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F&SF, March 1994

Over the past year, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page. For the new year, we thought it might be good to add them here where they can be easily found under the “F&SF History” tag.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1994, cover by Bryn Barnard‪‪#‎TBT‬ to the March 1994 F&SF and this cover by Bryn Barnard for “The Wild Ships of Fairny.”

The lead story is “A Marathon Runner in the Human Race” by Dave Smeds, a humane imagining of an abundance future with extended longevity. It is part of Smed’s Nanodocs series, following “Reef Ape” (Asimov’s) and the critically acclaimed “Suicidal Tendencies” (Full Spectrum). “Doing Alien” by Gregory Benford is a fictional follow-up to his recent non-fiction column about the possibility of intelligent life in outer space. “Second Contact,” about people watching an eclipse in Cornwall, was the first US publication by British writer Gary Couzens. It became the title story of his first collection Second Contact and Other Stories (2003).

At this point the issue switches gears from science fiction to myth, horror, and fantasy.

“Director’s Cut” by James Morrow is a one-act play deleted from the final draft of his novel Towing Jehovah, published the same year. It’s followed by “Two Lovers, Two Gods, and a Fable,” by Esther M. Friesner, a deconstruction of myth and the Kennedy assassination. “Sous la Mer” by Carrie Richerson is a horror-tinged story of brother and sister. She was nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1993 and 1994. “The Convertible Coven” by Susan Wade is about a young witch who has a VW Fastback with a sunroof as her familiar. This issue also includes a first published story, “Brixtow White Lady” by Clarion grad Felicity Savage.

The anchor story (pun intended?) is also the cover story, “The Wild Ships of Fairny” by Carolyn Ives Gilman. This fantasy about a post-colonial resource-stripped island goes well with her Forsaken Isles novels, published in 2011 and 2012.

Unusually, and for one of the only times since “Recommended Reading” was introduced in issue #2, there’s no book reviews column in this issue. Orson Scott Card’s “Books to Look For” column ended with the February issue and Charles de Lint’s column would not start until April. To make up for the lack, Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses a pair of recent books by Sean Stewart and Joe Haldeman in her editorial. The issue also marks the return, after a 4-year hiatus, of the “Inside Science Fiction” column by Charles Platt. Rusch’s editorial promises that the column will become a regular feature again, but this was its last appearance in the magazine. Bruce Sterling’s science column demystifies broadcast towers and Kathi Maio’s film column discusses “Heart & Soul” (and better movies).

All in all a packed issue, with nine stories covering the spectrum of the genres, plus the columns. Just what you expect from F&SF.

F&SF, March 1986

Over the past year, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page. For the new year, we thought it might be good to add them here where they can be easily found under the “F&SF History” tag.

* * *

Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1986, cover by David Hardy‪‪#‎TBT‬ to the March 1986 issue of F&SF and this untitled dinosaur and spaceship cover by David Hardy.

Hardy did a different stegosaurus in space cover for the February 1975 issue, which we covered on a #TBT last month. Once again, there is no dinosaur in space story in this issue! But Hardy and F&SF editor Ed Ferman seemed determined to encourage one.

The issue does include some amazing fiction, however, starting with “Good Night, Sweethearts,” by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice Sheldon. The story is about a salvage ship answering a distress call at the edge of the Great North Rift. It was included in The Starry Rift. The second story in the issue is “Wild Boys” by Karen Joy Fowler, which many of you may have read in her collection Artificial Things.

“Peace Feelers” is the first solo work of fiction, and the first short story, published by Neil W. Hiller. He died just a couple years later at the age of 41. Hiller had co-authored children’s books with his wife Bonnie Bryant/B.B. Hiller, author of the Saddle Club series and several media tie-ins. Hiller was a former Marine Corps officer. “Peace Feelers” is military sf, about a telepathic enemy, in the form of a dictated after action report.

