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Night Shade Message Boards » Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction » F&SF Issues - Tables of Contents, Discussion » Oct./Nov. 55th Anniversary Issue « Previous Next »

Author Message
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:43 pm:   

Is it soup yet?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:46 pm:   

NOVELETS

FINDING BEAUTY -8- Lisa Goldstein
FLAT DIANE -128- Daniel Abraham
THE COURTSHIP OF KATE O'FARRISSEY -155- John Morressy
THE LITTLE STRANGER- 184- Gene Wolfe
IN TIBOR'S CARDBOARD CASTLE -202- Richard Chwedyk

SHORT STORIES

TIME TO GO -47- Michael Kandel
A PALEOZOIC PALIMPSEST- 54- Steven Utley
THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT -70- Dale Bailey
THE ANGST OF GOD -88- Michael Bishop
COLD FIRES- 99- M. Rickert
OPAL BALL -121- Robert Reed

DEPARTMENTS

BOOKS TO LOOK FOR -31- Charles de Lint
BOOKS -39- Robert K.J. Killheffer
FILMS: THE TOWN HOLLYWOOD COULDN'T FORGET -115- Kathi Maio
SCIENCE: A VISIT TO MARS -177- Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty
COMING ATTRACTIONS -201-
CURIOSITIES -242- David Langford

CARTOONS: Arthur Masear (30, 87), Joseph Farris (53), Tom Cheney (69), Bill Long (127), John Jonik (176).

COVER BY BRYN BARNARD FOR "IN TIBOR'S CARDBOARD CASTLE"
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okiefolkie
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 07:51 pm:   

Here's why I'm really looking forward to this issue: Bishop, Reed, Utley, Wolfe.
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Markred
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:58 pm:   

Daniel Abraham may be a voice to watch. He only just registered on my radar - though he's been publishing a few years and I might have scanned earlier stories by the guy - with a story called "Leviathan Wept" that Ellen Datlow put up at SciFi.com a couple of months ago. For those who haven't read it, that one is worth looking up.
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mike bishop
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:30 am:   

I've long been a partisan, but Utley's "A Palezoic Palimpsest" is a very funny, and quite brilliant, story and another contribution to his continuing series of tales set in the Silurian, a geologic period that he has so thoroughly colonized that I can't imagine another sf writer daring to take it on, at least not with the same degree of commitment and obsession. Anyway, folks, please read this one. Utley's a fine, focused writer who seldom receives his propers from the reading public at large, although editors and other writers have long recognized his talent.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:26 pm:   

Our checking subscription copies of the Oct/Nov issue arrived today (8/26) in Hoboken.

Also, for anyone who's interested, there's a long discussion of M. Rickert's "Cold Fires" here: http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2004/08/cold-fires-by-m-rickert.html
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GeneT
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:35 am:   

GVG, any chance you'll start publishing more 'new blood' at F&SF? It's really getting a bit stale, INMHO. I have read the reactions you're getting on these boards--but sales *are* slumping. And yes, sales are dropping for most fiction pubs, however, the editors never seem to consider the stories and authors they're constantly selecting as the real source of the problem. I, for one, am sick of Robert Reed stories. They neither absorb nor interest me, but you're constantly publishing him. Do you get much criticism about the stories you've selected, or are you only hearing from encouraging fans?
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:42 pm:   

Gene;

I imagine it's a constant balancing act. When my schedule gets hectic, F&SF is often the only thing I read for pleasure, and in those periods it becomes my sole means of learning about new authors (new to me or the magazine -- not necessarily first-timers), so I'd love more variety, too.

At the same time, I come back to F&SF because it's a known quantity, and another story by Robert Reed is a comfort to me. I suppose I want Gordon to be brave and experimental... just not too brave and experimental :-)

My suspicion is that most editors would like to publish a new author every issue, but if the stories aren't there, what can you do?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 02:31 pm:   

GeneT---

Your kick in the pants is not unwelcome, or I should say, the subject of it has not gone unnoticed. Although we published Ysa Wilce and Jaye Lawrence's first stories this year, and stories by Kate Mason and Daryl Gregory, I'm as aware as anyone that it has been several months since a new writer has sent a story that knocked me out.

We ran a lot of stories this year by Robert Reed, Matt Hughes, Bert Cowdrey, and John Morressy and I thought all the stories were good work--sorry you don't like Reed's stuff, I thought "Opal Ball" was particularly good.

But yeah, I'd love to find stories from new writers that make me forget I ever heard any of the old familiar names. I taught one of the Clarion workshops this year and the students were a promising bunch, so maybe something will come out of there. And the December and January issues both have novellas by writers who are new to F&SF (Matt Jarpe and Jonathan Sheen [in collaboration] in December, John McDaid in January).

