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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2007 - 07:26 pm:   

THE MAGAZINE OF
FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION
October/November 59th Year of Publication

NOVELLAS
The Bird Shaman's Girl -107- Judith Moffett

NOVELETS
Against the Current -6- Robert Silverberg
The Diamond Shadow -42- Fred Chappell
The Recreation Room -86- Albert E. Cowdrey
Urdumheim -207- Michael Swanwick

SHORT STORIES
The Star to Every Wandering Barque -75- James Stoddard
Two Weeks After -156- M. Ramsey Chapman
Fragrant Goddess -174- Paul Park
Unpossible -197- Daryl Gregory

DEPARTMENTS
Books to Look For -26- Charles de Lint
Books -35- Elizabeth Hand
Coming Attractions -150-
Plumage from Pegasus: Book Clubbed -151- Paul Di Filippo
Films: Mission Accomplished At the Zombie Jamboree -192- Kathi Maio
Competition #74: Adapted -239-
Curiosities -242- Don D'Ammassa

CARTOONS: Bill Long (25), Arthur Masear (74, 155), John Jonik (85).
COVER BY MAX BERTOLINI FOR "URDUMHEIM"
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Oskar Ortiz
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2007 - 08:21 am:   

I am amazed that Cowdrey is able to crank out so much material. 3 months in a row and counting!
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 08:45 pm:   

Yeah, that's a fair streak. I actually liked his story the most, this time, with the Swanwick very close behind.

http://notfreesf.blogspot.com/2007/08/fantasy-and-science-fiction-666-gordon.htm l

At least you had a zombie article if nothing else for issue 666.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 06:54 am:   

We've started getting reports from some subscribers that their issues arrived late last week. The copies we mail to ourselves for checking purposes haven't yet arrived here.
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Niall Harrison
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 01:23 pm:   

My copy (Maidenhead, UK) arrived today.
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Steven Pearce
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 05:34 am:   

My copy (Hertfordshire, UK) also arrived yesterday (21st)
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2007 - 01:48 pm:   

I neglected to post a link to the SFREVU.com review by Sam Tomiano. It's here: http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=5958
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2007 - 07:30 pm:   

Same two best stories, nifty.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 31, 2007 - 08:28 am:   

The subscription copies we mailed to our own offices arrived today. Seems like the domestic mail was a little slow with this issue. Maybe the thicker issues are harder to process.
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ccfinlay
Posted on Friday, August 31, 2007 - 10:19 am:   

I think your paper boy is stealing them out of the mailbox and reading them -- our copy arrived earlier this week.
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Friday, August 31, 2007 - 11:26 am:   

Amazing Story! My copy arrived in France before your subscription copies arrived in Hoboken NJ????

There must be a time-space phenomenon somewhere...
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, August 31, 2007 - 12:10 pm:   

Fabrice, the "time-space phenomenon" is called "the United States Postal Service."

The copies were sent to our post office box, Charlie, so it's not the paperboy's fault. Just regional processing differences.
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Ralph Davis
Posted on Monday, September 03, 2007 - 09:37 pm:   

Great debut story from M. Ramsey Chapman. I hope to be seeing more from him in future issues.
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Thursday, September 06, 2007 - 05:44 am:   

The Bird Shaman's Girl - Judith Moffett
Good story, but as a non-American, I'm not sure I get all its subtleties:
- does the Ephremite Church exist, or is it a pure fiction, or is it a jab at the Mormons?
- do the old shaman paintings referred to in the story really exist or is it fiction?

Against the Current - Robert Silverberg
Well, I'm a bit desappointed here. Nothing new in the story. Well done, but I tend to expect more from Bob Silverberg. From such a talented author, craft is not enough. I expect oustanding stories from him.

The Diamond Shadow - Fred Chappell
Fun and entertainment, as the preceding stories in the series.

The Recreation Room - Albert E. Cowdrey
Well, I don't really like stories with fantastic elements (I prefer SF and plain fantasy). But that one is a must: suspense, atmosphere, interesting character and setting. And don't ask me why, but I like stories set in southern USA. That story rocks.

The Star to Every Wandering Barque - James Stoddard
Hummm, nice utopia, but the story didn't work for me.

Two Weeks After - M. Ramsey Chapman
I don't like ghost stories. That one is an exception. Clever, moving, with a little twist at the end. I'd like to see more from that author in the future.

