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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - 06:42 pm:   

NOVELETS
Wrong Number -6- Alexander Jablokov
Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers -72- John Langan
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate -135- Ted Chiang

SHORT STORIES
Envoy Extraordinary -43- Albert E. Cowdrey
Atalanta Loses at the Interpantheonic Trivia Bee -60- Heather Lindsley
Requirements for the Mythology Merit Badge -100- Kevin N. Haw
If We Can Save Just One Child... -108- Robert Reed


DEPARTMENTS
Books to Look For -31- Charles de Lint
Books -36- James Sallis
Films: Once Were Movies -103- Lucius Shepard
Coming Attractions -126-
Science: Visit the Metaverse and Change Your Mind -127- Paul Doherty and Pat Murphy
Curiosities -162- Douglas A. Anderson

Cartoons: S. Harris (30), Joseph Farris (42), Arthur Masear (71).
COVER BY BRYN BARNARD FOR "THE MERCHANT AND THE ALCHEMIST’S GATE"
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - 06:45 pm:   

Reviewed by Sam Tomaino at SFREVU here: http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=5827
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2007 - 09:05 am:   

must wait to read the Langan and Chiang stories.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2007 - 11:42 am:   

I've got a box of copies (about 40) of the Sept. issue I'd like to give away to bloggers. Here's the deal:

1) Go to our "Contact Us" page: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/contact.htm

2) Tell us where to mail your copy of the issue.

3) Receive the issue and blog about it. Naturally, we prefer if you read the issue before blogging about it, but I'm just insisting that you blog about it. (Last time we tried this promotion, people mistakenly thought they should blog about the magazine in order to receive the new issue. No. The idea is to blog about this issue, even if the whole blog entry is short. So instead of blogging "The cover sucks," you're supposed to write "The cover OF THE SEPTEMBER 2007 ISSUE sucks.")

4) Send us a link to your blog.

That's all there is to it. I'll post here when we run out of copies.

Spread the word!
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2007 - 11:49 am:   

Two more thoughts on the bloggers' promotion:

1) If you're a subscriber, please don't ask for one of these freebie copies. I believe sub. copies have shipped already.

2) The issues might go out packed a little funny. Since the post office changed its regulations in May, we're still figuring out the best way to mail individual issues in the US.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2007 - 08:01 pm:   

Bump.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2007 - 08:02 pm:   

Sorry. Wrong freebie thread.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 06:06 am:   

The promotion is over---the box of copies is empty and the issues are heading off to the fortunate forty.

Looking forward to seeing your blog entries about the issue . . .
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John William Thiel
Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 - 03:14 pm:   

September issue received. After the controversy originating in the August issue, I believe I'll just look at the cover of this one for awhile. Hm, that must be the Alchemist himself on the cover. Is he a Persian or an Arab alchemist? I suppose the story will tell me the answer. But he has European devices, as well as some scrolls from his own corner of the world.

Flapdoodle! That's what the come-on for the Silverberg story is.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 06:35 am:   

Here's a blogger commenting on the issue:

http://cawilliams.livejournal.com/49056.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 08:03 am:   

We got this letter of comment in response to the science column:

I would like to make a comment to Paul Doherty about his article concerning the 'Splo exhibits that he describes in the 9/07 issue of F&SF. Specifically, I want to comment the description of the vibrations of carbon dioxide (on page 131), which is incomplete.

CO2 has actually has a total of four modes of vibration. Two of these, the two bending modes within the two orthogonal planes passing through the molecule's main axis, are degenerate and appear as a single bending vibration.

One of them, the asymmetric stretching mode, is well-described by "... having the carbon molecule[sic]* shuttle back and forth on the line between the two oxygen molecules [sic]* ..."

* While this vibrational mode is reasonably well-described, I have to note here a minor error: carbon and oxygen exist as atoms, not molecules, in the carbon dioxide molecule.

