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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, November 03, 2004 - 07:51 pm:   

NOVELETS

THE LORELEI -7- Alex Irvine
KEYBOARD PRACTICE, CONSISTING OF AN ARIA WITH DIVERSE VARIATIONS FOR THE HARPSICHORD WITH TWO MANUALS -44- John G. McDaid
THE BLEMMYE'S STRATEGEM -97- Bruce Sterling
LAST MAN STANDING -135- Esther M. Friesner

SHORT STORIES

BORN BAD -92- Arthur Porges

DEPARTMENTS

BOOKS TO LOOK FOR -31- Charles de Lint
BOOKS -36- Elizabeth Hand
PLUMAGE FROM PEGASUS: ET IN ARCADIA SUPEREGO -94- Paul Di Filippo
FILMS: BLADE RUNNER HAD A BABY -121- Lucius Shepard
COMING ATTRACTIONS -158-
INDEX TO VOLUMES 106 & 107 -159-
CURIOSITIES -162- Roberto de Sousa Causo

CARTOONS:Danny Shanahan (30), Arthur Masear (93).

COVER: "MEGARA" BY MAX BERTOLINI
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Jonathan
Posted on Wednesday, November 03, 2004 - 09:32 pm:   

Ahh, now that the ToC is public I can say that I think this is a kick-ass issue Gordon. The Sterling, Irvine and Friesner stories are all first rate. For this reader, at least, the Jan 05 issue is one of the best in a long time and a spectacular start to the (cover date) New Year. If people won't subscribe after this issue, we might as well all pack up and head home.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, November 04, 2004 - 05:25 am:   

Thanks, Jonathan.

What I find most heartening is that I didn't even think this issue stood out dramatically from any of the other recent issues. In other words, we're just going to keep on keepin' on around here.
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Dave
Posted on Thursday, November 04, 2004 - 09:07 am:   

Lots of novelets. Is this a strategic shift? I think longer stories is a strong niche for print mags since many of us prefer to read longer works in print rather than online.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 01:38 pm:   

No particular shift in strategy---just a reflection of the submissions we've been getting.
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John Thiel
Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 01:54 pm:   

Well, the submissions you have for the January issue seem a lot more reader-friendly than in the past; at least I was able to get more into them. I particularly like McDaid's piece, because I like humor. In that mode, McDaid's is the best piece since Morrissey's Day in the Life of Eb and Flo. That's mighty refreshing. Likely as not other readers will question whether the piece had any humor to it, but I suggest they go over "Variation 1"---nonsense syllables. This is a key to the rest of the story. Nonsense never appears in a dead serious piece, unless it is called that immediately, by an irate skipper or something.

Porges has another good piece; don't blink your eyes or you'll miss its point. I like the way the accompanying cartoon emphasizes this point, too, because there's a certain ambiguity to Porges' writing and I wouldn't like to think of this as concealed.

Speaking of attitude toward readers, I wonder what Bruce Sterling's is when I read "An entire, busy network of messenger pigeons moved over the unknowing populace."

The Lorelei! "...ihre goldenische Haar," eh? I think you never gave up on Vance Aandahl when he proved the least prolific of sf authors, because his influence has been turning up everywhere since then; the opening of this one seems to have the same mood as Aandahl's first story. And there's that reference to real artists and poets one finds sometimes. I expect to read a space saga where a crewman is a "childless, lonely old grubber." The story does make good reading, anyway.

Very nice cover by Bertolini, but why does he have the idea that iron, or whatever substance is in use there, has runics on it? And what's catching fire that way? Does he aim for hard science realism, or not? But it's very effective..."The Streets Below" could be the name of a story for that to illustrate. However, that reminds me again of Sterling, and I see by the contents page that that's not what he has illustrated.

Another issue to retain. Some day it'll be worth a lot.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 12:28 pm:   

I got my issue Saturday (Nov. 27). I was pleasantly surprised to see the label was on the BACK cover, so I could see the nice artwork on the front.

