Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2014, part 1

It's been years since I read any of the SF digests regularly - occasionally I'd pick up an odd issue here and there, but I hadn't really read them regularly since the late 1980s. So when C.C. Finlay, the guest editor for the July/August 2014 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction came on Twitter saying he had 8 copies of the issue to send to people who were willing to blog about them, preferably people who generally didn't read the digests, I figured I'd give it a shot. I was thrilled to be chosen, and about a week later I was pulling the issue out of my P.O. box. First impressions: The first thing I noticed when pulling the magazine out of the envelope was that it was huge. I've bought novels smaller than this! (Back in the days before page inflation.) The second thing I noticed, as I happened to be pulling it out of the envelope upside down, was that someone other than the Science Fiction Book Club had purchased the ad on the back cover! Back when I was reading the digests regularly, SFBC pretty much had a lock on the back cover and inside back cover of any SF magazines, so this was a huge shock for me. Finally, I turned it over and looked at the front. The front cover art (by Mauricio Manzieri) is pretty awesome. It's got kind of a retro feel - not a steampunk sort of retro, but a 1970s-80s sort of retro. If I had seen this artwork on a book at any point in my life, I would have immediately known the book was SF, and I probably would have bought it. Late last night, I started to actually read it. Normally, I'm someone who reads magazines strictly in order, from front to back. I generally even skip the table of contents, so that I'm surprised by whatever comes up next. But when I was flipping through the issue, my eye was caught by "End of the World Community College" by Sandra McDonald and I started reading that, out of order. After about a page, I was so caught up by the humor it that I convinced my wife to let me read it aloud to her. While I continued to find the story amusing, she found it depressing and sad. So apparently I've got a much darker sense of humor than her - either that or story's not funny at all and I'm just a horrible person. At any rate, I still recommend the story. After that, I checked out the classifieds (there's usually something interesting in there; this issue it's an Easter egg for "End of the World Community College") and Paul Di Filippo's "Curiosities" column. This morning I got up, made a pot of coffee, and started in to read the rest of the magazine. The first story in this issue was "Palm Strike's Last Case" by Charlie Jane Anders. I admit I was kind of hesitant about starting this one. Not because of anything in particular about the story, but because I'm used to starting a magazine with an editor's column, or at least a short story. To start out with a novelette (or "novelet" as this issue's of contents spells it) seems to be demanding I pay a bit much attention to one particularly story right from the start. But I dove in, and I don't regret it. The story moves so quickly that I didn't really notice its length. I don't want to say too much about the story itself, as there's a large mystery component to it, but I think I can say without giving too much away that fans of SF or superheroes will love this one. And that's all I've read so far. More posts to come once I've read more. DISCLOSURE: I was given a copy of this issue by C.C. Finlay, the guest editor, in exchange for agreeing to blog about it.

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