“Still Life” by David S. Garnett, a story about art and aging, was a finalist for the 1987 Hugo Award. Kit Reed appears in the issue with “The Dog of Truth.” What do you do with a talking dog who can’t help pointing out all your lies? “Gödel’s Doom” by George Zebrowski is an idea story about determinism and free will based on the philosophy of mathematics. “Skintwister” by Paul Di Filippo is an if-this-goes-on tale about cosmetic surgery and biosculpting. It was Di Filippo’s second story in F&SF, and one of his earliest stories overall. He is now the author of the short fiction series, “Plumage from Pegasus,” which has been running in F&SF for a couple decades. The issue closes with “Sea Change” by Scott Baker, an alien artifact story selected by Gardner Dozois for Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 4.

So this issue includes a series story, an award nominee, a Year’s Best story, some familiar names, some newer writers, and a first story. Add in a book column by Algis Budrys, a film column by Harlan Ellison, a science column by Isaac Asimov plus a poem by Robert Frazier, an F&SF Competition, and a bunch of cartoons, and you have another typical issue of F&SF.

Interview: N.J. Schrock on “The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d”

– Tell us a bit about “The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d.”

“Silver Strands” is my first science fiction story and my first piece of fiction to be published.

After working on how to write literary fiction for about three years, I came to the realization that I should consider writing science fiction because it was my first love, and I have a science background that I can bring to bear on the stories. When I started “Silver Strands,” I didn’t know exactly how the plot would unfold. I knew that I wanted to situate it on a planet in another solar system and include alien creatures whose physiology utilized copper instead of iron. I wanted the alien life to be beautiful and the writing lyrical, so I just started writing about these silver strands that dance in a lavender sky because I liked the visual image and the sound of the words. Then I invented why they existed, their function on the planet, and how they might be born. Because they act in community, and the interlopers on this planet also act in community, I switched the narration to first person plural. This set-up propelled the plot forward into a conflict involving actions of self-sacrifice on the part of both groups. When I had clarity on what the story was about, I chose to locate the sun for the planet in the constellation of the Southern Cross. The story was fun to write and came together quickly.

 

– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I work at a co-op art gallery a couple of days per month. We were hanging a show early last year—about the time that I decided to write a science fiction story—when one of the photographers, who is a high school teacher and knows that I have a chemistry degree, told me about a video he had shown in his science class that week. He said that horseshoe crabs and some other mollusks use copper instead of iron in their blood streams. I told him that was an interesting fact, and it caused me to consider a copper-based blood system as a starting point for alien life. I felt they had to be simple though and not complex like Spock in Star Trek because I think copper is overall less efficient at carrying oxygen than iron.

 

– What kind of research, if any, did you do for “The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d?”

I did some research on hemocyanins, but not much. I teach chemistry at a university, and we have a General Chemistry lab experiment in which the students do oxidation–reduction reactions on copper. One of the reactions involves silver. I researched the chemistry just enough to make sure what I was proposing was plausible. What I have spent a lot of time doing is gaining an understanding of how to write literary quality fiction and in particular lyrical prose. I took a workshop with a lyric poet that was helpful. I try to read accomplished writers and poets and study their form. I hope that I succeeded to some extent in writing lyrical fiction with “Silver Strands.”

 

– This is your first published story, but you’ve had a long and varied career outside of fiction. How have these experiences influenced your writing?

Twenty-five years in research and development for a major chemical company exposed me to a lot of technologies and kept me always thinking about new ones. I like engaging in the type of future-oriented thinking that is required in R&D, and now I just continue thinking about the future in the writing of speculative and science fiction. Working on an M.A. in English forced me into an entirely different box, a humanities box. Knowledge gained in literary criticism and critical theory classes is definitely showing up in the novel I’m finishing and the several short stories I have in progress. I feel like I’m now in a good place for me, navigating the spaces between science fiction and the human condition.

 

“The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

You can buy that issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1603.htm

You can subscribe to F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

N.J. Schrock can be contacted at njschrock@gmail.com

Interview: Nancy Kress on “Belief”

– Tell us a bit about “Belief.”