As for fan feedback, we've gotten lots of good feedback this year (Brad Denton's "Sergeant Chip" and for Matt Hughes's Henghis Hapthorn stories probably got the most fan mail) and the number of cancellations hasn't been out of the ordinary. I only recall one cancellation that said it was due to not liking the stories.

As for your question about sales, any attempt I could make at answering it would turn into an essay and I haven't time now.
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mike bishop
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:59 am:   

Gordon, M. Rickert is a new writer to me, although she probably shouldn't be, and I'll have to second the enthusiatic review of "Cold Fires" to which you posted a web address on Thursday. A cunningly written, well-observed, multivalent story with lots of stuff going on and very strong emotional content. I'm glad to have had the chance to read it.

By the way, back in the late 1970s, I wrote a letter similar to GeneT's to Ed Ferman bewailing the appearance of the same old writers from issue to issue. Of course, nowadays, I want to see good new writers, but also hope to find cagey old favorites producing vital work, too. And usually do. I can certainly testify to other readers of this messagebooard that Gordon doesn't take stuff from certain Names just to be taking it.
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John Thiel
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:47 am:   

Sir, I can see why you have been getting some advance comments on the Anniversary Issue---the mailing label came off fairly easily, as a rarity, leaving the cover in plain sight. HA, HA, HAEMO, HORP, HOORAY! Looks like some toy plastic dinosaurs photo'd into a painting, admirable use of montage, and with some graffitti on it, too. Speaking of graffitti, there seems to be a message in hieroglyphs saying they don't want the latest NY Times in one of the cartoons, even the Egyptian gods wouldn't read the latest world news roundup. Well, I'll read the latest F&SF; I tried out a Willing Suspension of Disbelief with the world news, and it didn't work out so hot...I want that fantasy buffer.

I don't think this issue matches the All American one, but it is a good issue. I went right away to Bailey's "The End of the World As We Know It" and found it a superb job of promoting an avant-garde attitude. In the 50s there was a lot of talk about Eliot's "Not with a bang" attitude about the end of life, and there's still talk about it today. This story is more bawdy about saying that there may be a lot of disinterest involved in the end of the world.

Utley, the Forum Utley, has an amusing story, too---I'd call it Utley at his finest. This is the second time I've seen the word "palimpsest," the first time being "Satan's Palimpsest" in an early 50's WEIRD TALES. Third time, actually; I looked it up in an unabridged and it said it meant "footstool." It must be the graffitti theme issue; three of the cartoons suggest graffitti too. Say, I like the cartoon about the fellow who took his **** with him to heaven! One cartoon shows that a witch doctor would be a doctor to a witch, but putting an Aztek death mask on him made it all the funnier. Good cartoons this issue.

I think Michael Bishop should be informed that God feels no angst---He is serene in His creation.

I like Kathi Miaio's philosophic approach to the filmic arts.

It's another very good issue.
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Dave Eland
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:55 pm:   

Spinning off from Gene's comment about "new blood", I wonder if editors get in a rut? (A hush falls over the congregation at the sound of such blasphemy.)

Perhaps the problem is not that F&SF buys from the same authors again and again but because they buy the same kinds of stories. Perhaps JJA has learned what GVG likes and so pulls only those kinds of stories from the slush pile? I wonder, do they have any rip-roaring arguments over a story that JJA loves but GVG hates?

I’ve just started to read the Oct/Nov issue but here are my thoughts so far.

THE LITTLE STRANGER-Gene Wolfe has big-time credentials so I had high expectations, maybe too high. The story had some interesting characters but I groaned and even felt a bit cheated when Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread house entered the story.

THE ANGST OF GOD- Michael Bishop. A great title wasted. The science fiction I love most combines thought provoking ideas with strong characters. For me, this one was weak on both accounts.

COLD FIRES- M. Rickert. I really enjoyed her story "The Girl Who Ate Butterflies" in Sci-Fiction. However, I couldn’t seem to get warmed up to this one. I thought a short story was supose to grab the reader in the first page—I think Damon Knight said that. Perhaps my tastes are not literary enough for F&SF; the Mumpsimus reviewer certainly loved it. My inadequacy was revealed when the reviewer used the word “quotidian”--I had to look it up at dictionary.com.

I’m not giving up yet. I know there must be a story in here with a character I can care deeply about or an idea that amazes me…maybe even both. I’ll keep reading
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barry w
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:11 pm:   

Dave, don't hold your breath. You're extremely lucky if there's one story per issue that really gets you excited (which, I think, is a rather pathetic percentage). I believe there needs to be more stories showcasing powerfully moving plots with characters we can truly feel some empathy towards.