The picture is incomplete, however, in that only three of the four vibrational modes are described. CO2 has one more mode of vibration: the symmetric stretch, wherein the two oxygen atoms move toward and away from the central carbon atom together. This mode is, in some ways, more important than the other two, in that it maintains the symmetry of the molecule. This may seem trivial, but in fact turns out to be one of the most important factors in determining whether, and how, a molecule interacts with light (or infrared), thereby releasing or absorbing a photon - the absorption of photons, of course, being the mechanism leading to the greenhouse effect.

Very truly yours,

Howard Mark

\o/
/_\
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 08:40 am:   

And here's Paul Doherty's reply:

Dear Howard Mark

Thank you for your comments on carbon dioxide and infrared absorption.

Indeed it is a carbon atom that shuttles back and forth not a carbon molecule...I have no idea how I managed to let that mistake slip into my writing.

And indeed there is a symmetric stretch mode of vibration for carbon dioxide.

However if you think of the carbon as being slightly positive and the oxygens as being slightly negative, And then think of the center of charge for the positive carbon atom as at the center of that atom, and the center of charge for the negatives as being on the midpoint of a line connecting the two oxygens. You will note that in the bending modes the location of the center of positive and negative charges are offset sinusoidally during vibration. This creates an oscillating electric dipole which interacts with electromagnetic radiation strongly.

The same thing goes for the asymmetric stretch mode so it also interacts with electromagnetic radiation.

However in the symmetric stretch mode the centers of positive charge and negative charge remain in the same location. The oscillation does not create an electric dipole oscillation. So this particular oscillation does not absorb infrared radiation and is unimportant for greenhouse warming.

Paul Doherty
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Patch Mulberry
Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 08:50 am:   

I GOT MY FREE COPY OF THE SEPT. ISSUE!! THANK YOU F&SF!! :D

-patchmulberry
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 09:58 am:   

Here's our second posting from a blogger who received one of the promotional copies:

http://notfreesf.blogspot.com/2007/07/fantasy-and-science-fiction-665-gordon.htm l
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 01:05 pm:   

"However if you think of the carbon as being slightly positive and the oxygens as being slightly negative, And then think of the center of charge for the positive carbon atom as at the center of that atom, and the center of charge for the negatives as being on the midpoint of a line connecting the two oxygens. You will note that in the bending modes the location of the center of positive and negative charges are offset sinusoidally during vibration. This creates an oscillating electric dipole which interacts with electromagnetic radiation strongly."

Everyone with a pre-school education knows that much. Sheesh. ;)

And they say Stephen Baxter's 'hard' SF is difficult to understand. Am glad _that_ wasn't in any infodump! That explanation has made my sinusoids vibrate. Am heading for the Benadryl.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 09:44 am:   

I really enjoyed Ted Chiang's novelette "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate." A magical rim of polished black metal used as a time machine, and stories within stories from Baghdad to Egypt. Good stuff.

As a general comment and not referring specifically to Chiang's story, I'm always a sucker for stories written about the middle east from times long ago. Persia, Baghdad, Egypt, bizarres, marketplaces, colorful palaces, djinn's and genies, sultans and magic, beautiful sultry women with kohled eyes, double-dealing schemes, treachery, the many creative explanations of what Allah's will is, that sort of thing.

I have a question, though, about Robert Reed's "If We Can Save Just One Child...). I'm not clear on whether the main character, Gary Olsen, is a good guy or a bad guy. I was almost given to the former, but then just at the close of the story (bottom of page 125) where he is explaining his motives to the young man threatening him with a gun, it says he is lying. Is he lying about only the sentence before it says he's lying, or is his entire explanation a lie and is he really a dirty rotten scoundrel?

I'm probably being dense and have missed something, so I hope someone can set me straight on this. Thanks.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 11:15 am:   

Here's our third blog post for this issue:

http://twistedchick.livejournal.com/1536819.html
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 02:41 pm:   

Re: If We Can Save Just One Child...