That's a simple way to handle the problem.
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John Thiel
Posted on Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 04:49 pm:   

That happened on my copy, too! My commendations to the circulation department.
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Scott William Carter
Posted on Monday, November 29, 2004 - 09:03 am:   

Yeah, my copy was the same way. I like it, too, though I doubt Gordon's advertisers would be happy. Hard to see paying for a back cover only to have a portion of it blotted out.

Ah, the vagaries of the business . . .
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Monday, November 29, 2004 - 09:17 am:   

Yes, but at least for me, putting the label on the back cover insured I read the ad on the back cover. And not enough was obscured to make a difference.
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Dave
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 06:34 am:   

Re: BORN BAD

*** POSSIBLE SPOILER ***

John T said:
> Porges has another good piece; don't blink your eyes or you'll miss its point.

Maybe I blinked.

I took this to be a brief account of the childhood of Kris Kringle. Did I miss the point?
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John Thiel
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

The point was, "Satan's a bastard."
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Tanith
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 04:56 pm:   

My copy also arrived with the label on the back, I'm happy to report. :-)

Now--to go settle down with it and a cup of tea...

Tanith ;)
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Patrick M.
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 05:51 pm:   

Yippee, my subscription and payments have finally caught up to eachother. I also received my copy.

THE LORELEI -7- Alex Irvine - Takes the guidline to heart "The SF element may be slight, but it should be present." Well written and enjoyable but if this was the norm, I would have a hard time considering this a scifi magazine. Could easily have replaced the fantasy aspect as drug induced delirium.

KEYBOARD PRACTICE, CONSISTING OF AN ARIA WITH DIVERSE VARIATIONS FOR THE HARPSICHORD WITH TWO MANUALS -44- John G. McDaid - Can't make it through the "Variations" as a narration hook. I think there is a good story in there but I am hunting to find it. I'll have to try again later.

THE BLEMMYE'S STRATEGEM -97- Bruce Sterling - Nice story, well written, going to have to read it again to make sure I didn't miss any hidden meanings or agendas. Interesting choice of characters, I am curious about the name the Blemmye...

LAST MAN STANDING -135- Esther M. Friesner
my favorite of the bunch, I prefer this to the last Esther M. Friesner story I read, 'I killed them in Vegas' (I missed a few issues) I think it was the idea that I prefer. Maybe because I've seen to many bad comedians...

BORN BAD -92- Arthur Porges
Cute, i think. I'm not sure. It didn't make or break my day. Had to think for a few seconds. That hurt...
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Dario
Posted on Thursday, December 02, 2004 - 03:13 pm:   

THE BLEMMYE'S STRATAGEM (Sterling) was absolutely *wonderful*! Sheer, wild fun. One of the most enjoyable short stories I've read anywhere this year -- well done!!

Dario
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 08:29 am:   

I've posted a review of this issue here:

http://www.journalscape.com/sfreviews/2004-12-10-15:07/

In summary, I liked the Irvine and Friesner stories but was less impressed with the others and thought the issue weaker than the last one I reviewed (September 2004)
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Dave
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 12:39 pm:   

Patrick

You might want to change the title of your review. "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 2004 " reads like a review of the Jan 2004 issue but you review covers Jan 2005 issue.
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Dave
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 01:47 pm:   

Patrick,

Thanks for posting your review. I found myself agreeing with almost everything you said. Overall, I was probably even more disappointed with this issue then you. The "anachronistic humour" in "Last Man Standing" that only irritated you little, threw me out of the story enough times that I quit reading it. For me, that left only THE LORELEI to redeem the issue.

Given the early proclamation from Jonathan that this was a "kick-ass issue", I am discouraged. I have been generally unsatisfied will the issues since July--which was an excellent issue. (I subscribed last Spring.) Given the generally positive comments of others, and GVG's excellent reputation as an editor, I'm ready to conclude that it's a difference in taste.

