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F&SF, February 1954

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, February 1954, cover by Chesley Bonestell#‎TBT‬ to the February 1954 issue of F&SF and this Chesley Bonestell cover, described inside on the table of contents as “spaceship leaving the moon for Earth’s artificial satellite.”

This early issue of the magazine contains a mixture of famous, famous-in-other-areas, and somewhat mysterious authors.

The first category includes “The Immortal Game” by Poul Anderson, a story about chess that has been reprinted in almost every decade since. The editors describe it as “The Chess-Game Story” — capitals for emphasis — “combining a firstrate game, a touch of science fiction and…incomparable romantic sweep.” Isaac Asimov’s “The Fun They Had” is a reprint described in the introduction as “the only piece of published Asimov that no s.f. aficionado has ever seen.” Originally appearing in a newspaper column for children, “The Fun They Had” has been reprinted more than 100 times since being in F&SF. Now almost everyone has had a chance to see it! And “The Other Alternative” by Mack Reynolds is a time travel western. Reynolds became more prominent with economic/social sf in the ’60s-’70s.

The category of stories published by writers famous in other areas includes “Arrangement in Green” by Doris Gilbert. The editors note that Gilbert is “a firstrate TV writer plagued by sponsors who ‘don’t believe in fantasy.'” Gilbert was a busy screenwriter in the 1950s, writing episodes of Superman, Science Fiction Theater, and many other anthology series. During this time period, Gilbert published only two genre short stories, both fantasy and both appearing in F&SF. “Arrangement in Green” is a metempsychosis story about artists and art dealers. In 1960, Gilbert gave up writing to become a painter. Born in 1928, Gilbert is still alive and working as a landscape painter, primarily of seascapes: http://www.dorisgilbert.com/

J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, created by Joseph Samachson, aka William MorrisonThe issue also includes “Playground,” an exoplanet adventure story by William Morrison, a pseudonym for Joseph Samachson. He is more famous for writing Batman and Superman comics in the ’40s-’50s, creating J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter among others. (More people probably see J’onn J’onzz every week on TV’s Supergirl than have read Samarchson’s short fiction.) Samachson was also a research chemist and gave up writing to focus on biochemistry in the 1950s, retiring as a professor at Loyola.

And the issue also includes “The Miracle in the Broom Closet” by W. Norbert, a pseudonym for MIT professor Norbert Wiener. This is one of only two sf stories written by Wiener, who was the mathematician who originated the modern concept of Cybernetics. (Weiner published Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine in 1948 and revised it in 1961.)

The stories by more mysterious authors category starts with “Somewhere East of Rudyard” by Esther Carlson, who was featured on the cover. Carlson’s story features Dr. Aesop Abercrombie, the third and last in a series appearing in F&SF. It’s also her last published story. Several sources claim that Carlson was pseudonym for Joanna Collier, wife of novelist John Collier, but there’s no evidence for this. Whoever she is or was, she published 7 stories between 1947 and 1954, 5 in F&SF, and then simply stopped writing, at least under this name. “c/o Mr. Makepeace” by Peter Phillips might also qualify. The editors call it a “disturbing blend of psychiatry, fantasy, and parapsychology.” Phillips was an English journalist who published 21 highly regarded sf stories from 1948-1957, then abruptly stopped. Although his 2012 death was reported in Locus and elsewhere, very little/nothing seems to be available online about his life or career after 1957.

This would be a full issue of any magazine, but this issue of F&SF contains several more stories. “Sanctuary” is a telepathic mutant novelet by Daniel F. Galouye, who won the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award at Readercon in 2007. “The Appraiser” by Doris Pitkin Buck, who we’ve covered in other ‪#‎TBTs‬, is a clever deal-with-the-devil story. “Call Me Adam” by Winston Marks is narrated by a man-sized amoeba who teaches a college lecture course.

Add in the Recommended Reading column and a cartoon by Emsh, and you have another varied and interesting issue of the magazine.

Interview: Sarina Dorie on “A Mother’s Arms”

– Tell us a bit about “A Mother’s Arms.”

“A Mother’s Arms” is about a relationship between a surrogate mother and her adopted human, and their cultural misunderstandings and conflicts.

One of the themes that made its way into this story was the idea of family. In general, I enjoy reading science fiction, but I am especially drawn to stories that revolve around families, relationships or women’s issues because those are the things that interest me outside of science fiction.

I write about what I know: I write about relationships, family, love, wanting children, and sometimes even romance between humans and insects–although, I don’t actually know what this is like. I get to imagine that. Someone told me that I write the hottest, alien-insect erotica they’ve ever read. I really didn’t think “The Day of the Nuptial Flight” was even a romance. My mom read it and said, “I liked it except there was a bug in that story. That’s gross.” I think she will like “A Mother’s Arms” more. She will be able to relate to it. But that’s how writing is. A diversity of stories, themes, and topics will appeal to different readers and draw new people in. When a writer can attract people outside of their usual audience, they have a story that resonates. I think that is why The Martian did well—the author got people outside of science fiction readers to read his book. That is why Fifty Shades of Grey did well—it got people who weren’t erotica readers to read it. My goal is to just write the kind of stories I enjoy writing and reading and hope that they resonate with people who like science fiction, but also resonate with people who don’t like science fiction.

 

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

Previously F&SF published my story, “The Day of the Nuptial Flight.” One of the things that stands out in my mind when C.C. Finlay accepted the story, was that he said it was one of the most alien-positive stories he had read. I was pretty excited about that because I had more stories in this world. I started “A Mother’s Arms” before “The Day of the Nuptial Flight” but it was six years before I could think of a happy ending for it.