My take was that Olsen was an honest, perfectly normal guy, who realized at a critical moment his society had become so delusional only a lie playing on the delusion could save him.

Olsen had already tried addressing the prevailing paranoid fantasy with logic and statistics (in the section headed The Fair, pages 118-119). To steal a favorite line from James P. Blaylock, that effort "went down like a dead orangutan".

I've wondered if there might not be a sly wink lurking behind the editorial comment preceding the story. The "social implications of new science"? Well, yes. Unless I'm reading too much into the tale, however, there's a lot more to pick up on.

(I really liked the Ted Chiang story too. That's the only other from the September issue I've read yet.)
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 03:09 pm:   

Hmm... I just read the third blog post Mr. Van Gelder linked above. The blogger apparently didn't much care for Robert Reed's If We Can Save Just One Child..., reading it as "a cautionary tale concerning child welfare".

Interesting. I'm thinking the story is about officially sanctioned societal delusions (a very topical issue, to my mind) and the alienation and persecution of those who presume to see through them. Perhaps because of that I thought the ending worked quite well.
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John William Thiel
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 03:21 pm:   

A magical time travelling item put me in mind of a story idea---after all the other supernormal powers have emerged in humanity, an ability to travel through time begins to manifest, first in a few, then in many. Though this story is set in a far future when time travel develops, it doesn't, of course, remain a far future time. Thanking Chiang and Truesdale for that thought.

Reed, too, has an important thought, as expressed by GSH. officially sanctioned societal delusions and the alienation and persecution of those who presume to see through them. People should bookmark that, it should be made some kind of pinned topic.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 05:46 pm:   

GSH: "I'm thinking the story is about officially sanctioned societal delusions"

What societal delusions? (Don't know why this story has confused me so much and left me blank as to its meaning.)

Could you walk me through your interpretation, GSH? Maybe the lightbulb will go on then. :-)
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Sheila Finch
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 07:40 pm:   

The story reminded me of an oldie-but-goodie, "Computers Don't Argue," by Gordie Dickson, and example of "man caught in the meshes of his own invention" sort of thing. I was pleased by the twist ending -- because I thought he was going down the same road Dickson took and was happy to see that he didn't. But I can't say that I liked it -- or totally accepted it as fitting the story. That's just one person's opinion, of course.
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 07:55 pm:   

Here's my take, for whatever it's worth:

The societal delusion the author postulates is the belief that widespread cloning is going on to produce children for the sex trade. While the story suggests there may have been some incident(s) of this sort, we learn from Olsen that actually there have been only around three cases of any sort of bootleg cloning worldwide in any given year, "and not even for a decade now". Nonetheless, the public is terrified to the point of collective neurosis. (Or, in the case of Evan, to the point of something beyond that.) Apparently a highly intrusive surveillance society has sprung up. There's a security bureaucracy relying on automated profiling software that can't tell the difference between criminal intent and stomach flu. Olsen--a rational man--has seen through to the absurdity of the situation, but the very fact that he behaves rationally and shows doubt makes him the object of increasing suspicion. He's been an innocent victim of the delusion throughout the story. At the end it nearly kills him.

I thought the story to be a comment on our own times--or at least on certain aspects of them--but opinions about that are probably as varied as interpretations of this particular story.

(I don't remember Computers Don't Argue. I'll have to try to hunt it up.)
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 12:30 am:   

Has John Langan written anything else like that story? He is someone I am not familiar with.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 01:37 am:   

The child cloning story did seem to be a commentary to me. For instance, I used to ride my bike to school myself when I was 7.

Now I see parents escorting their children, complete with large guard dog, and they only live two blocks away from the school.

That sort of thing might be what he is getting at too when they are randomly harassing the kid's actual father?
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 05:43 am:   

John Langan's published three other stories (all in F&SF): On Skua Island, Mr. Gaunt, and Tutorial.

All of them are really good, but none of them are like "Episode Seven" much.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:57 am:   

Thanks John, I will see what I can find then.
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 10:34 am:   

I suppose One Child might be concerned with the safety (or the lack thereof) of children in our own society. I'm inclined to think not, however.