Hey, this is supposed to be entertainment, not simply a few interesting ideas beaten to death in a rambling sort of way. Whatever happened to well-plotted and character-driven storytelling? That's an art that will never die (although some editors seem to be unwittingly trying to kill it)--and could certainly help stimulate enthusiastic word-of-mouth and boost publishing circulations. And I am not singling out F&SF exclusively as the culprits at disseminating a dearth of fun literature between its covers. Did I say *fun literature*? Yep, I sure did. I most surely did.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 05:29 am:   

Dave E.---

Yes, editors get in ruts. No, I'm not in one now. I experienced a couple while I was working at St. Martin's Press.

I appreciate your sticking with the issue, even after three misses. Personally, I had no trouble getting caught up in "Cold Fires," but de gustibus. I think you might find the stories by Dale Bailey and Daniel Abraham more to your liking (just hazarding a guess).

Barry W.---

Can you cite some recent stories that _have_ gotten you excited?
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:15 am:   

However, it wasn't in SCIFICTION.

I really enjoyed her story "The Girl Who Ate Butterflies" in Sci-Fiction.
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JJA
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 09:52 am:   

Yes, "The Girl Who Ate Butterflies" originally appeared right here in F&SF (Aug. 1999).

It was recently reprinted at Ideomancer; perhaps that's the online venue you were thinking of.
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Jeff Lyons
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:59 am:   

Publishing new writers. That is a double-edged sword. I think most editors would like to publish new writers if the story moves or excites them in someway. But therein lies the rub. The story has to MOVE or EXCITE the editor in some way. It's nice to see that F&SF has published a few new writers this year Let's hope the trend continues.
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Dave E.
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:03 pm:   

Gordon,

BINGO! We have a winner! "FLAT DIANE" by Daniel Abraham. WonderFULL characters, great story tension with a subtle fantasy element. And, what a relief to have the narrator stay in the background of the story!

And I don't think it is only a matter of taste (De gustibus non est disputandum), although that does play a part. There are real differences in the quality of the stories.

On the downside again, Dale Bailey’s “THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT" was bitter, cynical and depressing. I can sympathize with Mr. Bailey's feelings, but like the gnat kicking the elephant, he should hope that God overlooks this story.

Michael Kandel's "TIME TO GO" was a cynical but flippant look at suicide. Pass the Prozac again. I wonder, is social cynicism replacing social criticism in SF literature? Harlan Ellison was my favorite author in my late teen years but in the short time I have been reading F&SF, I haven't seen anything that is worthy of comparison to his work.

What do I like? Since returning to F&SF after a 20 year hiatus, here's what I have liked:

JUNE: “Miles to Go” by Sheila Finch and “Sightseeing, 2179” By Robert Sheckley and “The Black Abacus” By Yoon Ha Lee. After reading these I thought “good, better, best,” so I bought a subscription.

No issue since June has had three stories I liked as well. It would have been a dry summer if not for the humorous stories: “The Battle of York” by James Stoddard in July and Matthew Hughes’ “Relics of the Thim” in August. In those two months, only Benjamin Rosenbaum, “Start the Clock” had characters and ideas that I found compelling. In September, Mark W. Tiedemann did a nice job with “Rain from Another Country.” Now we have "Flat Diane." I'll definitely hang around in hopes of seeing more like these.

-Dave
-------------

Ellen,

Regarding SCI-FICTION, Sorry, my mistake. "The Girl Who Ate Butterflies" was in Ideomancer.com, May 2004 issue.

BTW, Thanks SO MUCH for reprinting "God's Hooks" by Howard Waldrop. Wow! That's a fish tale!
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classics/

Dave
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Jeffrey J Lyons
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:58 pm:   

One thing I have always found interesting is how authors get associated with certain magazines. For example, you always see Allen Steele in "Asimov's", but never in "F&SF." You always see Robert J. Sawyer in "Analog" but not in F&SF.

Is that because these authors do not submit to you?

Or is it because editors won't publish their work because it is associated with other magazines?

I don't expect the latter holds much weight because I do see some authors in multiple magazines. Robert Reed and Gene Wolfe are good examples.
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Pat M.
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:21 pm:   

Ellen,

Would it have been in SCIFICTION had you received it first? (Did you recieve it first?) :-)


Gordon,
Since we are on the subject, this was sometime in the last year or so and I have since passed the issue on to someone else so I don't know the title or author(looking for a little help) It was the cover art(which was great) I think it was called "Life on Mars" Great story. Phenomenal but I remember wishing there was more about the trial towards the end. By contrast, Dragon's Gate felt like a re-tread to me. Good story but just way to familiar to me. Then again I read and watch alot more fantasy than SF.
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JJA
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:44 pm:   

Are you talking about "Pictures from an Expedition" by Alex Irvine (http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc0309.htm)? That's the only Mars story I can think of that we ran recently (and was a cover story).
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:55 pm:   

Dunno. If I read it I don't remember it so probably not.

