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F&SF, April 1995

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, April 1995, cover by Jill Baumann‪‪#‎TBT‬ to the April 1995 F&SF and this Jill Bauman cover for “El Hijo de Hernez” by Marcos Donnelly.

The issue leads with “The Lincoln Train,” Maureen McHugh’s chilling alternate history that asks if you can fight evil with evil. The intro mentions that the story was written for Mike Resnick’s Alternate Tyrants anthology, but that volume wouldn’t come out until 1997. In the meantime, McHugh’s story was published in F&SF and won the Hugo and Locus Awards and was also a finalist for the Nebula and Sidewise Awards. It was selected for Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 13, the Nebula Awards Showcase 31, The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction: The Fiftieth Anniversary Anthology, and The Best of the Best: 20 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, as well as being translated and reprinted in numerous other places.

It’s followed by “Another Fine Mess,” a light-hearted ghost story by Ray Bradbury, who was still writing some top work at 75.

“Old Mother” by Linda Nagata is a science fiction story in which poisonous snakes have invaded Hawaii and spaceships are leaving Earth. (Coincidence?)

“The Finger” by Ray Vukcevich is a fantasy story satirizing Robert Bly and the 1990s Men’s Movement.

“Shootin’ Babies” by Jeff Bredenberg is a delightfully weird sf story about a toxic lake that turns DNA samples into slime babies.

“A Place With Shade” by Robert Reed is a terraforming story that’s a sequel to his 1992 novel The Remarkables.

“El Hijo de Hernez” by Marcos Donnelly is a near future story that mixes science fiction and fantasy.

Although not counted officially with the fiction, the issue also offers a “Plumage From Pegasus” humor column by Paul Di Filippo. “Pencil Me In,” skewering time-wasting on the internet, was just Di Filippo’s second column in the series. It’s now been running for 22 years.

The issue rounds out with Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s editorial about her year’s reading, a couple book columns, and some cartoons.

Bradbury has passed away, as has Bredenberg, who died untimelyily from brain cancer, and Donnelly seems to have stopped writing genre fiction, but 20 years later, Rusch, McHugh, Nagata, Vukcevich, Reed, and Di Filippo are all still active in the field and entertaining readers. That’s a pretty good track record.

F&SF, April 1976

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, April 1976, cover by Bonnie Dalzell and Rick Sternbach‪#‎TBT‬ to the April 1976 F&SF and this cover by Bonnie Dalzell and Rick Sternbach for Frederick Pohl’s novel Man Plus.

During the 1970s, after the sf novel market briefly collapsed, F&SF published serialized novels with some regularity. Man Plus appeared in the April, May, and June issues of F&SF, and was published as a book by Random House later that year. The plot is this: a man becomes a cyborg to colonize Mars and save humanity, but the transformation and isolation make him lose touch with his own humanity. Man Plus was notable because it was the first new Pohl novel since The Age of Pussyfoot was serialized in Galaxy in 1965. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1977, and was a finalist for the Hugo and Campbell Memorial awards as well.

But the issue also contains a lot of other fiction. “Them and Us and All” by Sonya Dorman is a mind control sf story. “Sweets to the Sweet” by Jeanne Parker starts off like an sf story about dealing with the aged and turns into a horror story. Ron Goulart offers a Chameleon Corps adventure with “At the Starvation Ball” while “The Hospice” by Robert Aikman is supernatural horror.

But the highlight of the issue probably has to be an essay/story double feature by Barry Malzberg. The essay, “Rage, Pain, Alienation and Other Aspects of the Writing of Science Fiction,” explains why the story is the last sf he’ll ever write. Malzberg’s essay begins as a review of The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in America by Richard Kostelanetz. Malzberg both embraces and loathes Kostelanetz’s central thesis, that a publishing cabal was suppressing younger writers at the time. But, as always, with Malzberg, his rant takes a deeply personal and autobiographical sf-related turn as well. His conclusion – “No future here. Perhaps no future for writing in our time.” – eventually proved wrong. (Although perhaps he would disagree!) In either case, he never wholly left the field of sf, and in June 2003 F&SF even published a Special Barry Malzberg issue.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 2003, cover by Walter Velez“Seeking Assistance” – Malzberg’s would-be last story – is about a man who mysteriously loses his left hand and watches his foot shrink. It’s the sort of story we’d label slipstream these days. Bruce Sterling didn’t mention Malzberg when he coined the term but could have. At one point the story’s narrator says: “The situation is hopeless. One must cultivate patience and accept one’s inability to change things.” It’s thematically of a piece with his essay, and the two together may be the most interesting reading in the issue.