Still 3 stories to read
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Richard R. Horton
Posted on Saturday, September 08, 2007 - 05:14 am:   

The Ephremite Church seems a fairly transparent version of the Mormon church -- I'm not sure why Moffett didn't just call them Mormons.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 05:48 pm:   

Tangent's review of the issue:

http://www.tangentonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1145&Item id=259
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John William Thiel
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 04:17 pm:   

Good way to start off an issue--Robert Silverberg's "Against the Current". It has attention-grabbing qualities, in spite of being, as Fabrice Doublet pointed out, a rather old theme, if not plot. Used to watch many such stories on the TWILIGHT ZONE. It's the first sf story I've read since I started reading science fiction again that I was able to identify with, and I wonder if other readers of it would say the same of the story. Only thing is, I expected some explanation of the character's predicament, but I suppose he thinks an explanation is old. The first paragraph can only be a clue--either he was shot through the skull or has had a stroke and is dead, in which case the journey is a psychological one requiring him as the character (thus giving him individuality) or he's been hit by an alien ray or parasite. Perhaps the story should have been longer and with more explication of its elements, but I think that due to the commonality of its territory, Mr. Silverberg has presented a tour-de-force. But I'd like to know, has Silverberg ever been to San Francisco? As far as I know he's from New York City, an entire continent away.

The story could have symbolical meaning, too---follow one of these new life styles and one's place in the world becomes meaningless.

If time travel were real, would matter be real also? Or would it be a metaphysical proposition?

Very thoughtful story on Mr. Silverberg's part. I'll look forward to reading "Un-Possible" and Swanwick's story. Silverberg's has given me a zest for reading the issue.
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 04:42 pm:   

Are you entirely sure matter isn't a metaphysical proposition?

I liked the story a lot too. Silverberg proves that even old themes can be successful time travelers.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 06:25 pm:   

In "Against the Current," is the protagonist doing the same thing every time he experiences a shift?

And yes, Bob Silverberg has been to San Francisco. He has been living on the West Coast since the 1970s.
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 01:13 am:   

Fragrant Goddess - Paul Park
Well, that one didn't really work for me. The main character has a weird obsession and quest, the flow of the story is a bit sketchy, and the ending somewhat predictable from the beginning.

Unpossible - Daryl Gregory
Nice little tale. Very moving "passing of age" story.

Urdumheim - Michael Swanwick
Great story. A Swanwickean ReGenesis of sorts. A good mix of different mid-eastern mythologies.
Liked the cover art for the story, but the characters seemed more Nordic, Greek and Roman than Mesopotamian.

That October/November issue was a treat as usual. Only criticism: only two SF stories (Silverberg/Moffett), not enough!

PS: Seems like I've been too harsh for Silverberg's story, since everybody seems to enjoy it? I'm currently reading Silverberg's collected stories, and compared to most of them, "Against the Current" didn't impress me.
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John William Thiel
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 07:53 am:   

Look, when I write a nice friendly post saying "Blue Tyson" and answering several other posts I don't like for it not to post. To present the points my post had, and lose all the group interaction in so doing, my points were

a) Silverberg's story is current, as the title suggests, and very timely, and heads off the 666th issue properly. I said I blinked and missed Blue Tyson's comment, but I'm not saying that any more.

b) I've only seen Bishop Berkley calling matter less than substantially valid. That was phrased better in my original posting that wouldn't post. I was being erudite and friendly, but now I'm not.

c) A car can be considered a time machine, since it gives drivers a different time perspective than pedestrians have.
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GSH
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 10:32 am:   

"That October/November issue was a treat as usual. Only criticism: only two SF stories (Silverberg/Moffett), not enough!"

The science fiction/fantasy distinctions we make are always interesting. I dropped "Against the Current" into the fantasy slot, time travel notwithstanding.

"Is the protagonist doing the same thing every time he experiences a shift?"

Hmm... He never really notices a shift in progress. When he's most engaged with the world time appears to flow in its usual forward direction: when he talks to a coworker, looks at a phone book or newspaper, talks to a hotel clerk or former roommate, etc. When he's less engaged he slips backward, not noticing until he becomes aware of some changed external reference. When completely disengaged--when he sleeps--recession accelerates; he skips backward years and decades at a time.

In the Tangent review Elizabeth Allen mentioned mortality. Maybe this was Silverberg's point: The past has gravity. It's like a black hole. It pulls at everything and at all of us, trying to claim the world as part of itself, as it inevitably will. There's a current as things are swept into it. In engaging with life in the present moment we're resisting the pull and swimming against the current. When we cease to do so, back we go.

The older we get the more we notice the pull, and the more we notice the world getting ahead of us. For the very old the past is often more real than the present, and the future is of less and less concern. We slip backward, the future recedes, and finally the past claims us.

