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Interview: Rich Larson on “The Nostalgia Calculator”

Tell us a bit about “The Nostalgia Calculator.”

“The Nostalgia Calculator” is a story I wrote in 2013 trying to win the Dell Award for Undergraduate Science Fiction. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at consumerism and apocalypse.


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

I wrote it as a tribute to M.T. Anderson’s feed, which was a very influential book for me as a kid. feed touched on the concept of nostalgia regression, but only as a brief aside in a much more complicated and brilliant story than this one.


Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Because of my upbringing I had a very difficult re-entry into North American consumer culture. This story pokes fun at it, but also acknowledges the allure that’s worn me down over the years to the point where I buy brand new clothes every once in a while.


What are you working on now?  Any other stories coming out soon?

I’m finishing a novelette for an upcoming fantasy adventure anthology. I think I’ll have new stories out this month in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, and possibly Interzone. I’m also seeking representation for a YA novel that’s sort of a Half-Life 2 / Animorphs / The Thief Lord mash-up set in a city post alien invasion. Lots of big action set pieces and some fun characters. It’s good.


“The Nostalgia Calculator” appears in the May/June 2016 issue of F&SF.

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Want to find out more about Rich Larson?  This is his website:

F&SF, May 1956

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, May 1956, cover by Emsh‪‪‪#‎TBT‬ to the May 1956 issue of F&SF and this cover by Emsh, aka Ed Emshwiller, one of F&SF‘s most prolific cover artists. Although the image doesn’t illustrate a story in the issue, it does appear to be a picture of Emsh’s wife and frequent, writer Carol Emshwiller. Carol Emshwiller’s first sf story was published in 1956 in Future. She began appearing in F&SF in 1957 with “The Coming.”

The lead story this issue is the novelet “Rite of Passage” by the married team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. According to the story intro, Henry Kuttner and Catherine Moore were “less a writing team than a case of literary multiple personality.” Over a very short period, before Kuttner’s untimely death, the pair published millions of words under 19 different pseudonyms. Moore continued to write after Kuttner died in 1958, and would have become the first woman author to be SFWA Grand Master but her family declined the honor on her behalf, in part because of illness. Editor Anthony Boucher wrote: “the most important thing about the Kuttners is not how much they have written, but how astonishingly well.” “Rite of Passage” is typical Kuttner-Moore, smart and suspenseful, an sf story about a rational man in a society ruled by superstition.

Real Steal movie poster 2011This issue also includes two other notable stories. “Steel,” a novelet by Richard Matheson, about boxing robots. In 2011, it was turned into the movie “Real Steel” starring Hugh Jackman. (As a side note, sometime it would be interesting to compile a list of all the movies made that were based on stories in F&SF.) The other memorable story is “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” by Ray Bradbury, which was included in Medicine For Melancholy and S Is For Space, and many other anthologies and collections.

These three sf stories are balanced out by the usual range of tone you see in an issue of F&SF, but with a heavier dose of sf than usual. “Technological Retreat” by G. C. Edmondson is an alien – or as they’re referred to here, an “ET” – story with touches of humor. “Machina Ex Machina” by Williard Marsh is time travel flash with a twist. “Emergency Operation” by Arthur Porges is medical procedure sf. “The Barbarian” by Poul Anderson is sword and sorcery satire featuring Cronkheit the Barbarian. “The Pliable” by Daniel Galouye is military space sf.

The issue also includes of “Mars and Men,” two essays in response to an article that suggested women should be part of space travel to Mars. The original article, published in The Saturday Review, stated controversially that women needed to be in space “to relieve sexual tension.” “Nice Girls on Mars” by Poul Anderson answered that men don’t need women in order to go exploring and do science: “Men have done it before, and they will be able to do it again.”

But regular F&SF contributor Miriam Allen DeFord, in “News for Dr. Richardson,” the original author, offers a more feminist and scathing response: “I am going to tell Dr. Robert S. Richardson a secret. Women are not walking sex organs. They are human beings. They are people, just like men.” Among other things, DeFord argues that the space program needs women who are “physicists, chemists, astronomers, engineers” and every other professional discipline. The whole essay is such a rational and comprehensive dismantling of sexism and sexist assumptions that it feels like it could be contemporary. In an issue filled with memorable stories, Miriam Allen DeFord’s essay is one of the highlights.

A poem and a book column round out the issue.

Interview: Charlotte Ashley on “More Heat Than Light”

Tell us a bit about “More Heat Than Light.”

It’s a bit of historical fantasy that asks what might have happened if the French Revolution had been taken up in New France (Canada), complicated by the fact that my version of the Québec wilderness is a good deal wilder than the real one. While enthusiastic young revolutionaries are trying to fight for equality and change, monsters are circling the city just waiting for the blood to start spilling. And, of course, in the aftermath of a revolution, there will be a lot of blood spilt.


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

I actually wrote it for an anthology call about “revolutions” that never happened. But I suspect the story would have come out of me eventually regardless. I’m fascinated by revolutions, the French one in particular. That period right at the start, when everyone is still so idealistic and enthusiastic, can be downright wacky. Revolutionaries want it all, but after the dust has settled, they often only end up having achieved some of it. I wanted to look more closely at the kinds of characters who stand to gain a lot by their revolutionary ideals, and who will lose even more if the revolution doesn’t succeed the way they need it to. And, as always, I wanted a lush setting for a Dumas-ian swashbuckling romp.


