I was offered a free copy of the December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction if I agreed to blog about it after I read it. There was a day when MF&SF was a regular monthly treat for me so that seemed like a win/win to me.
The magazine is bimonthly and costs $7 an issue ($5.83 if you subscribe) but a healthy enough package at 260 pages (including covers). This issue has the same sort of striking and colorful covers that I remember from decades ago and contains four novelettes, seven short stories, two book columns, a film column, an editorial and last page feature called “Curiosities,” certainly enough reading to warrant either price by current standards.
Back in the day, MF&SF was part of a wide array of SF digests on the stands. In addition to it, I regularly read and often had subscriptions to Analog (Astounding), Galaxy, Asimov’s, Worlds of IF, Amazing, Fantastic and others I no longer remember—along with crime/mystery digests, Ellery Queen & Mike Shayne. The first two crime mags, MF&SF, Analog and Asimov’s survive to this day, although I at least rarely see them on newsstands. Hell, I rarely see newsstands these days.
I always considered MF&SF the most literate and enticing of the crop and it was reading Harlan Ellison’s “The Deathbird” in the March 1973 issue which led me to pick up the telephone at midnight and call him in California, setting off a chain of events which led to my spending a wild night in Philadelphia in his company and an even wilder four-days following him around at a science fiction convention in NYC, all of which resulted in my first two sales to a national publication. I’ve told that story in whole or part many times and can be convinced to tell it again.
But back to the issue at hand.
I’ve read all the columns, all the stories and one of the novelettes. It makes no sense logically, but the novelette form has always put me off a bit and it will be a while before I get to the other three, I fear. It seems like a good idea, especially since I was very impressed with the tales I did read, to not wait for my report.
The novelette I read was “Inside Time” by Tim Sullivan, a story which put a really intriguing new twist on one of my favorite genres, time travel. The direction the story eventually went was rather easy to predict up front so in that sense it was unsatisfying, but I will be thinking about the idea of “a knot inside of time” for a long while.
All the short stories were top-notch. Two of them, “Illusions of Tranquility” (Brendan DuBois) and “The Economy of Vacuum” (Sarah Thomas) are set on the moon” the first involved the people who live there in the future and the secrets they must hide from visitors from Earth; the second about a lone woman left alone there for more than 30 years after global war breaks out on Earth and what happens when new explorers finally arrive. Both were riveting and ultimately very sad.
“Bad Matter” (Alexandra Duncan) is also set off-planet, on a sub-orbital space station and yet another surprising secret for an Earth visitor; its use of “footnotes” from books published some 500 years for now adds to the fun. “Farewell to Atlantis” (Terry Bisson) is an amusing story about the last survives of that fabled city trying to fulfill their destiny in today’s world and builds to a laugh out loud final sentence.
“The Man Who Did Something About It” (Harvey Jacobs) is about a garage-mechanic who gets an opportunity to save the world and “The Blight Family Singers” (Kit Reed, its publication marking the 50th anniversary of her first appearance in these pages) is told from multiple points of view as the touring family of the title squabble their way into an unexpected ending to their final concert.
Of the unread novelettes, the first I am likely to try is “Hell of a Fix” (Matthew Hughes), because a quick glance at the first two pages indicate it at least begins with a summoned demon who must do the summoner’s bidding and I’m a sucker for that stuff. “Dragon’s Teeth” (Alex Irvine) is high fantasy and not really my cuppa. “I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” (Richard Bowes) is a complete mystery to me for now but it bears my kinda title.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying and losing one’s self in a big, complicated novel, but since I try my hand at short fiction myself on occasion, I have a real interest in and fondness for the form and….
Well, put it this way. I tore out the subscription form and it’s sitting here on my desk.
Sometimes it’s useful to get a reminder of how much you can miss an old and treasured friend.