There are also book reviews and a cartoon by Gahan Wilson, a film review by Baird Searles, a science column by Isaac Asimov, plus one of F&SF‘s rare letter columns, in which Harlan Ellison replies to a critic and a reader adroitly dissects feminism and sf. “…science fiction has probably never been an all-male field,” says reader Paula Emmons. “However, I doubt that anyone could say that it has ever been a balanced field.” She had other important things to add about women changing the nature of the genre for the better.

All in all, a more varied and interesting F&SF issue than the cover might suggest to contemporary readers.

F&SF, April 1961

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, April 1961, cover by EmshNot every cover is a great cover, even when it’s by a great artist. #TBT to the April 1961 F&SF and this (to me) baffling untitled illo by Emsh. Maybe someone who reads this will know something more about this particular cover. Perhaps it was an April Fool’s joke by editor Robert P. Mills? He wanted something that would provide a-peel to readers?

There’s no hint of a joke with the great stories inside. This issue includes Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who Sang,” which introduced brainships to readers and launched seven novels (so far). Although James Blish had written a brainship story in 1941, McCaffrey’s novelet popularized the idea and established many of its tropes. Although intended as hopeful stories for disabled children, society changed so much in 50 years they were later criticized by disability activists. The story was the first of several Helva stories and became Chapter 1 of The Ship Who Sang novel. It was McCaffrey’s 3rd published story. Judith Merrill cites the series as a way to trace McCaffrey’s growth as a writer.

The issue also includes the novelet “Nomansland” by Brian W. Aldiss, the second in his far future Hothouse series. “Hothouse” appeared two months earlier, in the February F&SF. Compared to other F&SF editors, Mills’s story introductions are often short and simply tease the plot, but he clearly recognized something special in Aldiss’s story, calling it “wonderfully fresh and original” and promising more to come. The Hothouse fix-up The Long Afternoon of Earth, which includes “Nomansland,” won a 1962 Hugo Award for Short Fiction.

The rest of the issue contains an interesting mix of stories. “Softly While You’re Sleeping” by Evelyn E. Smith is a polished vampire tale. “The Hills of Lodan” by Harold Calin is space opera, one of only 4 stories the author published. The other 3 appeared in Amazing. “Dead Man’s Bottles” is a clever and beautifully written story about kleptomania by English poet and I, Claudius novelist Robert Graves. “Judas Bomb” by Kit Reed is a smart piece of beatnik-flavored social sf with a twist. Merrill included it in her 1962 Year’s Best volume. For fantasy, “Daddy’s People” is the first published genre short story by Yale University PR man and children’s writer Richard Banks.

The last story in the issue is by Nils Peterson, in the form of an advice colum, “Cosmic Sex and You” written by a “Dr. Priapus.” Questions for Dr. Priapus appear in the form of limericks. As editor of both F&SF and its companion magazine Venture, Mills was interested in pushing boundaries with sexually themed stories. “Cosmic Sex and You” ends with an astonishingly terrible pun, which also seems to be a hallmark of Mills, as this issue of F&SF includes a lengthy “Super-Feghoot” (Mills’s term) by Grendel Briarton, aka Reginald Bretnor, with an even worse ending.

A poem by Doris Pitkin Buck, a science column by Isaac Asimov, and a book review column by Alfred Bester round out the issue. There’s also an editorial which advertises the brand new Lifetime Subscription option for the low price of $50! Since there are at least two contributors to the issue who are still with us 55 years later, this seems like a pretty good bargain. Keep that in mind if you invent a time machine and ever want to go back and give a gift to yourself.