What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I read a lot about the real French Revolution, though most of what I learned just informed the story’s backdrop. The next stage was to research what Québec City was like in the late 18th century. I looked especially at what the politics of the time were like – which First Nations were involved, what relations with the English and the Americans looked like, who else might have been in the city at the time. I wanted my wilderness wilder to protect, to some extent, the nations that had been there before Europeans showed up, so I read a lot about early-contact Anishinaabe. Most of this didn’t make it into the story either, but I wanted to be mindful anyway.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I have another story out this month in an anthology called Clockwork Canada (ed. Dominik Parisien, Exile Editions) that I feel is a sort of sister story to this one. “La Clochemar” takes some of the themes – giant monsters in the Canadian wilderness, strong indigenous cultures, adventures – and pushes them even further. “More Heat Than Light” is the grown-up version about honour and politics – “La Clochemar” has a lot more monsters and running away.

As ever, links to all my work, long with my thoughts on all things bookish, can be found at

“More Heat Than Light” appears in the May/June 2016 issue of F&SF.

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Editor’s Note for May/June 2016

The May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is now on sale! You can order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon or AmazonUK. Or just subscribe now and never miss another issue!

This is the 725th issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2016, cover by Max BertoliniMax Bertolini’s cover illustrates “The Stone War” by Ted Kosmatka. Bertolini is a multi-talented artist who did the chocolate bunny cover for our September 2005 issue that featured Kelly Link’s “Magic For Beginners.” His first cover for us illustrated our June 2004 issue, twelve years ago, and this issue marks his 12th cover for the magazine. Bertolini lives in Italy, but his work has appeared in comics and on covers of books and magazines around the world. You can find out more and see examples of his work at


For the past few years, Ted Kosmatka has been busy writing video games and working on novels. His quantum physics driven thriller, The Flicker Men, was published last year to wide acclaim. With this new novelet for F&SF, Kosmatka shows his versatility, using the fantasy setting to explore some big thematic issues. It’s unlike anything we’ve read in quite some time.


This issue contains several other fantasy stories. Canadian author Charlotte Ashley debuted in F&SF last year with “La Héron,” a Dumas-inspired tale about dueling and broken vows that is currently a finalist for the Prix Aurora award. Ashley returns this month with “More Heat Than Light,” a new adventure set in a parallel world where the French Revolution comes to Quebec and revolutionaries take up arms against the English in the monster-ridden wilderness. In “Steamboat Gothic,” Albert E. Cowdrey returns to the fictional suburbs of St. Genevieve Parish, Louisana, previously visited with “The Private Eye” in our August 2009 issue. And “Ash” by Susan Palwick is a look at tiny houses, and the things we make room for in our lives and why.

Our science fiction this month includes “Last of the Sharkspeakers,” a novelet by Brian Trent that we can’t say too much about without spoiling some of the surprises. “The Nostalgia Calculator” by Rich Larson is wry science fiction satire by one of the field’s most energetic new young talents. “The Great Silence” was written by Ted Chiang for a video installation by artists Allora & Calzadilla at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum. We’re reprinting the text here for our readers who haven’t had the chance to read it. “Caribou: Documentary Fragments” by Joseph Tomaras is a look at biological behavioral controls – how they might work and how they might go wrong.

On the horror side, we offer “The Secret Mirror of Moriyama House” by Yukimi Ogawa, a multi-lingual writer living in Toyko who has published a small handful of outstanding stories over the past few years. This is her first appearance in F&SF.

This month’s novella, “Coyote Song” by Pat MacEwen, brings you a story at the intersection of horror, fantasy, science, and police procedurals. Regular readers of the magazine know Pat MacEwen for her fiction, most recently “The Lightness of the Movement” (March/April, 2014), which was a Tiptree Award finalist, but her work outside these pages is just as interesting. It includes a decade as a Crime Scene Investigator, war crimes investigations for the International Criminal Tribunal, and her current position as a consultant on archaeological matters involving human remains. Her new novella combines forensics with three traditions of magic – Cambodian, Native American, and Voudoun. We think it will surprise you.


Every issue features one story that we also offer for download online, via our free electronic digest for Kindle. (The UK version is available here.) This month’s free story — which you can also find in the print edition — is “The Long Fall Up” by William Ledbetter.

“The Long Fall Up” is a classic science fiction story that explores how humanity will bring forth new generations in microgravity? And what happens when the people who control access to gravity control reproductive rights? William Ledbetter has worked for almost thirty years in the aerospace industry, where he has designed aircraft components, and helped design rockets and parts of the International Space Station. Now he turns that expertise to fiction, and brings us a story about the ways people adapt technology to choose their own destinies.

Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine – and why don’t you? – you can click on this link and read Ledbetter’s story and all the columns in the issue for free.


Charles de Lint reviews the Bookburners serials by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery, Nebula Awards Showcase 2015, edited by Greg Bear, the Never Never trilogy by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher, a pair of genre-themed art books by Design Studio Press, and Here’s To My Sweet Satan by George Case. Elizabeth Hand reviews Interior Darkness: Selected Stories by Peter Straub, Good Girls by Glen Hirshberg, and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. David J. Skal reviews the first season of Amazon’s television series “The Man In The High Castle” based on the novel by Philip K. Dick. We share the winners from our F&SF Competition #91. And for our Curiosities column, Paul Di Filippo reads Twilight Stories by Rhonda Broughton, an 1872 collection of fantastic stories by one of the forgotten early masters of the genre.


After you read the issue, or even part of it, we hope you’ll share your thoughts with us. We can be found on:

In the meantime… enjoy!

C.C. Finlay
Fantasy & Science Fiction

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