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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.

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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.

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