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F&SF, June 1997

Over the past couple years, we’ve been doing an irregular series of #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) features here on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1997 art by Stephen Gervais#TBT to the June 1997 issue of F&SF. The Stephen Gervais cover illustrates Robert Reed’s story “Graffiti.”

Last week’s #TBT cover was Ed Ferman’s last issue as editor; this week marks Gordon Van Gelder’s first. (In July we’ll get to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s debut.)

Van Gelder lays out his vision for the magazine in his first editorial: “my goal is to bring you the most entertaining magazine possible each month — the best blend of fiction, the most interesting columns, and a surprise or three to keep you on your toes. I sort of envision this magazine’s appearance each month in your mailbox as being like a visit from an old friend bearing gifts.” This first issue lives up to that goal, with a wide variety of stories, columns, and more.

Reed’s cover story mixes a painter, a small town, and a dark secret. Robert Reed is followed by Kit Reed and her story “Rajmahal,” a story about an American woman’s affair with a rebel in India. M. Shayne Bell offers “Bright, New Skies,” about an ozone-free earth. It began as a play for teaching English to scientists from Siberia. “The Pipes of Pan” by Brian Stableford blends Greek myth with Neverland. It was picked up by Dozois and Hartwell for their respecitve Year’s Bests. “Jelly Bones” by Robin Aurelian (aka Nina Kiriki Hoffman) begins: “Sometimes bones are just an inconvenience. I melted mine.” Then it gets weird. “The Macklin Gift” by Pat McEwen is a disturbing story about a family with strange powers. It was her first appearance in the magazine. Ron Goulart closes the issue with “Why I Never Went Steady With Heather Moon,” the first of his Heather Moon stories.

Reflecting Van Gelder’s interest in books — and his belief that there’s not enough discussion about them — the issue has four book columns. Add in a film column by Kathi Maio, four cartoons, and the announcement of the new science column by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty, and you can see both the continuity with the past and the distinctive mark of the new editor on the magazine.

Interview: John Schoffstall on “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life”

John SchoffstallTell us a bit about “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life.”

This story was written during a dark time in my writing life, when I felt like a failure. I had spent a couple of years writing a novel and a year trying to find an agent for it, without success. I hadn’t written short fiction in a while, but I continued to read it, and noticed that reader interest in short form, at a low ebb around 2004-2008, seemed to be reviving. I thought I’d try my hand at short fiction, instead. That turned out to be a good plan. Since then I’ve written a number of short stories, sold a few, a few more are still out with editors, and some more are in early drafts. In addition, I have sold another novel, HALF-WITCH, a fantasy, which will be published by Small Beer Press in 2018. Please watch for it! My writing life feels more positive these days, although it will always remain true that writing fiction that sells to editors and pleases readers is one of the toughest tasks you can set yourself.

 

Could you discuss the ideas from which this story arose?

As I said, I was in a state of near despair. But despair can be strangely liberating. I told myself, why not try the difficult, the impossible, the stuff everyone says not to do? What did I have to lose?

And that’s why the story is told in 2nd person point-of-view, a POV that most people hate. I hate it, too. So, it was a challenge. Could I redeem this despised POV? I tried to do that by giving it a twist, making it not the voice of an invisible narrator, but the voice of another character in the story. The story, therefore, is pseudo-2nd person. It’s actually 1st person POV, but expressed in an unusual way. The weird POV, I hope, helps set the story’s atmosphere, in which Mook doesn’t know who he is or what he’s supposed to be doing.

I’ve noticed that many of my stories have ‘identity’ as one of their themes. That seems to be the case here, as well. Who am I? What am I? Will I ever find out? Some people find answers to these questions that satisfy them. Many don’t. Some find answers they don’t like.

I also wanted a near-future story, crammed with ideas about what the world might be like, and what human life would be like, for better or worse, in that world. The story background reflects my conception that government and economic structures that have appeared stable for the past two centuries are now showing signs of breaking up, of fissioning into more finely granular structures, perhaps recombining into new things. The nation-state, for example, has been a stable political structure since the Congress of Vienna. At the beginning of the 20th Century, socialists expected the nation-state to fracture along class lines: German workers would have more in common with French workers than Germans had with Frenchman, they thought. World War I violently disproved that idea. But today the nation-state is still under stress in many places, by affinity attractors such as militant Islam. What other forces might fracture nation-states into new forms?

I also wanted to follow current technology and see where it leads. An arms race between increasing surveillance and those who prefer to thwart it; increasing number and varieties of psychoactive drugs and increasing acceptance of their use; evolutionary and emergent forms of economic reorganization; the spread of crypocurrencies.

I’ve always been fascinated, amused, and horrified by those images of a-girl-in-a-test-tube that found their way onto the covers of many pulp SF magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. I wanted to take this concept and turn it on its head.

 

What kind of research, if any, did you do for “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life”?

I didn’t do specific research for this story in particular, but for years I have subscribed to New Scientist and Science News for ideas in current science and tech. I write down ideas that strike my fancy, and sometimes go back and use them. I read The Economist for a broad view of world events. Perhaps because of the lingering shades of the British Empire, the Economist has a wider and deeper view of the world, and pokes its nose into more curious places than American media.

 

What are you working on now?

A far-future novel, of a time when the earth orbits a dying white dwarf star, godlike transcended beings are everywhere underfoot, and science and magic are living together in sin.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have a new author website at http://www.johnschoffstall.com/ and social media presence on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/john.schoffstall.3 and on Twitter @JohnSchoffstall

 

“The First Day of Someone Else’s Life” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1705.htm

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

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Clicking on Mr. Schoffstall’s photo will take you to his website.

