Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct/Nov 2008

9/30/08 Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct/Nov 2008  60th Anniversary Issue

Disclaimer #1 If your tastes differ greatly from mine, you may love stories I hate and hate stories I love.
Disclaimer #2 I’m reviewing stories, not bodies of work.  I might love everything an author writes except this one story, or love one story here but find everything else by that author boring.
Disclaimer #3 I started reading sf magazines thirteen years before editor Gordon Van Gelder was born.  I’m probably at least a bit jaded.

Short stories: Nine.

I very much liked Michael Swanwick’s “The Scarecrow’s Boy.”  It’s an original story made up of familiar elements: a child in danger, the US under a dictatorship, a robot thinks and acts for himself much more than he was ever intended to.  I cared about the characters, and I liked what Swanwick did with those familiar elements.

M. Rickert’s “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment:  One Daughter’s Personal Story” is also set in a dystopian future America.”  Unlike the Swanwick, this didn’t work for me.  One large reason:  the rulers belong to a political group (one kind of religious fanatic) which I don’t think is capable of taking power.  (Swanwick leaves his dictatorship’s ideology unspecified.)

Albert E. Cowdrey’s “Inside Story” is set in New Orleans; and I feel that Cowdrey knows the city well.  It’s a humorous story, and I don’t share Cowdrey’s sense of humor.

Steven Utley, “Sleepless Years.”  A horror story about involuntary immortality.  Well written, but not my cup of blood.

Stephen King, “The <i>New York Times</i> at Special Bargain Rates.”  Woman gets a phone call from her dead husband.  It’s reasonably good Stephen King.

Scott Bradfield, “Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter’s Guild.”  Dazzle is a dog with human-level intelligence (probably more intelligent than most of the humans he meets in this story.)  I found Dazzle interesting, but not the human characters.  Note:  If you would need to know how Dazzle’s intelligence was enhanced, this is not the story for you.  I suspect it’s explained in the 1988 story “Dazzle.”

Laurel Winter, “Going Back in Time.”  Amusing piece about quantum mechanics and love.

Terry Bisson, “Private Eye.”  I expected a hard-boiled detective story.  It does have that flavor, but Private Eye means something different here.  I liked this better than anything else Bisson’s written since <i>Talking Man</i>

Carol Emshwiller, “Whoever.”  The narrator has amnesia.  I didn’t detect any fantasy or science fiction elements.

Novelettes: Three.

Geoff Ryman, “Days of Wonder.”  A future with no pure humans — or, apparently, no pure mammal species of any kind.  There are only human-animal hybrids.  One person sets out to change the world.

The setting is good, the characters come to life, the plot is good.  Why didn’t I like the story?  I don’t know.

Robert Reed, “The Visionaries.”

“Everyone is an unmitigated failure.

“And then success comes, or it doesn’t.”

It’s about a way of seeing into the future, a man who’s part of this, and the people he sees.  It does some things very well; I particularly liked the ending.

Tim Sullivan, “Planetismal Dawn.”  Space opera and time opera.  Good background, good characters.

Pseudononfiction: One.

Paul Di Fillippo, “Plumage From Pegasus:  Till Human Voices Shake Us, and We Frown.”  Humorous piece which I found mildly amusing.

Nonfiction: Six.  Two book columns.  One film column.  Results of the latest competition, and rules for the next one.

Paul Doherty and Pat Murphy, “Science:  Rocks in Space.”  Worth reading, and at one time I would probably have loved this.  These days, I find more than enough science reading on the Web.

“Curiosities” is about odd books:  speculative fiction or nearly spec-fic.  This issue’s reviewer is Fred Chappell, describing <i>Rainbow on the Road</i> by Esther Forbes.

Poems:  One.  Sophie M. White, “December 22, 2012.”

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