Right now the F&SF "hit rate" is about 20% for me. I've picked up a couple issues of Asimov's and found it had a higher "hit" rate--about 40%. Analog was somewhere inbetween the other two. SCIFICTION the highest percentage. I've enjoyed about 75% of the stories I've read there, but that's probably inflated because I've been cherry-picking the archives based on other people's recommendations.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Saturday, December 11, 2004 - 04:14 am:   

Dave, thanks for noticing the typo. I'm still struggling with the concept of having read 2005 magazines. :grin:
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CC C
Posted on Saturday, December 11, 2004 - 04:42 pm:   

To throw in my two cents, I whole heartily agree with Patrick's review. This issue was somewhat of a disappointment. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said, " Some of the stories in January's issue were distinctly heavy going." In fact, I think the past four issues have been laden with heavy stories and that Gordon has forgotten that sci-fi and fantasy can be fast and fun. Of late, I've hovered near a 40% hit rate. Equaled to Asimov's and SCIFICTION, with some of the classics on SCIFICTION drawing slightly higher success rate.
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Patrick M.
Posted on Saturday, December 11, 2004 - 06:10 pm:   

I would be exhausted from reading 2005 magazines. I have trouble getting through 3-5 magazines.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2004 - 09:48 am:   

I too am in full concurrence with Patrick's review(that is Patrick M. not Samphire - I have yet to read Samphire's review). The best story of the issue, by a wide margin, was Esther Freisner's "Last Man Standing" - A zestful rendering of mythical themes.

I would rate the Sterling as second best but - as said above - with a wide margin. The writing is very good but the story itself left me mentally saying: "So?"

Ahmed
http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/fictiononline/myworks.html
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Jill Elaine hughes
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2004 - 06:00 pm:   

Gordon, I think this is the best issue I've read in almost a year. It's the first issue in a long time where I read ALL the stories and loved ALL of them. Usually there's just 2 or 3 stories a month I really get into, but this issue was just DY-NO-MITE!!! Makes me glad I renewed my subscription.
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Jill Elaine Hughes
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2004 - 06:00 pm:   

I especially loved THE BLEMMYE'S STRATEGEM. Now that one was a hoot. Fabulous.
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Pat Swift
Posted on Thursday, December 16, 2004 - 11:19 am:   

The December issue arrived on Nov 8th & the January issue on Nov 26 so I've only read a few stories from each. I've usually skipped over Irvine's work but Elizabeth Hand's review of his new novel and the fact that it was first in the issue made me try it. While his translation of "The Lorelei" is a little bit different from the one I studied in highschool it was an enjoyable story with interesting characters and a nicely detailed background but I must have blinked for I completely missed the fantasy element. It would be interesting to know if he tried a few mainstream markets first. Meanwhile I intend to go back and read some more of Irvine's work. The Porges was nice but I could see the ending coming.

As for the Dec issue Cady's "Fog" was my favorite with a nice cover.

Speaking of Porges does anyone know anything about an Arthur Pendragon who contributed 2 vaguely Lovecraftian stories to Fantastic back in the 60's. They have recently been attributed to Porges but unless he was experimenting or I am completely tone deaf they don't sound like him.

note to Gordon: if you do that collection of haunted house stories from F&SF I nominate Porges' "The Mirror" from the Oct '66 issue.
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Thursday, December 16, 2004 - 05:00 pm:   

Pat --

From what measly bit of information that I have been able to gather up for you, Arthur Pendragon was the pseudonym used by (British?) author Arthur Goadby (1867-?), who may or may not have been one of the early forefathers who played a key role in the research and investigation of psychic phenomena.

"Author Pseudonyms"
http://www.trussel.com/books/pseud_p.htm

"Pseudonym declarations in US Catalog of Copyright Entries (Renewals)" http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/ccer/pseuds.htm
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Michael Samerdyke
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 10:57 am:   

Just got around to reading this issue.

My favorite story this time out was "Last Man Standing" by Esther Friesner. Funny yet with a plot that kept me reading.

Close behind was Alex Irvine's "The Lorelei," although what a difference between the two. Both stories kept me reading, however.
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Steve Parker
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 02:44 am:   

Living in Japan, I get to read F&SF quite a bit later than everyone else. Luckily, it's worth the wait.

