Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2002
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2002
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 David Soyka

Fantasy and Science Fiction's April cover illustration by Maurizo Manzieri of the Charles Coleman Finlay story, "The Political Officer," succeeds from a marketing perspective. It's a colorful, eye-catching depiction of the archetypal SF hero in a form-fitting jumpsuit struggling with a hatch door on which a radioactivity meter has redlined. It stands out more than the same month's Asimov's with its yet another in a series of "planet on the horizon" stock images, and thus is perhaps more likely to attract the casual browser to pick it up and make an impulse purchase.

However, I think the illustration fails from an artistic standpoint. Finlay's tale is not just some run-of-the-mill space opera with a clearly defined hero saving the day that someone who doesn't read much more than sci-fi media spin-offs will enjoy. Though, on the surface, it is that. But Finlay has taken the veneer of cliched WW II-era sub-mariner movies, transposed it to an interstellar setting, and flavored the mixture with the paranoia of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Sort of Das Boat meets 1984 meets Star Trek. We don't know who the good guys are, and the one who just might be does some bad things. Nothing colorful here, not even black and white, just shades of grey that blend into murkiness. Not the best image to sell a magazine, perhaps, but more representative of the content.

Not that all is bleak between the covers. "Just Another Cowboy" by Esther M. Friesner is hilarious, even if a bit predictable. What makes the story work, ultimately, is the narrator's Texas "Dubya" way of telling his story about life on the ranch and what happens when its owner dies:

Now ol' Josh P. might have got himself married more times than recommended by the U.S. government (I think it's the Department of Agriculture that handles such things), but you wouldn't know it by anything except his checkbook. He was not a results-oriented husband. To put it another way, he couldn't begat worth a hill of beans.
Also in a humorous vein, Alison Bowman's "The Copywriter" offers a promising opening:
So one day these aliens leave a message on my machine. They say, "This is the Intergalactic Space Alien Federation. We are taking over your planet with a constellation of war satellites and plan to enslave your species. We were wondering if you might write our brochure."
There are some funny lines in this piece, even if as a riff on a famous Twilight Zone episode called "Serving Man" (based on a short story by Damon Knight) it fails as a full-fledged story (the ending doesn't quite jive with the premise). That said, if, like me, you have any experience in the advertising business, you'll find that Bowman shares Friesner's ear for replicating the dialogue of a particular social setting.

Speaking of vignettes, Thomas Disch's "Torah! Torah" Torah!" offers three skits that retell Biblical tales in contemporary terms. One is how Adam found names for the animals, the second a police investigation into child abuse charges against Abraham (some nasty rumors about a sacrifice) and why Jehovah's wife is not mentioned in the Bible. Again, like Bowman's story, these don't amount to much more than long jokes, though Disch provides more effective punch lines.

Jack Williamson contributes "The Planet of Youth," the premise of which will be familiar to readers of his "Afterlife" in February's issue. It's another variation of what price people will pay to achieve immortality when the goods delivered are perhaps not worth the payment.

Someone who is usually busy editing the magazine with the aforementioned tired old moon covers turns in a wonderfully whimsical tale, "The Hanging Curve," in which the final pitch of a World Series fails to reach home plate for far too long. The results are both marvelous and all too typical of human nature. Even if you don't like baseball (and I never did understand a game in which most of the time is spent waiting for someone to do something), this one belongs on your scorecard.

Also of note in the non-fiction department is Lucius Shepard's regular column on films. No Siskel and Ebert, Shepard calls it the way he sees it, which is quite refreshing. In describing the little-known flick Donnie Darko, Shepard comments this "is hands-down the best science fiction movie in quite a few years. Granted, this verges on damning with faint praise."

And that's actually more diplomatic than most of what Shepard has to say about the current state of the film industry.

Copyright © 2002 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide