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An Interview With Bhen

By the Anonymous Interviewer
(henceforth to be knows as AI)

with special thanks to David A. Hardy

Bhen by David A. HardyAI: Bhen, I hear it is your fortieth birthday this year?

B: Well, not really. It’s just forty years since you humans became aware of my existence because David Hardy started portraying some of my exploits, which from 1975 appeared on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction or F&SF. But as it happens I am 397 of your years old this month.

AI: But I read somewhere (it might have been Ansible, or Critical Wave) that Dave and his cartoonist friend Anthony Naylor created you out of green Plasticine one drunken evening in 1973?

B: Hah! That’s a story they cooked up another drunken evening. I mean, who’s going to believe that I really exist? Do you?

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Interview: Paolo Bacigalupi on “A Hot Day’s Night”

– Tell us a bit about “A Hot Day’s Night.”

A hot day’s night was a chance to look at near-future climate change and drought in the Southwest. Lucy Monroe, the main character is a journalist who has just come to Phoenix, a city that is collapsing due to its lack of planning, and Lucy is on the hunt for stories that illustrate the place that Phoenix is becoming.

One of the things that interesting to me about places when they break down is that they don’t simply turn into the stereotypical wastelands of roaming cycle gangs and hardy survivors–collapse is much more complex. There are losers, but there are also, oddly, winners when everything changes, and I’m interested in those people who find ways to adapt, and survive despite the fact that everything seems to be falling apart. Charlene is one of those people, and so it was interesting to have Lucy go on a sort of ride-along with Charlene, as to see the broken world of Phoenix through Charlene’s opportunistic eyes.


– “A Hot Day’s Night” gives us a glimpse into the world of your new novel, The Water Knife. Can you tell us a little of what the book is about?

Yes, “A Hot Day’s Night” is sort of a prequel to The Water Knife. Lucy is one of the main characters in the novel as well, and by the time of the novel, she’s much more experienced and hardened by life in Phoenix.  The Water Knife is really my attempt to get a grasp on the hazards of climate change coupled with the hazards of our seeming stubborn determination to do nothing to plan for it, or mitigate against it.  It’s the worst case scenario future, but again, there are winners and losers. Some people are profiting and thriving in the apocalypse, while others are hurting deeply. The story follows three characters, Lucy, plus a Texas drought refugee names Maria, and finally the “water knife” of the title,  Angel Velasquez, a sort of hired gun who acts to secure water rights and control for the city of Las Vegas, which is Phoenix’s main competitor for water on the Colorado River.  The story centers around a hunt for water rights, but overall is story of these three characters each trying to figure out what their moral and ethical obligations are in a broken world, even as they try to survive it.


– How is your writing shaped by your experience at High Country News?

High Country News had a huge impact on my early SF writing. The journalists I worked with there continue to provide inspiration and insight into our changing world, and I rely on them heavily.  Working with them meant that I always had access to the small details that have been harbingers of greater change. For a book like The Water Knife, people like Matt Jenkins and his reporting on the water politics of the Colorado River gave me insight into how fragile and vulnerable the Western U.S. was to drought. It inspired my first short story about climate change, “The Tamarisk Hunter,” and that also eventually grew in both “A Hot Day’s Night” and The Water Knife.  Numerous other stories were also deeply influenced by their reporting. Journalists like Michelle Nijhuis, Laura Paskus, Greg Hanscom, and many others continue to inspire new stories.  Really, without the reporting and experiences of working with those journalists, I would never have become the writer I am today.

“A Hot Day’s Night” appears in the September/October issue of F&SF, which you can purchase here:

You can subscribe to F&SF here:

A Gallery of Bhen F&SF Covers

Most covers for Fantasy & Science Fiction illustrate a particular story. But in 1975, when public interest in NASA and space exploration seemed to be declining, David A. Hardy created an illustration to draw attention to NASA’s work and make space seem fun again. He named the alien Bhen (we’ll find out why in an interview with Bhen coming to the blog on Friday), and over the next 40 years the fun-loving big green alien appeared on a dozen F&SF covers, including the current November/December 2015 issue.