Still, the January issue was something of a disappointment to me personally. There's no doubt that the featured writers have wonderful control of the english language: Sterling in particular provided some memorable and striking images.

But I must confess to being somewhat indifferent and otherwise unmoved by January's stories (though I enjoyed the Arthur Porges and Esther Friesner pieces more than the rest). It's all personal taste, of course, but I couldn't really connect with the stories.

And like some of you have noted, fantasy seemed conspicuously absent from The Lorelei. I recommend polling readers to see if they'd like mainstream fiction to appear in F&SF. I think you'll find the answer is a resounding "no".

I'd also like to counsel against having such a preponderance of longer pieces in a single issue. Why not spread the novelettes out a little more to make way for some shorter works? It would improve the odds of subscribers finding at least one gem that really made each magazine worth treasuring.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 08:31 am:   

Thanks for the feedback, Steve.

Regarding longer pieces vs. shorter pieces, we try to mix it up. It depends a lot on what's in inventory at any given time. Last year, for whatever reason, it seemed like we got novelets by the bushel. This year seems to be falling back to the usual balance.

I think we did ask readers about mainstream stories back in 2002 when we conducted our reader survey, but the answers didn't stand out in my mind as being remarkable. I will say that some of the stories we've run recently with minimal speculative content---specifically Eugene Mirabelli's "Only Known Jump Across Time" and Daryl Gregory's "Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy"---drew very strong positive responses and no complaints.

But that's not to say that I'm planning to change the magazine from being a magazine of fantasy & science fiction (like the name says). It's all a matter of balance. I thought "The Lorelei" worked well in the same issue with John McDaid's lingo-heavy SF story and with Bruce Sterling's way-out fantasy. Sorry your mileage varied so much. Here's hoping the February issue is more to your liking.
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Christopher Rowe
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 09:40 am:   

My reaction to the January issue's contents differed from Steve Parker's--I was definitely moved by the stories he didn't mention, the McDaid and the Sterling ("Keyboard Practice..." may be the story of the year so far, in my opinion, though Justina Robson has a story in Crowther's new CONSTELLATIONS anthology that's right up there, and the Douglas Lain story at Strange Horizons last week is fantastic).

The reason I'm posting this, though, is Gordon's description of "The Blemmye's Strategem" as a way-out fantasy. I read it as a sort of period alien invasion story, definitely science fiction.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 10:05 am:   

Interesting, Chris. That interpretation hadn't crossed my mind at all, but I see exactly where you're coming from.
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Steve Parker
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 05:29 pm:   

Gordon, thanks for the response. You can please some of the people some of the time....

I can't fault the quality of the writing in the Jan issue. But the style and structure of McDaid's piece was an impenetrable barrier to me.

Looking forward to the Feb issue (that everyone else had apready finished reading). :-)
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bjscott
Posted on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 10:19 am:   

I'm a little behind in my reading of my sf mags, having just finished the January FSF last week. I found it to be a very enjoyable issue if not filled with particularly memorable stories.

Friesner's "Last Man Standing" was the most entertaining of the month's offerings. I'm beginning to really enjoy her slightly warped wit.

I also felt "The Blemmye"s Strategem" was a work of science fiction, possibly an alternate history of sorts. I appreciated the timeliness of the Middle Eastern setting of the piece. I think Sterling is saying something about the present intercultural conflict, although what exactly that is, I'm not sure yet. Might be worth re-reading.

"Keyboard" and "Lorelei" were both thoughtful and worthwhile. Keep the Porges short-shorts coming. They're starting to grow on me.
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 11:23 am:   

"Keyboard" didn't work as well for me as it did for some other readers; I saw "Lorelei" as a period fantasy in the Tim Powers tradition, and I really liked "The Blemmye's Strategem," which I read as a secret history based on anthropological SF: take the legends seriously -- the observers who described the blemmye accurately described what they saw -- in a context where interstellar transportation is possible but not understood by the people who leave behind the records. It was my favorite story in the issue and one of my favorites so far this year.

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