PDA, but I've never actually used it.)

Patrick
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JJA
Posted on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 05:19 am:   

I'm not sure exactly, but I think it's because not all formats would support the cartoons. Might also have to do with file size. I don't know. Either way, you likely wouldn't be able to view them very well on most PDAs. If you have a nice fancy color one like my new Dell Axim, you could probably view them quite well. But all PDAs are not created equal.

Ah, yes -- the PDF. I think the PDF was one of the formats that stinks because it doesn't use a TOC -- you have to use the search feature to get from story to story. PDFs have the capability of using a special TOC function, but the Fictionwise ebooks don't take advantage of it.

I'm tellin' ya -- Mobipocket!
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 07:09 am:   

I've downloaded the PDF of the September issue and it does have an index, so they've obviously remedied that one. I might try a different format as well, though.
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JJA
Posted on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 08:06 am:   

Yeah, I suppose the point is moot since you can download each issue as many times as you like in as many formats as you like, so you can experiment.
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kjn
Posted on Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 08:03 am:   

Welp I finished the sept issue, that was great!

I use to use Palm Reader until you mentioned Mobipocket, and yah Mobipocket is way better to me. Plus it uses the full screen real estate of the ux40 which has a weird screen dimension and some programs don't use all of it.
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Pat M.
Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 08:10 pm:   

I just almost finished the Sept. issue. Here's a question, If I receive the Sept issue in the mail in July, when would I get the Fictionwise version if I had my subscription through them? Could I have read this in April? I know you guys have explained this to me before. :-)

I said almost because for some reason I can't compel myself to read "Rain from Another Country" I'm sure I'll get there, I have other issues that take me months before I am ready to read a particular story.

I must say it is always good to see a story with Marduk.

-Pat M.
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okiefolkie
Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 10:31 pm:   

I enjoyed Denton's Sergeant Chip, especially the final third. I can't remember the last time I read a short story that had no real dialogue in it. For the longest time the voice I was hearing in my mind as I was reading this story was Forrest Gump. No kidding! Something about the rhythm of the sentences as well as the actual words. Not a negative comment.
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Chris Exner
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:20 pm:   

Just finished the first story, "Rain from Another Country." This story really had my head spinning at the beginning, but wrapped itself up nice at the end. A fine example of what a SF story should do to the reader. Well done.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:39 am:   

I've posted a review of the September issue on my review journal, at http://www.journalscape.com/sfreviews

On balance, I thought it was one of the stronger issues I've read for a while.
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John Thiel
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 08:31 am:   

I bookmarked your journal, Patrick. I'll be reading it.
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David Eland
Posted on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 05:27 pm:   

Peter Skilling by Alex Irvine was a nice bit of propaganda but lousy science fiction. Did Michael Moore or MoveOn.Org make a donation to F&SF?
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 02:01 am:   

Why do you think it was lousy science fiction, David? This is what science fiction has done for decades: take an aspect of current science or social science and extrapolate it into the future.

Is it simply that you didn't like Alex's politics?
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David Eland
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 01:25 pm:   

Patrick,

First, IMO, propaganda could never be good science fiction—It can only be good propaganda. Leni Riefenstahl made powerful propaganda films, filled with wonderful fictions, but they were still propaganda.

Second, IMO, if you remove the anti-Bush political message, the story that is left has little merit. Move the story to a planet in another galaxy, without direct references to current political hot buttons (or Irvine’s name) and I wonder if it would have made it out of the F&SF slush pile. It is clearly a story constructed for the sole purpose of carrying a political message. I dislike propaganda simply because it is a heavy-handed attempt at manipulation that insults readers. (In the midst of the current political season, I may be especially sensitive to such attempts.) Those who agree with Alex Irvine’s politics can cheer him on and praise the story but my bet is most will be cheering the political message not the literature.