<<Ellen,

Would it have been in SCIFICTION had you received it first? (Did you recieve it first?) :-)

Dave, Glad you liked our reprint of Howard's "God's Hooks." Here's another pov from someone through our website (the other story he's referring to is Laird Barron's "Bulldozer" -- but his rant on that one makes this one seem crystal clear):

"The last two stories have been crap. What the hell was The Hook? Are Christian writers now trying to evangelize via sci fi? Excuse my french, but fuck that shit..."
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barry w
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:16 pm:   

Gordon, sorry, still thinking...
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Gina
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:32 pm:   

I wouldn't say that the stories published at SCIFICTION are crap. However I personally think that most of them are pretentious and ponderous. If I want some real entertainment I tend to look elsewhere.
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barry w
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:53 pm:   

Gordon, okay, I think I have it: Any story by
Kage Baker could be held up as the prototype of great short story writing. You might have JJA read Ms. Baker's last story from an Asimov's issue to get an idea of what it's all about. Fun, stimulating, engrossing, well-paced--that's what really good literature is. What more could a reader ask for? Ms. Datlow, you might also want to check it out.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 01:06 am:   

I absolutely CANNOT wait for this issue to arrive. People's reactions to it so far are way more polarized than I remember seeing before.

barry w: What do you make of The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid from SCIFICTION? That's my idea of a fun, though of course tastes may differ. I do find it strange that you point to Asimov's as a source of "fun literature" -- they print lots of great stuff, but it's not usually my idea of light entertainment.

I'd also be curious to know what you thought of Matt Hugh's Guth Bandar story, or his Henghis Hapthorne tales. Last year's double issue (if I recall correctly) had a story called "Flight of the Navatar" by Jerry Oltion that was fun adventure, and I remember one in 2003 about dogs using an internet dating service that had me laughing out loud. I'm sure there are many more, but I'm separated from my F&SF collection at the moment.
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Pat M.
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 05:45 am:   

JJA - That was it. Thanks! I liked the cover too. Now I want to re-read it to see if my memory of the story is warranted. Oh well, I gave the issue away. I didn't like "I killed them in Vegas" it wasn't bad but it just wasn't very good.

Gina - "pretentious and ponderous" ? I don't know about that. I'm not a frequent reader of SCIFICTION(sorry Ellen) but the ones I have read have been good. Here's the one that I really liked and I only point it out because I haven't read most of the others. I'm not much of an online reader yet.

http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/roessner/roessner1.h tml
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 06:06 am:   

I don't like every story that either F&SF or Sci-Fiction publish, but I'm a bit surprised at the way that some people are portraying them here.

I'd be really surprised if an issue of F&SF didn't get at 1/3-1/2 hit rate with me, which I figure is pretty good. And Sc-Fiction has a similar rate, I think. The Walter Jon Williams one in Sci-Fiction and the Brad Denton one in F&SF were both excellent recent examples.

By the way, am I being stupid or is the October/November issue not up on Fictionwise yet? I've decided to get my issues that way from now on, and I'm wondering if either I'm missing where it is or if Fictionwise put issues up later than the subscriptions.

Patrick
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mike bishop
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 06:22 am:   

It's supposed to be bad form on a writer's part to respond to earnestly imparted criticism from a reader, but I'd like to note here that "The Angst of God," as Gordon notes in its intro, is a tribute to George Alec Effinger, specifically his very funny story "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything," and that although it may not meet a specific reader's expectations, I believe that it accomplishes what I wanted it to do (although not as funnily as George manages in "The Aliens . . . ," which I regard as a great piece of satirical sf), and that I don't think every single piece of my work equally good, even if I never intentionally sit down to write something less good than my best. This story's models, however, are Effinger, Tenn, Sheckley, Knight, and others who write in a satirical mode, and not the signature work of, say, Wolfe, Wilhelm, Le Guin, or Shepard, writers whom I also intensely admire, and I believe that a reader should evaluate a work not soley on what he or she prefers (although that's inescapable, of course), but on the basis of what goals its author has set and how well or poorly that author has fulfilled those goals in this particular piece. And I still think that the idea of bellicose aliens, captured by a species that opposes their militancy, sitting down together in a coerced support group, is a funny notion. It certainly isn't The Left Hand of Darkness, however, and was never meant to be, although the title may elicit a vague expectation that I meant something akin to that. Originally I called the story "The Angst, I Kid You Not, of God," which attempted to reproduce the flavor of Effinger's title, but which also is awfully damned unwieldy. In any event, excuse this defensive apologia.
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Dave E.
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:36 am:   

Mike,

Your defense of "The Angst of God" is both welcome and justified. In hindsight, I would say that my criticism was motivated largely by frustration at the lack of good stories with more serious plots and characters. Your title gave me the impression of a story with a serious theme so I went into it with the wrong expectations. (I actually like your first more unwieldy title better.)