“Belief” is about the clash of two worldviews in our current culture: the super-rationalist view that nothing should be believed except that which can be proven scientifically, which means measured and tested experimentally with tests that can be replicated, or else defined mathematically in precise terms.  The other view is faith-based, whether it is faith in conventional religion or other aspects of the supernatural.  According to a Harris poll, more than half of adult Americans believe in ghosts and one-third in astrology.  On a biological level, this disagreement takes the form of: Are we just a bunch of neurons, or does being human involve some other, larger, cosmic component?

My story, you might have noticed, isn’t actually science fiction or fantasy.  Rather, it is about those things, and our conflicting belief in them.

 

– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I have been thinking about this for a long time.  I think everyone does, in some form, wonder just what is true about humans, about the universe, about anything “more” that might be out there (or in us).  The immediate inspiration, however, was the latest iteration of a long-running argument about these issues between my husband, Jack Skillingstead, and Daryl Gregory.  Daryl is a super-rationalist; Jack is not so sure.

 

– Was “Belief” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

For me, neither the rigors of the scientific method—which in some quarters is taken pretty much as a religion—nor the “squishiness” of faith are completely satisfactory.  “Belief” is my personal way of simultaneously criticizing both–while leaving the door open to both.  Talk about squishy!

But no other stance feels right to me.  Besides, it was fun to turn scientific principles into parallels of the Ten Commandments.

 

– What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

An examination of science as a religion in itself, with all the limitations of dogma, and of faith as so susceptible to the kind of error that comes from passionately wanting to believe.  Which, I know, is a lot to ask of a 6,000-word short story :)

 

– What are you working on now?

I am turning my Nebula-award winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin” into a novel, for Tor.

 

“Belief” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

 

You can buy that issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1603.htm

You can subscribe to F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

F&SF, March 1966

Over the past year, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page. For the new year, we thought it might be good to add them here where they can be easily found under the “F&SF History” tag.

* * *

Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1966, cover by Gray Morrow‪#‎TBT‬ to the March 1966 F&SF. Gray Morrow’s cover illustrates “Angels Unawares” by Zenna Henderson.

“Angels Unawares” is a novelet in The People series by Zenna Henderson. Henderson was an elementary school teacher and science fiction writer from Arizona. F&SF published her very first story in 1951. Between 1952 and 1980, she published 16 stories about The People in F&SF, making it one of the longest running series in the magazine. Although Henderson’s The People were frequently lead stories or anchor stories in F&SF, this was the only cover story for the series. The People are humanoid alien refugees with psychic Gifts hiding on Earth in the 19th-century American west. Difference and isolation are persistent themes in Henderson’s stories. That’s the case in “Angels Unawares,” where a couple moving to the remote mining town of Margin rescue and raise a small girl whose family has been murdered for witchcraft. The People stories were collected in books, nominated for Hugos, and made into a 1971 TV movie (“The People”) starring William Shatner.

The other novelet in this issue is by Kathleen James, a pseudonym for Wilhelmina Baird, which was itself a pseudonym! James’s story “The Blind God’s Eye” is about “a young dishwasher’s tragic affair with an assassin.” How can you not read that?

The rest of the issue contains an assortment of short stories in a variety of genres. “I Remember Oblivion” by Henry Slesar is an sf story about a premise we would now call memory wiping. “Lil, Rorrity, and A Foamin’ Sea of Steam Beer” by Richard Olin is a fantasy farce about an Irishman and magic beer. “White Night” by John Tomerlin is an archeological horror story and “Grow Old Along With Me” by Julius Fast describes an encounter with Satan.

The issue also includes a new poem by Doris Pitkin Buck and a reprint poem by Rudyard Kipling, and a Gahan Wilson cartoon, plus Judith Merrill’s book reviews and Isaac Asimov’s science column. There’s also part 2 of assistant editor Ted White’s editorial essay on the slush pile. (We covered part 1 in a #TBT feature last month.)

“We receive between seventy-five and ninety ‘unsolicited submissions’ every week,” White says, to explain why the magazine uses form rejections. “If we made a personal comment on all of them, we would have little time for anything else.”

In 2016, with electronic submissions, F&SF currently receives between 225-250 submissions every week! But that just means we’ve got a better selection of stories to bring you than ever before.

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