Interview: “The Language of the Silent” by Juliette Wade and Sheila Finch

– Tell us a bit about “The Language of the Silent.”

This story is about a lingster who goes in to do a job she considers “easy” and gets a lot more than she bargained for on several fronts. I think it’s really important for us to remember that even translation is a complex process with a lot of pitfalls, and when we think we know it all, we’re most likely wrong.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you and Sheila Finch to collaborate on it?

I was struck one day by the question of what a linguist would do if she suddenly lost her most important tool – her ability to hear speech sounds. It seemed like such an obvious idea on the face of it that I contacted Sheila Finch to ask if she’d already written such a story. She said she hadn’t, and asked if I’d like to collaborate on the story concept!


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for “The Language of the Silent?”

A large part of my research was reading and exploring Sheila Finch’s Guild of Xenolinguists stories, because I was working as a guest in her universe and really wanted to make sure I understood the landscape that was already there. I also did some research on the Aztecs and their interaction with Hernán Cortés. A great deal of my knowledge of Aztec culture comes from my personal relationships with Aliette de Bodard and T.L. Morganfield, who have written whole novels in this culture and whose work I used as inspiration.


– What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a novelette in the Allied Systems universe. Rulii, a drug-addicted alien from an oppressed population on the planet Aurru, has discovered that his human friend Parker is trapped in an observation blind in the lands of the Barbarians. Naturally, he will attempt to rescue him. I’m also working on Book 2 of my Varin series, while I wait for news on Book 1.

My website is, where I host reports from my Dive into Worldbuilding hangout series.


“The Language of the Silent” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

You can buy that issue here:

You can subscribe to F&SF here:

Interview: John Murphy on “The Liar”

– Tell us a bit about “The Liar.”

The Liar is set in northern New Hampshire, in a fictional town up around Berlin called Versailles (pronounced to rhyme with “sails”). That’s a really beautiful part of the country, year-round, but it really shines in the fall. Greg Kellogg is the local handyman, and something of a fibber. He’s good at it, sure, but he’s gotten kind of complacent and set in his ways. A few things happen in this story to shake him out of that complacency, requiring some good lies and some hard truths.


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

I’m a member of the Codex Writer’s Group, which has periodic internal contests to motivate us to write outside our comfort zones and get critiques from each other. The Liar was my entry for the novella contest one year, and benefited tremendously from the feedback of my talented friends there. They persuaded me that this one was worth polishing, that the original ending was terrible (it was), and that I should get it out there for folks to read. And, well, here we are.


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

Yes, in a couple ways. I’m a transplant to New Hampshire, having moved here for grad school about 15 years ago from West Virginia. I’d been coming up here on vacation for much longer than that, though, to visit my grandparents who lived at Lake Winnepesaukee. I’ve been wanting to set something here for a while, then, to show it the way I see it.

I don’t as a rule like to Tuckerize (putting the names of people I know into stories) but The Liar is an exception. When I first moved to New Hampshire, I took an apartment in a house built in the 1790s, owned and maintained by an 80 year old engineer by the name of Frank Dulac. He was a great guy: happy to chat about anything under the sun, he never raised the rent once in the seven years I lived there, and I’d often wake up at 7am on a snowy Saturday to the sound of him up on the roof shoveling snow. When I found out shortly before writing The Liar that he’d passed away, I decided to remember him in it.


– What are you working on now?

I’m working on a couple things. My main project is a novel-length science fiction mystery, set in Boston shortly after the completion of the Green Line extension (when I mention that at Boston cons I always get a laugh). Beyond that, I’ve got some short stories and flash pieces in various states of disrepair.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

The thing with the cell towers disguised as California pine trees is completely true, extra bird shit and all.

(…OK, the bird shit part isn’t true, but I think it’s funny.)


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

You can buy that issue here:

You can subscribe to F&SF here:

Visit John Murphy’s blog at:

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