Maybe what John William Thiel suggested is right: That the "sudden red blaze of pain" was Rackman's terminal event?
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S. Hamm
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 02:04 pm:   

Time only regresses when the narrator is inside his Prius.
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 02:34 pm:   

"The science fiction/fantasy distinctions we make are always interesting. I dropped "Against the Current" into the fantasy slot, time travel notwithstanding."

The boundary between F and SF is not clear-cut. For example, I wondered if Stoddard's story was SF or Fantasy? Since I couln't suspend my disbelief, I opted for Fantasy...

As for Silverberg's, well if it's only marginally SF, it's not really Fantasy, ... perhaps you could say it's a philosophical tale with a slight SF argument. As was Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate". Ted Chiang's story had a poetic quality that I didn't find in "Against the current". I think it's a problem of pace. "The Merchant..." flowed leisurely, "Against..." raced (too?) speedily.

Of course, feel free to disagree.
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GSH
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 06:21 pm:   

Wasn't the first backward slip on his way out to the car? The salesman he talked to on the lot, who'd given notice a couple of weeks before...

You've got a good point, though. Why would the Prius travel with him?

I must still be missing something.

Regarding that boundary: I like it that it isn't too clear-cut. Hard definitions can turn into creative restrictions.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 06:35 pm:   

That's what I was after, Sam. It's the Prius.
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GSH
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2007 - 07:19 pm:   

"I didn't really want the flux capacitor package, but it was the only way to get the cigarette lighter..."

I just reread the first part. Yep, the story started before the first page. I hereby withdraw my objection.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, September 28, 2007 - 07:24 am:   

One of last month's bloggers has returned again this month: http://candiedbrain.com/?p=47

Thanks for the comments.
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Howard Hoople
Posted on Friday, October 05, 2007 - 11:37 am:   

I believe all Priuses just have an ignition button. Perhaps in the last paragraph the car itself is beginning to regress.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2007 - 06:00 pm:   

"Perhaps in the last paragraph the car itself is beginning to regress."

Our automotive dictionary refers to this as Oilzheimers. A hitherto unknown malady with advanced stages stemming from a lack of oil.

Sorry 'bout that.
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Howard Hoople
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2007 - 06:32 am:   

Perhaps there's a happy ending in the sequel. When the Prius finally turns into a buckboard wagon, Rackman discovers that he can move forward in time just by driving it backwards.
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John William Thiel
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2007 - 10:43 am:   

Why be sorry 'bout that? It's a genuine pun! You should say, "excuse the pun".
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 06:58 pm:   

I always say I'm sorry when I make a _bad_ pun. :-)
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Dan Reid
Posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 - 09:07 pm:   

"Against the Stream" shows evidence of sloppiness, but I'll admit that I respect Mr. Silverberg's resources enough to consider the possibility that it's really ignorance on *my* end. "Turning the ignition" on the Prius and the discrepancies in whether the protagonist ever wore a beard or not (cf. page 15 second paragraph second sentence with page 17 next to last paragraph) leapt out at me as auctorial errors. But maybe they were deliberate? If so, why?

I agree it's most likely the Rackman is dead, since the story's about growing old and nostalgia. I wonder what Judith Berman would think of it?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 06:02 am:   

Funny---Denny Lien just pointed out the same thing about the facial hair on pages 15 and pages 17. Copyediting errors or evidence that Rackman is losing his mind? You decide, dear reader.

For what it's worth, I think Judith Berman would probably point at the story as an example of what she was talking about in her great article from 2001 (or thereabouts) on the graying of science fiction. But I think "Against the Current" is a terrific story and I'd hate to be in a position where I couldn't publish stories about growing old and facing mortality. I'd also hate to run a magazine where every story is about aging. It's just a question of balance.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 08:32 am:   

I asked Bob Silverberg about the ignition key on the Prius and he said, "Rackman, of course, was driving next year's model, which reverted to key use after the celebrated nationwide hacking of the Smartkeys."
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 08:44 pm:   

I loved "Two Weeks After" and "Unpossible."

Cowdrey is as reliable as ever with "The Recreation Room," although this is one of my least favorite of his.

I enjoy Chappell's shadow stories, but not the writing. They always seem to drag in the narration.

In a similar vein, I enjoyed the ending of "Against the Current," but getting their bordered on monotonous.

"Urdumheim" was okay, but the paragraph of Bush-speak yanked me right out of the story. The idea of the tower, however, intrigued me so much I looked into Swanwick's novels. I've added _The Iron Dragon's Daughter_ to my read-me list. (I'm hoping for an absence of 21st century political sound bites.)