That children are not as safe as we would have them be is so sadly obvious it hardly bears comment. One need only be attentive to the news. If that were the the author's topic, would he have had Olsen attempt to diminish the reality of the problem by quoting the bootleg cloning statistics as he did?

I believe the topic might be more general, having to do with the dangerous ways we can collectively react to a perception of threat, and how a collective perception--when left unexamined--can easily blind us to illogical and/or disproportinate reactions. Consider, for example, the extent to which internalized fears about terrorism have already changed our society.
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David de Beer
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 02:24 pm:   

bloody hell..so many people have their copies already! I placed an order in June, and got an e-mail saying I'll get the Sept issue. When do subscriber copies get posted?
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 03:43 pm:   

Blue Tyson --

I should also point out that he's got a collection coming out from Prime Books in Spring 2008 called Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 06:28 pm:   

(On second thought, I believe "went down like a dead baboon" was what Blaylock actually said.)
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:00 pm:   

Thanks John, presumably that includes the work you mentioned above? Especially given the title. :-)
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:36 pm:   

Thanks for your interpretation of Reed's story, GSH. It makes complete and reasonable sense to me now. Methinks I should have read it in the morning, when my mind is at its sharpest, rather than after a whole day of intense reading and my mind is fatigued.

Hmm. While I take, and truly appreciate Reed's point, IF one wishes to then take this as his veiled comment on the gummint telling us one thing (i.e trying to frighten the people), so they can take away some of our civil liberties, for example (as you hypothesize but do not explicitly say--I'm guessing as to what you meant), then while in the abstract I share his skepticism, in the particular case of, say, the Patriot Act (for example) I would disagree. I offer the Patriot Act as an example because this is an issue where some against it have said the gummint is overstating the terrorist threat and is just trying to scare us into accepting the Act.

On the _whole_ I think it necessary to have something like the Patriot Act (with the most stringent safeguards, mind you), but we do need it. There are those who say "scrap the whole thing," and would thus throw the baby out with the bathwater. And it is those people, I _think_, who would take Reed's commentary and run with it as proof that the gummint is always lying to us in one way or another. For them there is no middle ground.

To try to rephrase: IF Reed's comment is that the gummint "plays on our fears" as in the case of his story, then my fear is that some who think in absolutes and not in specifics will take this to mean that we shouldn't have ANY sort of Patriot Act at all. Or other security measures that a post 9/11 world has more or less _forced_ us, however unwillingly, to adopt.

So I accept Reed's point for its honest skepticism, but not as an absolute truth in certain specific instances to which it might by inference allude in the real world.

Believe it or not, I'm highly skeptical of big government, democrat or republican, doesn't matter. They're both capable of highly improper shenanigans, as history has proved time and again, and we should be ever watchful and on our guard.

That said, this doesn't mean that gummint is _always_ wrong and deceitful, which is a message I hope folks won't take away after reading this story...which may reinforce the view that gummint is _always_ out to get us. Not saying Reed is saying this, but that some folks might think he is.

Regardless of the interpretation, or how one regards any such interpretation, the story succeeds as a thought provoking story of interest. Which I find to be a good thing.
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GSH
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 12:49 am:   

Well, I certainly don't want to attribute any presumed political orientation to Mr. Reed, because I haven't got the least idea what his political orientation might be. He doesn't reveal that to us. It was I who mentioned terrorism. I was hesitant to do so because the topic is such a flash point, but that's what came to my mind as an example. (No one ought to presume anything about my own political orientation from that, either. You said somewhere you're liberal on some issues and conservative on others, and I'm much the same way. I harbor suspicions about politicians on both ends of the spectrum, and question how the lot of them are responding--or would respond--to what is a very real threat.)