Partially the story was inspired by the nature of cephalopods on our planet and their lifespan, how they die after mating, and how this would define a cephalopod-like creature’s psychology. There are certain reoccurring themes that come up again and again in my writing. Cephalopod physiology and sexuality makes its way into my stories in the krakens, the Cthulhu-like monsters and multi-limbed aliens that I write about.

I knew “A Mother’s Arms” was part of the same world and I wanted to write another story with alien insects and giant creatures that dwarfed the human colonists, but it was hard to get into that mindset after I had put it aside for so long.

 

– What is it like to write from a non-human perspective, and how do you get into that alien headspace?

I used to live in South Korea and Japan where I taught English. I always felt like an alien. In Korea people stared openly. Sometimes when I was the grocery store children would run up to me and touch my hair and run away. I was told I was exotic because of my blue eyes and golden hair. Sometimes adult strangers would come up to me and touch my hair and it was really uncomfortable to be the foreigner, since I was used to other people being the foreigner. In Japan people didn’t openly stare, but they would study me of the corner of their eyes. I was always making cultural mistakes, which were sometimes a result of my lack of literacy or lack of language skills. Every day I was a stranger in a strange land and it gave me a different perspective on my own culture and what it was like for foreigners who came to our culture. While living abroad I wrote a lot of stories through the perspective of monsters and aliens dealing with xenophobia and the equivalent of racism, or “alienism.”

I find it really easy to write stories about what I know. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to write urban fantasy or stories about teachers who have students who are zombies that are trying to attack them since that is already pretty close to my current reality. When I am writing a story about being a monster or being an alien, it is a lot more challenging these days because I have to immerse myself in that world and that feeling, and have to experience it. I have to remind myself what it was like to be the alien again. I think I must be like a method actor. This probably makes a lot of sense when I consider I am currently writing a series about steampunk (The Memory Thief series) and I have to surround myself with steampunk aesthetics so I can feel I belong to that world. I watch BBC shows and historical documentaries to soak up that era.

People used to say I was a daydreamer when I was a kid. I still am. I am often in another world.

 

– Do you have any more stories planned in the setting of this story and your previous story for F&SF, “The Day of the Nuptial Flight?”

I have two more stories in my head that are set in the same world. It is just a matter of immersing myself back into that world and fleshing out the stories. Of course, ideas pop into my head all the time, begging to be written down. I never know which I will write first—the story that is waiting first in line or if a new one will cut in front of all the others and insists on being first. I really need to find the time to daydream so I can get back to that planet.

Currently I am writing Clockwork Memories, a novel set in The Memory Thief World, also influenced by living in Japan and being an alien. I often give away free books on Goodreads and make announcements for days books are free on Kindle. The best way to find out what is new, what is free and where to find them is to sign up for my newsletter at:

http://eepurl.com/4IUhP

Or on my website:

www.sarinadorie.com

 

“A Mother’s Arms” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

You can buy the March/April 2016 issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1603.htm

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

Interview: Marc Laidlaw on “The Ghost Penny Post”

– Tell us a bit about “The Ghost Penny Post.”

One of my favorite writers, Anthony Trollope, is beloved for his novels, but what seems to have mattered to him most was his career with the Post Office. He spent his life in the civil service, writing his books on the side, and at one point was ready to give them up in order to secure a promotion–which indicates which occupation he considered more important. “The Ghost Penny Post” is the second story I’ve written that owes such a clear debt to Trollope, the other being “The Vicar of R’lyeh.” It just occurred to me that, oddly enough, both stories are about games.

 

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

I got into the game industry in the late ’90s, when massively multiplayer online role playing games were spreading as fast as the internet. MMOs were new, I had never played any sort of RPG, and I was thinking a lot about all types of storytelling, new and old. I started wondering what would have happened if the Bronte Sisters, for instance, had come up with an RPG. How would one make an MMO in an age without the internet? Imagination was not the limiting factor so much as technology. A game designer in any age would exploit the available technology to involve people in their game. I always figured the story would have the plot of a detective story, but starting with a murder seemed too heavy for the airy tale I wanted to tell…and I could never figure out what kind of crime might bring an inspector, and how they would go about discovering what was really afoot in the remote English village where I pictured the story unfolding. I thought about this story for so long without writing it, that I figured I never would. But an invitation to write a story for a video game anthology spurred me to give it a try. That was when I went back to Trollope, and hit upon the idea of following a more ordinary fellow, a civil servant, instead of a colorful detective. (Although the detective still ended up coming along as a kind of foil for the boring guy.) When I finished the tale, it was obvious that there was no video aspect, so it didn’t suit the anthology’s theme except in the most tenuous sense. But even so, it was the story I’d always wanted to write, and I was grateful to finally have found the excuse I needed to get me going.

 

– What are you working on now?

I am taking a break from the game industry, working on fiction again, trying to figure out which ideas are still worth developing. I’ve put some off for so long that they’re dead but they still don’t know it yet. One or two other notions are starting to come into focus. Of interest to F&SF readers, I’ve got another Gorlen Vizenfirthe story underway. I am also planning to get my old novels and stories digitized so I can make them available as ebooks, or on my website, marclaidlaw.com.

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

My latest publication is a novella, a horror story called White Spawn, printed up as a beautiful chapbook by PS Publishing. It’s also available in various electronic editions, including Kindle. More can be found about it here: http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/white-spawn-jhc-by-marc-laidlaw-3658-p.asp

 

“The Ghost Penny Post” 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

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