Even though I entered the story with the wrong expectations and a crotchety attitude, I did like some of the humor in it. The situation was funny but I was disappointed by the "punch line" about angst and the expansion of the universe. I thought it failed because it seemed so inconsistant with the way the alien race had been portrayed to that point. Suddenly they looked like Homer Simpson saying "Doh." I wasn't prepared for that.

Of course humor is one of the most subjective forms of liturature so maybe I just didn't get the joke. It wouldn't be the first time.

Dave
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mike bishop
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:23 am:   

Dave,

Maybe I should restore the original title (which, by the way, Gordon never saw) if the story is ever reprinted. That would, in fact, prepare the reader for a different experience than that "promised" by "The Angst of God." And of course there's no legitimate response that I can make, or want to make, about your disappointment in the ending. I thought the reversal ironic and funny, and you didn't. And so it goes. I appreciate any heartfelt reaction to a story, for so often I hear nothing at all, which is clearly one reason that I keep visiting these boards. And I like the opportunity to dialogue.

Yours,

Mike

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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:50 am:   

Well, the current title doesn't seem serious to me --the idea of "God" feeling "angst" is funny.
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okiefolkie
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 02:53 pm:   

Interesting thing about titles, Mike. I had this story on my to read list, but your *alternate* title actually moves the story up a few notches closer to the top of the pile. That title gives it kind of an attitude I think, in advance, I would like.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 06:57 pm:   

Seconding Patrick Samphire's complaint: the Oct/Nov issue is still not up for sale at Fictionwise. (EReader, formerly Palm Digital, is even worse -- they haven't posted the September issue yet.)
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mike bishop
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:54 am:   

Ellen, thanks for your comment on the title. I'm not sure, though, that God's feeling angst is by itself a funny notion, for some readers may, upon encountering it, conclude that any story so named assumes and develops a tragic existential take on life and the universe.

Okiefolkie, I'll keep your preference for the discarded original title in mind, should I ever have occasion to reprint the story. (And, believe me, I will have occasion, eventually.)
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:29 am:   

Patrick & Sam---

Thanks for pointing out the fact that Fictionwise is late with the issue. I'm checking with them to see what's up.

Palm Digital made some changes in the last two months, but we should be caught up with them shortly.

I hope this thread continues (against odds) during Worldcon. I've found all the different perspectives on the issue to be very informative.
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Pat M.
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 07:38 am:   

Mike Bishop - If it means anything, I prefer the "The Angst, I Kid You Not, of God" title better as well. I haven't had a chance to read it yet since either my issue hasn't arrived or it arrived since I was last home but I am looking forward to reading it.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 07:46 am:   

Thanks, Gordon. I've been growing jealous of everyone who's got to read it before me. :-)
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okiefolkie
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:54 pm:   

Ahhh, I believe I'll put my feet up this evening and read through this issue a *second* time ...
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mike bishop
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:03 pm:   

Pat M., it does mean something. I'm thinking I made a mistake not giving Gordon an opportunity to see and to pass on "The Angst, I Kid You Not, of God" as a title. Gordon, any comment? Now that you've already taken the story under "The Angst of God," do you have any opinion of the original title that I unilaterally decided was too cumbersome? (Once you get back from WorldCon, that is.)
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 07:46 am:   

The smug crowing may now end. :-) Fictionwise has the issue up and I now have it. I'll post a review of it at some point.
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John Thiel
Posted on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 08:04 am:   

Any arguments I have with the story would be put aside if the original title had been used. Admitting controversy is all I would ask of the title. God is above angst, is my impression of the matter.
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okiefolkie
Posted on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 12:19 pm:   

Patrick, Glad you've got it and glad to see you knew I was just teasing you.
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BANDWIDTH EATER
Posted on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 08:04 pm:   

Hey, Bishop: quit navelgazing and write something interesting. You too, Bailey.
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John Thiel
Posted on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 07:34 am:   

By the way, that's an excellent picture of the Galaxy Science Fiction Museum site on the newest cover.
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mike bishop
Posted on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:33 am:   

Actually, not a bad idea, Wasteband Expander. Pardon me. I'm off to write the Great American Novel. Again.
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BANDWIDTH EATER
Posted on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 03:22 am:   

Don't be so fucking literary this time. I want aliens and space battles, goddammit.
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mike bishop
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 03:51 am:   

Just read Daniel Abraham's "Flat Diane." This is a terrific story, from premise through execution, and deserves a wide readership. Adios.
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Pat M.
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 06:02 am:   