I believe the story to be a cautionary tale making general observations about the dangers we face as free individuals, whenever a fearful society finds a particular focus for its fears. No doubt we can all pick out some, regardless of where we stand on any particular issue. When collective fear is involved--even when it's about something real--there always seems to be a sliding scale with reality at one end and delusion at the other.

Guess I've probably gone on about this for long enough. I've got stories of my own to work on, and I'm lucky to figure them out...
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 09:46 am:   

I share your feelings and observations, GSH. Thanks again for helping me to understand the Reed story.
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 10:08 am:   

On the blogger promotion, if this is ever done again perhaps you should approach Wil Wheaton (http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/) about it. He's a big fan of the genre and is pretty heavily read. There may be other "celebrity" bloggers out there that would be interested as well (Kevin Smith? Joss Whedon?)

Unfortunately, I thought of this last night... *SIGH*

- Kevin N. Haw
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 - 03:32 pm:   

Pursuant to the discussion of Robert Reed's story "If We Can Save Just One Child...", the review of the Sept. F&SF just went up at Tangent Online.

Yikes, the reviewer didn't think much of it at all; felt it was too polemical and editorialized too much. Ouch.

www.tangentonline.com
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 06:06 am:   

Here's another blogger's comments. They balance out the Tangent Online reviewer's comments in an interesting way:

http://www.marcshermannet.blogspot.com/
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:10 am:   

Marc the blogger's comments re the Reed story is why I enjoyed running "Alternate View" reviews in the print Tangent, and is why we do so from time to time at Tangent Online. It's always amazing to find how differently two (or more) readers view the same story--and useful, I think, for potential buyers of any magazine or book.

Coincidentally, we'll have another "Alternate View" coming up by this weekend at TO, something I'm trying to get started again on a more regular basis.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:14 am:   

GSH,

I need to ask you a question in private, but your email isn't provided in your profile. Mine is, so could you drop me a line?

Thanks.
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GSH
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 08:52 pm:   

Dave,

Sure. Just e mailed it to you.

I left my e mail address off the Night Shade profile to keep the damn spiders from adding it to spam lists. I left my name off the profile so enemies can't send ninja assassins out after me. Not really sure which possibility worries me more...

*G*
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 09:11 am:   

Got it, GSH. Thanks.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 06:02 am:   

Another blog entry:

http://chrisbarnes.livejournal.com/61825.html
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Radu Eugen Romaniuc
Posted on Friday, August 03, 2007 - 04:27 pm:   

I was very curious about Mr. Reed's story after I saw the discussion here and I finally got to it tonight!
After reading it I also read the comment from Tangent online.
Here is what I understood : a reasonable man has to live in a paranoid society and is forced to conjure a lie to survive. It is a good lie and it saves his life. The guy he has to defend from is working like this:
"Even on his best days, he suffered from the enduring
conviction—indeed, the muscular hope—that the world was
rich with evil."
I liked the story. I can't really see why is it regarded as "polemical" but I grew up and still live in a society so different from yours.
I liked it for this : the character that is so honest that he risks his own record just to advocate reason against paranoia (he does it in the schoolyard and during the interrogation) is forced to tell a lie in order to save his own life, he is forced to take part in the very paranoia he dispises and has to outsmart it.
That is so sad, and unfortunately such a neccesity.

Sorry if my comment seems naive (and also for my english skills, but maybe I should put that into my signature), I am really bad with comments, I guess.
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David de Beer
Posted on Saturday, August 04, 2007 - 12:52 am:   

well, I've read everything except Ted Chiang now; thoroughly enjoyed it, although the Jablokov was a bit anti-climactic, IMO. I think I missed something cause it left me more with a sense of "huh? what?" than anything else. Still, there was a lot about it I enjoyed, just the ending didn't feel too satisfying.

