Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July 2008

November 13th, 2009

Last year F&SF had a giveaway to bloggers of a free magazine. I signed up for, intending to get to it right away, and then set it aside. I was reading books from my garage sale collection. last week I was cleaning up the mess around my chair in the living room and found it. I read it on the bus.

I was not happy with it.

First and foremost the editor, Gordon Van Gelder, violated law #1 of my SF rules. No Nazis! World War II Nazis have no place in science fiction, and I stick by this as a basic law of writing SF. The story is an alternate timeline version, which makes it even more of a cliché and intolerable. Once P.K. Dick does it an idea really well, everyone should try to think of something new. Note to authors: never, ever write anything remotely reminiscent of a star trek episode.

There is a second person viewpoint story. 2nd person is hard to read and a stupid gimmick.

There is a story written in some kind of affected Victorian style. Nothing much happens to people we don’t know or care about and then we discover the meaning of the universe (retch).

The novella was a long narcissistic narrative about a unlikable character that seemed to wander on forever. 

All of the stories are clever ideas or trick endings that do not really delve into emotional conflict or develop three dimensional characters. Every story (that I was able to finish) violates Campbell’s mandate that the protagonist needs to go through a change in his life, which is what the story should be about.

All of the stories are technically well crafted. All of the stories have vivid and interesting sciencefictional ideas. None of the stories engaged me emotionally. None of the stories revealed an inner truth or left me with that "aha" moment that is so important in fiction. None of the stories left me feeling the Sense of Wonder which is the very essence of good SF.

I am going to go out and buy current Asimov’s and Analog magazines. I want to see if they are also just Twilight Zone episodes with little more than a clever idea and a punch line.

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