I think my copy was lost in Hurricane Frances...Maybe Hurricane Ivan will deliver it to me. Along with Milk and Gas......
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John Thiel
Posted on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 04:11 pm:   

What a tired board, lam the lam. Even this topic isn't getting much business.
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Marcia Hanover
Posted on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 09:38 pm:   

This being 1 October, I guess I'm a little late to comment on this issue, but I must say I really, really love Richard Chwedyk's stories about the "saurs" and wish he would write more often. What an imagination and so much more interesting than the stereotypical science fiction or fantasy themes. Has this guy ever considered writing a book about his charming little creatures?
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Tanith
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 02:43 pm:   

I agree with you, Marcia. I LOVED "In Tibor's Cardboard Castle". All the stories in this issue were terrific, but that one made me laugh out loud. Here's hoping we see more saur stories in the future. :-)
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Jill Elaine Hughes
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 03:09 pm:   

I actually don't like the Tibor stories. Can't get into them at all. But I did absolutely love FLAT DIANE and COURTSHIP OF KATE O'FARRISSEY.

The rest of the issue, frankly, I could take or leave, with the possible exception of THE ANGST OF GOD---which I liked, but it didn't "wow" me. I think sometimes these "name" issues can disappoint. I'd rather see a bunch of GREAT stories by unknown or midlist writers than a bunch of average stories by "name" writers.

My two cents.

Jill Elaine Hughes
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james
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 03:26 pm:   

I agree, Jill, F&SF is growing stale with very average stories by the same writers. These "name" writers aren't that well-known or illustrious to keep using them over and over. We need to see much better stories by new people. If sales are in a slump it's really no surprise.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 06:10 pm:   

I really can't remember such diverse reactions to any one issue---thank you everyone for chiming in.

Reading over this whole thread, I'm getting the sense from comments here that readers feel like something's missing from the fiction in F&SF. So if you don't mind, I'd like to float a question past you:

Do you think there's a lack of near-future SF in the magazine?

It seems that way to me sometimes, but I think this comment is partly inspired by Ariel Hameon's review in the latest issue of NYRSF of Charlie Stross's collection TOAST.

More specifically, it seems to me that a lot of science fiction writers are getting lured away to write fantasy, which tends be more lucrative right now in book publishing. What I'm not seeing enough of is a sense that writers are trying to raise the stakes on each other, there aren't enough stories that take the form of, "So-and-so thought s/he had a good idea with that last story, but I can take it farther!"

(Oddly, as I'm typing up these thoughts, I just heard that original Apollo VII astronaut Gordon Cooper died . . . which sends me off on the tangent that I definitely don't see enough imagination being poured into near-future space adventure stories. I'd love to see more stories like Alex Irvine's "Pictures from an Expedition" or Charlie Finlay's "Political Officer" and "Seal Hunter." Most of the space adventure stories I read, I must admit, feel like they're fueled more by nostalgia than by any real passion for the stars or for any real desire to do something different in a literary sense.)

Before I go off on another tangent, let me run this post up the message board and see if you folks salute it. Have I touched on something that's missing from the magazine?
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 08:28 pm:   

Gordon

I’ve thought about this a lot lately and yes, I do think that there’s a lack of near future SF, both in your magazine and in the field generally. I think that, faced with the challenge of writing stories that deal with the science fictional world we live in and cutting edge science that seems ever ‘softer’ and more baffling, many writers are either turning to fantasy, or to writing far-future stuff that sidesteps that problems of writing about the next fifty years or so.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – and we’re definitely seeing some very interesting work that blends SF and fantasy at the moment – but it seems to me that one of science fiction’s most fundamental missions is to try to understand and explain the world we’re living in, and to me that means trying to write fiction that confronts the 21st century head on. You can see it happening, if a little didactically, in Stan Robinson’s work, but most people don’t seem to want to write about the next fifty years. Maybe it’s because it’s too hard, but I think it’s something science fiction has to do if it’s going to remain vital and relevant. I don’t know who’s going to write this stuff, but someone has to, and F&SF could be a very important venue for it.

Jonathan
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barryT
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 09:24 pm:   

Yes, I salute both Gordon (for recognizing it) and Jonathan for articulating so very well exactly what I have felt has been desperately lacking in each issue of F&SF, IMHO. I also believe that, with strong characterization and a more focused sense of either external or internal conflict, the fertile field of near future stories can prove to be revealing, limitless, timeless and highly ENTERTAINING. Maybe a little more attention to truly gripping plots wouldn't hurt either. It would also be very exciting to have every story hit the mark (or at least, not so many misses).

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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 09:48 pm:   

The problem with near-future stories is that they have a tendency to be too focused on the writers time and thus get dated real fast. I think there was always a temptation to avoid them because of that. The near-future SF from the 1940s-60s I think is often harder to enjoy than the far future stuff. The 60s-70s authors concerned with their era's social issues can be almost unreadable to someone my age and younger. I'm not just including myself here, but other people in their twenties I've talked to.