The Reed:

I can understand some of where the Tangent reviewer is coming from, but overall I liked it. A very appropriate piece for the times; I didn't take it so much to be critique on governments, as just a general extension of the population at large - that would be us - and our ability to get swept up in paranoia, and to believe hype rather than the actual facts (Olsen states the specific amount of cases of illegal cloning. His arguments make perfect sense, but they are not mollifying to a paranoid and receptive public. Neither does he mean his arguments to lessen the real danger and concern and wrongness of the acts, merely point out the absurd lenghts people take and how ordinary folk get damaged in the process).
Admittedly, the story runs on the strenght of its ideas, rather than execution, and it does slightly comes across more like Reed is making a point rather than leading the reader towards, which unfortunately means that the appeal and receptiveness of the story ultimately hinges on the reader's own mindset re: these type of issues.
I don't know where government comes into this; people and the media are more than capable of blowing things up beyond reasonable measure, and adding lies and tall tails which obfuscate and hamper geniune attempts to address genuine wrongs.
Also, I liked the suggestion that Olsen near the end of his life realized he probably made things harder for himself than it needed to be. Standing up for truth does make you a target.

Loved the John Langan; if that's an indication of what Wasteland antho is going to be like, I am salivating like a good little Pavlovian doggie.
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Patch Mulberry
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 01:40 pm:   

I posted a small review of "Envoy Extraordinary." I'll try and post another when I finish the issue.
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C.A.Williams
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 01:48 pm:   

I have posted comments on some of the other stories in this issue. To find all of them: http://cawilliams.livejournal.com/tag/f%26sf.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 07:51 pm:   

Another blog entry:

http://blog.myspace.com/robdarnell
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 07:54 pm:   

And another:

http://www.nzbc.net.nz/culture/2007/08/fantasy-science-fiction.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 07:56 pm:   

Another:

http://www.bleaklight.com/?p=51
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2007 - 08:19 pm:   

Another blog entry:

http://candiedbrain.com/?cat=14
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 - 06:35 am:   

Here's another blog entry---I believe this one is #12 out of the 40 or 41 copies we sent out: http://mmerriam.livejournal.com/243670.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2007 - 12:16 pm:   

Another blogger checks in:

http://agilebrit.livejournal.com/376346.html
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 10:46 am:   

This is a good issue. Pleasant. I say that because, while nothing really wowed me, my response at the end of five of the stories was basically, "That was pleasant." That's not a bad thing.

I think Reed's story can be taken both as a general warning and a specific one. While it can be applied to many scenarios, I was reminded of a Bloom Country strip in which Milo tells his boss at the newspaper that the epidemic of child abductions they'd been playing up in the headlines hadn't actually happened. "Run a correction on page 8!" was his boss's response. In many circles "Think of the children!" has become a sure flag of satire.

I'm more interested in seeing a discussion of Langan's story than Reed's. While Jackie is concerned about Wayne's mental stability, it seems to me that Jackie is the one off her rocker, seeing flowers instead of corpses and projecting Wayne's comic-book universe back onto him. Makes me wonder if the pack is really as she saw it, and what else it might have been. To say nothing of what's going on with the baby.

It is fortunate "Episode Seven" hooked me early. It was so annoying to read, I doubt I would have gotten far otherwise. I read slowly enough as it is without an author's help.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 11:07 am:   

Here's another blogger's entry on the issue:

http://simonmacdonald.blogspot.com/2007/08/fantasy-science-fictions-september-20 07.html
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David de Beer
Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 01:39 pm:   

I liked the Langan very much too; is why I say I'm really looking forward to the Wastelands antho if that's an example of what to expect.
The style was unusual, and my initial reaction was "oh, no", but the more I got drawn into the story the more it worked for me and the more right it felt.
Really well done.

My favorite overall, by a narrow margin, would be the Ted Chiang though.
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 11:44 pm:   

"...it seems to me that Jackie is the one off her rocker..."