Good science fiction has and will question social and political trends. The best stories do this in a ways that open the reader’s mind rather than insulting them. There is a difference between social critique and political propaganda. To understand what I mean, compare “Peter Skilling” to "Volunteers," another story by Alex Irvine.

http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/irvine2/

This is good science fiction that makes several social statements. There is a subtle connection between the characters in "Volunteers" who seek to escape back into a simpler 1950s world and conservative segments of our own society with too much nostalgia for an idyllic society that never existed. There is also a statement about the flawed nature of human beings that we can’t escape, even if we flee to the stars.

Clearly Alex Irvine can write powerful science fiction. He just didn’t take the time to do it with “Peter Skilling” and unfortunately F&SF didn’t hold him to that higher standard.

David
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 10:52 am:   

I recently received my first issue of F&SF (the September 2004 copy) and I am now depressed that I did not subscibe sooner. My milk money will be going to locate back copies, since the Marketplace conveniently directed me to where to acquire a list.

I liked all the stories for various reasons, but my favorite by far was "Sergeant Chip" by Bradley Denton. I'll admit now to being a dog person, just like Lou Antonelli, but it takes more than a dog in a story to suck me in. Denton used an amazing voice, simple, yet descriptive. The childlike language of Chip should have been boring, after all, it lacked the sophisticated and alluring prose I tend to see in the pro markets. Or did it? Denton's writing left me with the impression that the story existed on multiple levels. One level was the factual tale related by Chip, devoid of exaggeration or window dressing, missing even dialog. The other level was created as I read, and as my own mind filled in the gaps that I knew Chip was missing, or that his simple mind could not quite grasp. I felt Denton did a masterful job of building the character of Chip by relaying the events of his guileless life. Once I knew Chip well, it was fun for me to look for the "easter eggs," the second layer tale, that I felt Denton left in the story. Above, when David Eland decried "Peter Skilling" as propaganda, I was surprised not to hear any complaints about "Sergeant Chip," which obviously contained an anti-Iraq war message. But I felt that message only strengthened "Sergeant Chip," and this story is going on my personal "Year's Best" list.

As regards the discussion of "Peter Skilling":
I happened to like "Peter Skilling" more than "Volunteers." It is my opinion that criticizing what one considers to be social injustice through science fiction IS inherently political. Political structures are social structures. An SF story about women's rights might be considered to be "leftist political propaganda" by David Eland, but many other people would consider it to be an important examination of a vital social concern, brought close to home through use of plot, humor, character, setting, etc. (I am just guessing that you are a conservative, David. I am not trying to decry your views, but to simply create an analogy with the women's rights example. You may, in fact, be in favor of women's rights.) My point is, I liked Alex's use of irony and humor much more in this story than in "Volunteers," and even though it seems unlikely to me that our society would sink to the level described in "Peter Skilling," I appreciated the warnings contained therein.

Thanks, GVG and JJA and everyone else involved, for a great issue!
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 12:17 pm:   

I agree that most of the stories in this issue were good but definitely the most readable was once again the Matt Hughes one (Falberoth's Ruin).
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 02:26 pm:   

I'm going to ArmadilloCon in Austin this weekend, so I will be giving my praise to Bradley Denton in person. He lives in a small town just south of Austin and will be on the program.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 04:59 pm:   

High five him once for me, Lou.
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John Thiel
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:54 pm:   

Lou--You wouldn't by any chance care to do a report with photos on the Armidillocon for Surprising Stories? We were expecting a convention report and it isn't coming through, and I'd like to have one for a feature in our next issue.
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David Eland
Posted on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:17 pm:   

Mike Bailey,

I stand by my conclusion that Peter Skilling is partisan political propaganda. I would have concluded the same if it had been written as a putdown of the anti-war movement. Would you?

My point remains that unless F&SF plans to be come a political rag, partisan stories like that have no place in its pages.

And Mike, I'm surprised that you would hide behind women's skirts with your "analogy" about me and women's rights. I do support women's rights and I was old enough in the seventies and eighties to vote my beliefs. How about you?