I should have skipped "The Bird Shaman's Girl." Excerpts usually don't work for me. But something in the first few pages caught my interest. My mistake. Not only was the story too big for what was given, but the setting seemed weird. No Hefn novels on my read-me list.

"The Star to Every Wandering Barque." There's a story here?

All in all, I didn't care for this issue. For a double, my pickings were limited. Thankfully, I had a Plumage to fall back on. Di Filippo is almost as reliable as Cowdrey.
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Dan Reid
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 09:20 pm:   

Yep, Berman's article is why I mentioned her. It is another data point for her thesis. The thanatospection hasn't been as obvious in F&SF as it was in Asimov's when she was writing the article.

"Next year's model" indeed. He's a sly one! Although I've still gotta wonder if the owner of a dealership would be driving a Prius rather than a Sequoia or Avalon or even a Highlander. Well, he was once a hippy....
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GSH
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 10:28 pm:   

My first reading of Paul Park's Fragrant Goddess about a month ago left me with the nagging suspicion that I'd missed something important. Something just didn't seem to be falling into place with Jeremy's character--a problem Elizabeth A. Allen commented on in her Tangent Online review. I believe the rather dismissive comment about the tale in SFRevu alludes to the same issue.

I read the tale again tonight. Yep, I'd missed something alright, and I presume others did as well: Jeremy isn't just a pathetically obsessed middle-aged academic, who's slipping deeper and deeper into compensatory fantasy. Jeremy--I think--is a psychotic murderer, who at the end of the story was about to murder again. It's the very fact that we don't immediately pick up on this that makes it so creepy when we finally do.

Jeremy's first victim--so far as we know--was his ex-wife Joanna. (p. 178, 3rd paragraph from the bottom; the final paragraph of the dream sequence, p. 186, which recaps the murder; and 2nd paragraph from the bottom, p. 189.)

His second victim would have been Sabine, in the basement of her house. Note that the last sentence of the 4th paragraph, p. 190, apparently refers to a detail of the first murder.

It might be debated to what extent The Fragrant Goddess is actually a fantasy story. No complaint about that here. It's good writing. It's also a bit of a challenge.
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 06:24 am:   

Good catch. Looking at those passages, it seems obvious he killed his wife. Do you think he intended to kill Sabine, or just that he'd have ended up killing her after she failed to hold up her end of his sexual fantasy?

Your revelation makes for a deeper story, but it's still my least favorite of the issue.
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GSH
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 10:13 am:   

"Do you think he intended to kill Sabine...?"

I think he intends to, without being conscious of his own intention. His perception is that she has both damaged and rejected him, just as his wife had.

Throughout the story Jeremy hides his own pathological mental processes from himself behind a screen of increasingly complex and improbable fantasies. His fantasies are beginning to completely replace reality. Consider his job interview--last paragraph, p. 188: "These men weren't professionals like Jeremy, who even now..." He's momentarily lost touch with what's going on in the present moment.

Less clear is whether or not Jeremy has actually committed suicide at the end. If he has, we can't be sure if it was a conscious act, or hidden from himself behind a fantasy of some miraculous healing.

I won't say the story is my favorite; with this issue there's some serious competition. I'd rank it highly, though. The author wins my respect for taking calculated risks; for unflinchingly drawing us into the mind of a difficult and unsympathetic protagonist as he moves toward his moment of crisis.

Maybe this one might be classified as horror?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 08:39 pm:   

Here's a long blog review of the issue: http://www.lordofallfools.com/blog/?p=108
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Fabrice Doublet
Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - 02:46 pm:   

By the way, anybody knows what is the meaning of "Urdumheim"?

Urdum sounds somewhat mesopotamian (something to do with the city of Ur or another city?), heim sounds german (home), and ur is also a german prefix (meaning something like "from the origins" if I remember my Urmensch well).

I need some enlightenment!!!
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Frank Dreier
Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 11:43 am:   

According to a this post on another forum (from a thread Bertolini started dealing with the cover art), in Swedish Urdumheim would mean "home of the really stupid".

Coincidence? You decide.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 11:05 am:   

Review:
http://journals.eyrie.org/eagle/archives/001123.html
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Sarah Sammis
Posted on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 11:19 pm:   

I reviewed the stories too. The links to all of them are here: http://www.pussreboots.pair.com/blog/2007/12.html#fsf_urdumheim
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2008 - 08:10 pm:   

Here's another review of the issue: http://www.bestsf.net/reviews/fsf071011.html

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