So I guess I'm saying if there is a lack of near future SF that's not a bad thing. I'm not sure though there is such a lack, but if you mean a lack of stories involving the near-future of space travel or science there might be. Possibly more involving those two could be interesting, but I'm not sure I feel a lack of them.
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Dave
Posted on Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - 07:24 am:   

> GVG: Reading over this whole thread, I'm getting the sense from comments here
> that readers feel like something's missing from the fiction in F&SF.

Yes! Something is missing, but IMO, its not near-future space exploration.

I think the lack of near-future stories and the shift to fantasy simply reflects our current culture. Fewer people want to read/write those stories because fewer people believe in them.

Past SF has been both champion and critic of science and technology as a force for change in human society. I think a lack of near-future SF reflects a shift in western beliefs away from the idea that science and technology can provide answers to human problems.

Fantasy, and far-future SF, are often forms of escapist liturature that ignore the problems. Escapism where we often go when we feel there are no solutions to our problems. Conversely, readers (and writers) may find it hard to suspend disbelief for near-future stories that paint a rosey, science-based view of the future.

> GVG: What I'm not seeing enough of is a sense that writers are trying to raise
> the stakes on each other, there aren't enough stories that take the form of,
> "So-and-so thought s/he had a good idea with that last story, but I can take it farther!"

If they do decide to take the idea farther, do they jump straight to a novel? How much does F&SF suffer because the marketplace rewards books more than short fiction?

For me, what FSF is lacking is a balance to the escapism. I want to read more stories that disect human problems rather than escape from them. For me Harlan Ellison's writing of the 60's & 70's was exemplary of this. He didn't seem to focus on the surface problems (Viet Nam, drugs, corruption, even TV ["the glass teat"] but he delved deeper into the human psyche/soul to reveal what is ugly, frightening, redeemable, and noble. For me, that is one kind of writing I want to see more of in F&SF. I don't care if its near-future, far-future or tales about a hobbit.

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Jill Elaine Hughes
Posted on Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - 07:46 am:   

I think that there can be more near-future stories, but they don't necessarily have to be about space exploration. I've written pieces that deal with near-future healthcare, economics, and media culture (the latter two were stage plays, that's why I haven't sent them into FSF). I think some folks forget that SF can mean future possibilities in all the sciences, including the social sciences. I'd prefer to see more stories along these lines than space exploration----there's just been so much written on that topic that it is harder and harder to be fresh.
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Pat Lundrigan
Posted on Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - 10:30 am:   

>I definitely don't see enough imagination being poured into near-future space adventure stories.<

Maybe because we're living in the near future?
BAck in the 60's, we were aiming for the moon, and, SF writers believed, the planets.

But the moon was all NASA could afford, so now were left with a half-built space station and half a shuttle fleet.

Do the Mars robotic expeditions lead to stories about Mars?

Will there be more Saturn/Titan stories now that Cassini is on station?

For myself, I'm captivated by the images of the martian landscape and Saturn's rings. NOw if I could only think up some intersting characters to send there . . .

I do like like the phrase "near future space adventure stories" though!
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Sean T. M. Stiennon
Posted on Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - 11:09 am:   

Tolkien once said that those disturbed by the idea of escapism are jailers.

I'd say there's too much urban fantasy/magical realism in F&SF, personally. Someone needs to go poke Charles Finlay for more Vertir and Kuikin...

As for near-future science fiction, I'm all for space adventure stories, and I would certainly be glad if you published more of them.
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Michael Samerdyke
Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 06:03 am:   

I haven't finished the issue yet. I thought "Finding Beauty" by Goldstein was excellent. When I started reading it and saw it was another revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty, I nearly quit the story, but within a few paragraphs I was hooked.

"Time to Go" by Kandel was also very good. It was funny and dark, a winning combination.

Apart from that, not much has stood out. I have just started "Flat Diane," so I haven't gotten to the longer pieces toward the end of the issue.
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RobRoyH
Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 07:51 am:   

My favorites for this issue were "Flat Diane", "The Courtship of Kate O'Farrissey", and "The Angst of God".

The more serious "Flat Diane" was a bit surprising. In general, I've developed a prejudice against stories where the characters and situation resemble something you'd expect to se on "Jerry Springer"... everyone seems obsessed with dysfunction.. but this story was well done and I ended up with a genuine concern for the characters.