Here are all the covers, collected in one place for the first time.

(To see high resolution images of the Bhen illustrations, uncluttered by F&SF logos and text, as well some of Bhen’s non-F&SF appearances, visit David Hardy’s webpage at

Some images courtesy of the Visual Index of Science Fiction Art.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1975, cover by David Hardy

1. November 1975

The very first Bhen cover! Bhen discovers the Viking I on Mars. The Viking I was sent to discover life, but life discovered it first.

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Editor’s Note for Nov/Dec 2015

The November/December of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is now on sale! You can order a single copy of the issue from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon or AmazonUK.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2015, cover by David HardyThis is also a great time of year to subscribe or renew your subscription. And, with the holidays coming up, you might take a look at our discounted gift subscriptions.

But let’s talk about the issue!


David Hardy’s cover for this month’s issue features the return of Bhen. The mischievous green alien has been having fun with NASA’s toys for forty years. His very first appearance was with the Viking Lander on the November 1975 issue of F&SF. It seems only fitting that he celebrates the anniversary by showing up on Mars again, this time with ESA’s ExoMars rover, due to land in 2018.

Later this week, we’ll be posting a retrospective of all of David Hardy’s Bhen covers for F&SF from the past four decades, as well as an interview with the alien himself. If you must have more Hardy now, you can visit his website at


This month’s novella goes with the cover’s theme of space exploration.

Although Carter Scholz has been writing science fiction for decades, this is the first time he has turned his attention to the very hard problem of interstellar travel.  Even though this story is set only twenty-five years into the future, it’s meticulously grounded in current science and research.

Gardner Dozois has called it “perhaps the best SF novella of the year.”Gypsy is also available in book form from PM Press, as part of Terry Bisson’s Outspoken Authors series.


The issue opens with “The Winter Wraith” by Jeffrey Ford, a haunting holiday story set in the bleak Ohio countryside. Tim Sullivan returns to the heavy gravity millieu of Cet Four with “Hob’s Choice: (seen previously in “The Nambu Egg” in F&SF, Jul/Aug 2013). “The Thirteen Mercies” by Maria Dahvana Headley’s is first appearance in F&SF. It’s a dark fantasy with crocodiles and war magic.

KJ Kabza gives a short, thoughtful fantasy with “Her Echo.” Harvey Jacobs lightens up the issue with “The Fabulous Follicle.” Bruce McAllister offers up “Dreampet,” a science fiction story that began life as a Hollywood move pitch. And Naomi Kritzer returns to these pages with “Cleanout,” her first new story not set in the Seastead universe.

The issue closes with “It’s All Relative at the Space-Time Café” by Norman Birnbach, which is a short celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s “Theory of General Relativity” in 1915. And then Lisa Mason explores the fate of all time and space with her new novelet, “Tomorrow is a Lovely Day.”

You’ll also find “Phases,” a new poem by Sophie White, and…


Every issue features one story that we also offer for free download online, via our free electronic digest for Kindle. This month’s free story — which you can also find in the print edition — is “The City of Your Soul” by Robert Reed. Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can click on this link and read Reed’s story and all the columns in the issue for free.


Charles de Lint tells you why you should read new books by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Melissa F. Olson, Hayley Campbell, and A. G. Riddle.

Michelle West reviews new work by Mark Z. Danielewski, Clive Barker, and Neal Stephenson.

Elizabeth Hand considers Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany, edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell, and Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, along with David Nicholson’s debut collection.

Film and television critic Kathi Maio reviews “Self/Less” and “Advantageous,” and offers her thoughts on the Netflix series “Sense8.”

And in our regular “Curiosities” column, Douglas A. Anderson reconsiders The Capture of Nina Carroll by Arthur Thrush, published in 1924.

We also publish the winners to Reader Competition #90, “Game of Prose,” and introduce Competition #91, “It’s All Relative.”

* * *

We think it’s another great issue. We hope you’ll read it and share your thoughts about it on one of these sites:

In the meantime… enjoy!

C.C. Finlay
Fantasy & Science Fiction

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