Whoa! Jeff Stehman's fascinatingly provocative suggestion just stood my straightforward interpretation of Langan's "Episode Seven" on its head. Have we got an unreliable narrator--possibly a psychotic one--on our hands here? Jackie consistently attempts to make sense of all of the illogical elements and events surrounding her in what seems an entirely logical fashion, selling both herself and the reader (this one, at least) on her rationality in the process. (Hey--in my defense I was reading Fantasy & Science Fiction, so I was willing to accept the reality of a few odd events.) But yeah, Wayne is the one exhibiting rational behavior as he goes about the business of survival and protection in whatever this horrible post-apocalyptic scenario might actually be. And you're right: the flowers may not be flowers; the pack may not actually be demonic creatures appeared out of nowhere. Jackie may be the one who has lapsed into bizarre delusions because the underlying reality is simply too much for her to deal with. She highlights the inconsistencies again and again, showing us where the logic is failing, but I still wasn't getting it. (Is the title itself a clue, so obvious I missed it?)

I liked this story to begin with. Now you've got me thinking it's a far more sophisticated story than I initially realized. I'm beginning to get the complexity of the presentation, too. A fine job of writing and editing.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 05:23 am:   

You mean Episode Seven is psychotic episode 7, as opposed to a pulp serial reference?

Didn't think of that, I did think, 'hmm, purple flowers, that is a bit odd if this is a sudden postapocalyptic scenario', but didn't really go further than that.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 07:17 pm:   

I just published on my blog an interview I did with new writer Kevin N. Haw, author of "Requirements for the Mythology Merit Badge" (Sept. 2007).

You can read it here:

http://www.tuginternet.com/jja/journal/archives/006087.html
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 09:55 pm:   

Back to the generalized view of "Just One Child." Today I heard one of my state's congressional reps say that we live in the most perilous time since WWII. Reading his bio, he's old enough to have practiced duck-and-cover in school. It brought Reed's story to mind.
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 11:53 pm:   

He must have had the television off during the last two weeks of October, 1962.

There's an old Nike missile silo a short way from the cottage where I live. A nuke lurked there ready to launch until around 1972. Now the site's abandoned, rusting, surrounded by chainlink fence and queen anne's lace. I take this as a sign of progress.

(Yep, that was what I meant about the title. Just idle speculation. It's certainly evocative of pulp-era science fiction, too. A great title!)
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 11:58 pm:   

And in the 80s with brain failing US presidents making nuclear weapons jokes.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2007 - 06:19 am:   

Another blogger checks in:

http://steamedpenguin.com/the-penguin-and-the-magazines-request
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2007 - 11:31 am:   

"And in the 80s with brain failing US presidents making nuclear weapons jokes."

You mean the same President who helpedd bring about the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and brought about our victory in the Cold War, ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union? That guy?
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John Lodder
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2007 - 11:45 am:   

I didn't know until a few years ago that there was a Nike site on the south side of Chicago, not far from the University of Chicago. There ought to be some irony in that choice of location, somewhere.
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John Langan
Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 06:18 am:   

I just wanted to say, "Thanks," and "Wow," for the generous comments on "Episode Seven," both here and at the various blog-sites that have responded to the story. It's amazing what you can learn about your own work from reading intelligent discussion of it.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 08:49 am:   

I have only read the 'second half of the year' of the magazine, but "Episode Seven" (although I think the second part of the title is cooler :-) ), and "Stars Seen Through Stone" are the standouts.

Not too bad to get two 4.5's in a handful of issues.
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John Langan
Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 11:55 am:   

I agree about "Stars:" Lucius has been producing remarkable work for a while, now, and I thought this story took a lot of his typical concerns in an interesting (and surprisingly funny) direction. I still want to know what's swimming in those holes...
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 05:55 am:   

Here's something that's interesting in its own right, but also with regard to Kevin Haw's story: http://www.mythicjourneys.org/certificate_program.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 07:05 am:   

Another blogger discusses one story from this issue: http://www.storysouth.com/comment/2007/08/story_of_the_week_ted_chiangs.html
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 08:39 am:   

Holy crap, that mythology merit badge is expensive!
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GSH
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 10:44 am:   

Well, you do get professional credit rather than a simple merit badge...

For that sort of money I'd expect to find a few certified demigods and embodied archetypes among the facilitators.
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 10:53 am:   

Man, it just goes to show you that no matter how crazy you think you're being someone out on the Internet has probably beaten you to the punch. I guess in their context "Applied Mythology" really would mean performance and voice, but still... Aren't they worried about being sued when a graduate can't manifest as a bull or other critter?

Also, I can let you have my merit badge at a fraction of the cost, John. Check out some other offerings here: http://www.worth1000.com/cache/contest/contestcache.asp?contest_id=10806&display =photoshop
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 07:05 pm:   

Found another blogger who posted back on August 1st and then the 10th: http://www.dwax.org/2007/08/reading-fantasy-science-fiction
and http://www.dwax.org/2007/08/reading-fantasy-science-fiction-part-2
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 07:38 pm:   

Another blogger: http://aethercowboy.livejournal.com/26014.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 06:35 am:   

Another blogger checks in: http://elenuial.livejournal.com/139624.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 08:29 pm:   

Two more blog entries about this issue:

http://yarbroughs.org/archives/2007/09/05/the-purple-flowers/

http://beanmine.typepad.com/the_bean_mines/2007/09/its-alive-im-ki.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 09:05 pm:   

And here's another one: http://stonetable.livejournal.com/22637.html
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, September 14, 2007 - 08:00 pm:   

Here's another blogger -- this time in Spanish: http://blog.tordek.com.ar/2007/09/fantasia-y-ciencia-ficcion-septiembre-2007/
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GSH
Posted on Friday, September 14, 2007 - 11:42 pm:   

Which the WorldLingo free online translator rendered as follows:

Je, that pretty that is reddit… By some reason, the news that the famous magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction was giving exemplary in exchange for reviews in blogs strained among thousands of geeks and arrived at my reader RSS. The graceful thing is that the first time that I saw I said “Bah, will already have been finished”, and, when I read it again, “I do not have anything to lose”.

I sent the mail without hopes, but even so I received a quick answer. (Interestingly, just a short time later post that also warned it reported that the last number already had been given; luck, I suppose…)

The only complaint is that they said me that they sent me to it the 17 of July, and I today had it in my writing-desk - 13 of September to the morning, although on it says “airmail repeatedly”.

The cover is very grosa (and the magazine does not remain back with 160 pages más-o-menos-A5). Dibuoj of the alchemist/merchant of the cover is very well done. And, hey, by 4.50 dollars more than is worth the trouble (I am considering to subscribe to me)...


Apparently the Universal Translator still has a few bugs to be worked out...
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Monday, September 24, 2007 - 01:50 pm:   

Another blogger: http://anotherpieceofshooflypie.blogspot.com/
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2007 - 07:22 am:   

Vote in the Sept. 2007 issue favorite story poll:
http://www.johnjosephadams.com/?p=1204
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2007 - 02:36 pm:   

Done. Voted for Ted Chiang's story.
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 06:38 am:   

Me too.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 09:02 am:   

Another blog: http://community.livejournal.com/lastshortstory/19641.html
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Friday, October 26, 2007 - 06:37 pm:   

F&SF 9/07: Favorite Story Poll
Voting Has Closed

* Wrong Number - Alexander Jablokov
3--5% of all votes
* Episode Seven... - John Langan
8--14% of all votes
* The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang
34--60% of all votes- Winner!
* Envoy Extraordinary - Albert E. Cowdrey
1--2% of all votes
* Atalanta Loses at the Interpantheonic Trivia Bee - Heather Lindsley
4--7% of all votes
* Requirements for the Mythology Merit Badge - Kevin N. Haw
4--7% of all votes
* If We Can Save Just One Child... - Robert Reed
1--2% of all votes
* I wasn’t impressed with any of them.
2--4% of all votes

Total Votes: 57 Started: October 7, 2007
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 06:38 pm:   

Another review of this issue: http://www.bestsf.net/reviews/fsf0709.html

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