Courtship was great fun as was Angst.
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okiefolkie
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 07:34 am:   

Good grief! I just now got around to reading Abraham's Flat Diane. What a great premise, well done, kept my interest to the end. Wow!
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DawnB
Posted on Monday, October 25, 2004 - 05:19 pm:   

I believe that F&SF is missing an uplifting component. Most of the stories are (IMO) post-modern and somewhat depressing. I'd love to see some uplifting and happy stories in F&SF. And some stories that are clearly told stories, without strange formatting [Utley's this issue] or odd telling [The End of the World as We Know It].
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John Thiel
Posted on Monday, October 25, 2004 - 06:07 pm:   

Try some of Morrissy's stories. They have a kind of uplift to them.
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Merrie Haskell
Posted on Monday, October 25, 2004 - 07:10 pm:   

I've also finally finished reading most of this issue, and I really loved "Finding Beauty" out of the stories offered... It had a lot of heart, as well as being well-written, and actually, I think it's that ephemeral "heart" quality that I find lacking in a lot of short fiction (to extrapolate to the larger "what is F&SF missing?" question).

I've been typing follow-up paragraphs to this one for ten minutes now, trying to qualify what I mean by what I just said... trying to explain how I know it's hard to write anything that evokes a feeling of... fondness? without devolving into schmaltz, and how much harder still it must be to find something that's fits all the rest of the editorial criteria and includes this quality.

But that's my gut-level reaction, arriving on the heels of DawnB's comment about the "uplifting component," which I thought partially hit what I was feeling, but also did not. "Uplifting" strikes me as too much of a Reader's Digest sort of word. Actually, so does "heart." I give up, for now...
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Sam
Posted on Monday, October 25, 2004 - 09:32 pm:   

Dang, Merrie--I was going to suggest Dawn give good old RD a whirl...
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Merrie Haskell
Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - 06:35 am:   

Well, I wasn't trying to slam Dawn... I hope that's clear.

In re-reading my post, I want to emphasize that I realize that science fiction in general and F&SF in particular are not meant to be heart-warming reading; one of the greater goals of science fiction is to make readers think, and you don't do that by giving them warm fuzzies and greeting card thoughts. The last thing I'd ever want to see is a queue of "very special episode"-style stories in any magazine. At the same time... I find reading in my chosen genre depresses me far too often.

Some examples of the kind of stories I'm talking about, in hopes that will help explain my thoughts... In addition to Lisa Goldstein's "Finding Beauty," "This Tragic Glass" by Elizabeth Bear (published by Ellen Datlow earlier this year) and "In the Late December" by Greg van Eekhout in last year's Strange Horizons sprang immediately to mind.
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DawnB
Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - 01:12 pm:   

See... I found "Finding Beauty" as uplifting. And RD is just icky. ;-) So, I wasn't offended.

And I didn't mean that SF/F needs to be 100% "And they lived happily ever after." [I'll read romance novels when I want that brain fluff]. More that I feel the majority if SF/F has been depressind and I'd like to see a more even mix. Or at least 70/30 depressing/uplifting.

Frex: I enjoyed Finding Beauty in the latest F&SF. I also enjoyed "Rain from Another Country" in the last offerring of F&SF. Outside of F&SF I enjoyed "The Green Glass Sea" by Ellen Klages on Strange Horizons. All three of these had the "uplifting" quality that I was referencing.

However, I enjoy other works. Such as "Left of the Dial" on SciFiction a while back and "The Pale" on Strange Horizons. While both very good, niether was particularly uplifting, to me. They were mourning something, which is a needed quality too in the genre as whole.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 - 07:01 am:   

Sorry I haven't posted here sooner---been very busy trying to get my desk cleared before leaving for the World Fantasy Convention.

In the "Editing vs. Writing" thread I compared editing with bartending and I think I recognize the flavor you're missing, Merrie and Dawn. Call it two parts sentiment . . . but the hard part is not pouring in so much that it slops over the edge and becomes stickily sentimental. And you're right, Merrie, I find it _very_ rare to get stories that don't spill over the edge. But of course I continue looking.
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Michael Samerdyke
Posted on Thursday, October 28, 2004 - 07:56 am:   

Okay, I finally finished the Anniversary issue, which was not only one of the better issues this year, but one of the better Anniversary issues since Gordon has been running the magazine. Hats off for a job well done.

There were four stories that I thought were very good: "Finding Beauty" by Goldstein, "Time to Go" by Kandel, "The Courtship of Kate O'Farrissey" by Morressy, and "In Tibor's Cardboard Castle" by Chwedyk.

There were three stories that I thought were good: "The End of the World as We Know It" by Bailey, "Flat Diane" by Abraham, and "The Little Stranger" by Wolfe.
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Sue
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2004 - 07:42 am:   

I too just read Daniel Abraham's "Flat Diane" and loved it. Beautiful writing and story. I thought his writing was familiar, and then realized he also wrote "Leviathan Wept". A writer to watch for certain.

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