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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 2003
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 2003
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each 160-page issue offers compelling short stories and novellas by writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ben Bova, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mike Resnick, Terry Bisson and many others, along with the science fiction field's most respected and outspoken opinions on books, films and science.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steve Lazarowitz

I have long been a fan of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and I suspect, had I more exposure, I would be a fan of Barry Malzberg as well. I had been hoping to gain some of that exposure from this Special Barry Malzberg issue. This did not occur. Out of the entire issue, there are only two stories by Malzberg, one with a co-author. The two stories take up a total of four pages.

The issue also contained "Tripping with the Alchemist," a very revealing essay by Malzberg, which I didn't enjoy as much as I might have. I suppose I felt like an outsider looking in. Again, someone more familiar with Mr. Malzberg's work, would probably have enjoyed it more, but as in introduction to an author, this issue has failed. To be fair, it wasn't intended to be an introduction to Barry Malzberg, which was stated rather clearly in the opening editorial. However, when I buy a special author issue, I expect a certain amount of fiction from that author. That point aside, the article did have some great insight into the darker side of the publishing world that I found interesting, but overall, I felt as if I were slugging my way through the essay.

There were also two stories in which Mr. Malzberg appeared as a character, written by other authors. I'll address these separately when I run down the issue's stories, but I felt again that a Malzberg fan would have enjoyed them more than I.

That's the bad news. The good news is, once I hit the halfway point, and the Malzberg portion of the issue was done, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction contained the fine fiction I'd come to expect and to that point, had felt was missing. In this, the magazine did redeem itself. I suppose I see this issue as a literary experiment, that didn't quite work for the uninitiated, namely me.

The first story, "Of New Arrivals, Many Johns and the Music of the Spheres" by John Kessel is a well written piece that draws on the previously created "Writer's Heaven." "Writer's Heaven" is where writers go when they die and Barry Malzberg is the newest arrival. The story was entertaining, but I found it to be more of a vignette than a story. It began in the middle and ended in the middle, at least that's how it reads. Most likely if you caught the previous installments, it would be a better read.

The next story is by Daniel P. Dern. It's called "For Malzberg It Was They Came." This story was more to my liking than the first and probably was my favorite story in the Malzberg portion of the issue. It was humorous, I had no idea where it was going and if I didn't quite get the ending, at least I enjoyed it.

The next two stories were so short, it's not worth telling you what they're about. By the time I describe them, they're over. "A Short Religious Novel" by Malzberg, and "A Clone at Last" by Malzberg and Bill Pronzini, are short studies in irony. The first reminded me of some of the Fredric Brown short stories I've read and I quite enjoyed it. The second story was too predictable for my taste.

But then, suddenly, there was "The Fluted Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi. This wonderful tale takes place against a backdrop of feudalism reborn, where the rich make the rules and everyone else follows them. It was the first story in the issue that made me happy I was reading it. It wasn't the last.

"Mabiba Overboard" by Bill Vaughan was a delightful tongue-in-cheek piece about two women living in a future where most of the Eastern seaboard of the United States is under water. Social satire doesn't get much better than this.

"The Super Hero Who Saved the World" by M. Rickert is an interesting tale that I wouldn't quite classify as fantasy or science fiction. However it was well written and entertaining.

"The Twenty Pound Canary" by Jack Cady is not only funny, but is indeed about a twenty pound canary and a rather huge guinea pig as well. Mr. Cady has a real grasp of human relationships, which he sets against a small town backdrop. The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl and her observations alone are worth the read. There's plenty of social satire here too.

But the real gem in the book is the last story, "The Tale of the Golden Eagle" by David D. Levine. "Golden Eagle" has a real mythological feel to it. The story spans several centuries and details the adventures of a disembodied eagle's brain. Well, it's at least disembodied for part of the tale.

The issue is rounded out by the usual columns, the editorial by Gordon Van Gelder, Book Reviews, Films and Curiosities.

What's the bottom line? Out of all the stories, "The Tale of the Golden Eagle" is the only one I'd consider a must read, but there turned out to be enough good work in the issue to give it a thumbs up in general. If you're a Malzberg fan, you'll have the time of your life. If you're not, you're not likely to become one reading this issue.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Lazarowitz

Steve Lazarowitz is a speculative fiction writer, an editor, a father, a husband, an animal lover and a heck of a nice guy (not necessarily in that order). Steve lives in Moonah, Tasmania with his family and four giant spiny leaf insects. You can check out his work at

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