Dave
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 03:47 pm:   

David Eland,

I also stand by my statement that "criticizing what one considers to be social injustice through science fiction IS inherently political." When a writer composes a story that has anything to do with a social issue, that story is likely to be perceived by some readers as "partisan," no doubt because the story does not match those readers' views. Oh well. That doesn't mean we should stop highlighting social issues in fiction for fear of offending the right or left wings. The issue of the separation of church and state is a perfect example. If a story sides with one view or the other, but still functions as an interesting story that examines the social issue, I don't see the harm in it.

I'll admit that I happen to be glad not to live in the "Religious States of America" (into which Skilling was revived.) I think the author does a good job of using humor to warn us about the dangers of religion and government being linked.

And David, my belief in women's rights does not mean I am hiding "behind women's skirts," as you so adeptly wrote above. I was trying to use a social issue as an example. Sorry if I hit a sore spot. I'm glad to hear you support women's rights. As I mentioned above, "I [was] not trying to decry your views, but to simply create an analogy with the women's rights example. You may, in fact, be in favor of women's rights."

If I felt that a story that highlighted problems with the anti-war movement was well-written (like Peter Skilling), I have no doubt that I would appreciate its merits. I do not seem to share your aversion to sociopolitical material in fiction.

Regards,
Mike
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bluejack
Posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 10:02 am:   

David, Mike,

I disagree with both of you.

David: Strong political satire within the framework of science fiction is a well respected corner of the genre. Consider Stanislaw Lem. To call Irvine's piece "propaganda" is, I think, a misnomer, unless you are willing to call 1984 and Brave New World propaganda as well. Irvine's story, while obviously not as pivotal as those works, is like them in that it does not preach some particular political worldview; rather it offers a warning: it takes some current thread and extrapolates it to the most absurd consequences. You may not think that's where the world is going; but that's not really the point. Irvine is warning against those who hold such a mentality today.

You write: "If you remove the anti-Bush political message, the story that is left has little merit." I would argue that it's not anti-Bush in particular but rather warning against a whole hose of social and political trends, only some of which are epitomized by the conservative wing of the Republican party. And, sure, if you extract the POINT of the story, the story doesn't have any point left. On the other hand, you could absolutely tell the same story on another planet, in a different setting. Science Fiction talks about Earthly politics by setting them in fantastic locales all the time.

Nut Mike: despite the above, I didn't think the Irvine piece worked that well. Not because it was political in substance -- I think that's fine. And not because I disagree with Irvine's politics -- I don't. I actually thought the story itself didn't work that well.

It wasn't bad of course, Irvine is a very good writer. But there were just enough things about the plot that made me go "Wha?" "Why?" and "Whoa" that it interfered with my enjoyment of the story. I don't have my notes on me (I read it nearly a month ago), so unfortunately I can't give specifics.

Also, it was a bit heavy handed for my taste. I prefer satire along the lines of the Robert Reed story in this same issue, "Designing with Souls." The playfulness of this satire was more fun for me to read.

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Mike Bailey
Posted on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 03:12 pm:   

Good points, bluejack. Certainly, "Peter Skilling" was extrapolated to very absurd consequences, as you note above. Perhaps that also shook up the suspension of disbelief too much to make it enjoyable for some.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:46 pm:   

^I liked "Peter Skilling" more as a teacher than a reader, but either way it's a well-constructed piece. Alex Irvine tends to let his roots (or real-life inspirations) show when writing in this mode, and I think the story could provide fodder for a great Social Studies/English crossover lesson.

To me, extrapolation is part of an sf writer's job. Also, I did have the notion while reading the story that a person with a very strong right-wing viewpoint might get a lot out of this tale as well -- "It took a hunnerd years, boys, but finally that tree-hugger got it."
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candy tutt
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 03:40 pm:   

<against>

I agree with bluejack, the Bush Administration is hosing all of us!!! LOL
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candy tutt
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 03:43 pm:   

"against a whole hose of political trends" was the line I referenced...
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Michael Samerdyke
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 06:59 am:   

I thought Mark Tiedemann's "Rain from Another Country" was the best story this issue. The new invention was intriguing, and intriguingly described. What interested me was that the idea of tying up loose ends posthumously, which would usually be a fantasy or horror theme, was treated as science fiction.

"Falberoth's Ruin" was fun.

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