F&SF, June 1991

Over the past couple years, we’ve been doing an irregular series of #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) features here on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1991 art by Stephen Gervais#TBT to the June 1991 issue of F&SF. Stephen Gervais’s cover illustrates “The Blessed/Damned Thornston Emerald” by Grania Davis.

This was Edward L. Ferman’s last issue as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and contains one of only 3 editorials that he contributed during his remarkable 25 year run. In it, he wrote: “There is the usual large pile of submissions across the room. Most of these stories aren’t very good, and I admit to a considerable sense of relief that when I finish this pile, there won’t be any others. But what about that small surge of pleasure when I find something special? I’ll miss that, I know.”

Ed Ferman was very good at finding “something special.” Altogether, he edited 306 issues (or 319, if you count those he edited for the year and a month that Joseph Ferman’s name led the masthead), and he won 8 Hugo and 3 World Fantasy awards — among many other recognitions — for his work. The stories and writers he edited and developed won even more.

This last issue shows the range and depth of his tastes as editor. The lead story is “The Dark” by Karen Joy Fowler, a 1992 Nebula finalist. Ferman describes the next story, “Wordworld” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, as “an extraordinary linguistic leap of imagination.” It’s a fun, smart piece of writing, typical of the kind of story you’d find during his editorship. “Deuce” by Henry Slesar belongs to the tiny subgenre of fantasy stories about the sport of tennis.

To these stories, he added some “big names.” “Better Morphosis” by Brian W. Aldiss is a lighthearted reprint from the Nasacon II program book and the IAFA Conference of 1990, a rare reprint in F&SF but typical in that it’s the kind of story that appeared someplace where the magazine’s readers might not normally see it. “Vacuum Cleaner” by Ben Bova is another entry is his astronaut-entrepreneur Sam Gunn series, this time focused on orbital junk. “The Day They All Came Back” by Avram Davidson is a clever piece of flash written by the former F&SF editor that Ferman replaced.

F&SF has always published new writers and non-US writers, and the last issue of Ferman’s leadership is no different. “Blue Angel” by Norwegian author Wennicke Eide is her first — and ended up being her only — story in F&SF. Ferman described the writing as “powerful and disturbing… the work of a major talent.” She also published one story each in Amazing, Asimov’s, and a Tor anthology. We did a quick search to find out what happened to her and her writing after that, but couldn’t find anything. So it goes.

The issue closes with “The Blessed/Damned Thorston Emerald” by Grania Davis, a story involving an inheritance and some adventures.

Ferman celebrated his 80th birthday in March of this year. He still reads F&SF — he let us know that he liked the recent Plumage from Pegasus column by Paul Di Filippo. So today’s #TBT is a tribute to Edward L. Ferman, his long tenure at Fantasy & Science Fiction, and all his contributions to the genre. Thanks, Ed.

Interview: Leah Cypess on “Neko Brushes”

Tell us a bit about “Neko Brushes.”

Neko Brushes is a historical fantasy story set during the Japanese Shogunate, and is about a boy who draws cats that come to life. When a samurai and a noblewoman find uses for his skill, he will face a terrible decision… but in the end, does even he understand the choice he made?

 

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

This story was a blend of two different ideas. A long, long time ago, when I was typing my fiction on Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS, I wrote a story about magical paintings. It had a couple of good twists, but the characters were probably somewhat two-dimensional, and it was set in your standard vaguely medieval high fantasy world. I think I even sent the story to a couple of places, but, like many of the stories I wrote in high school, I eventually realized that it wasn’t particularly good, and I shelved it.

Years later, I downloaded a collection of Japanese fairy tales from Audible, and I really loved “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” I took several versions of it out of the library, and at some point during my reading, that old story popped into my mind. I took the basic idea of my story and applied it to the basic idea of the fairy tale — which was harder than I thought it would be. But I’m quite happy with the result.

I say the story is “inspired by” rather than “retold,” because I started with the basic elements that captivated me — a boy who drew cats that came to life, sent by his family to live in a temple — and then took it in an entirely different direction from the original, which involved a monster rat that was killed by the boy’s cats.

 

Mistwood by Leah CypessWas “Neko Brushes” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I wrote the original story so long ago that I honestly don’t remember how much of my heart and soul I poured into it. :) The process of getting it sold, though, is something I consider part of my personal/professional development. Prior to being accepted in F&SF, an earlier version of this story was accepted twice by anthologies that ended up folding or having other issues prior to publication. The first one was before I even had enough pro sales to be a SFWA member, so it was a bit crushing — but a good reminder that perseverance and a thick skin are crucial in this industry. (I’ve got the perseverance down; the thick skin is a work in progress.)

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I’m thrilled this story, after its very long history, has found a perfect home in F&SF!

 

“Neko Brushes” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1705.htm

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

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Leah Cypess’s website is www.leahcypess.com

If you click on the image of Ms. Cypess’s book Mistwood, a Kirkus 2010 Best Book for Teens, you can purchase a copy on Amazon.

Interview: Gregor Hartmann on “What the Hands Know”

Hartmann - Punching Bag - May 2017Tell us a bit about “What the Hands Know.”

Franden’s literary aspirations are on hold while he works as a writer at a long-running dramatic series. His boss is bugging him to introduce a new character. Looking for lowlife inspiration, he goes to an underground fight club and gets more than he bargained for.

 

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

You’ve asked me that question before. I should start keeping notes about where ideas come from. In retrospect it’s hard to recall a precise trigger. Things fly around in my head. Asteroid miners. Purple flowers. Lawyers wearing body armor. When enough elements clump together, voila! A story.

 

Could you talk about the research and science that underlies “What the Hands Know”?

My day job is translating Japanese patents into English, so I spend a lot of time reading about technology. Materials science isn’t as sexy as cosmology or AI research, but I think it’s neat what a clever person can do with ordinary matter. Real-life examples of shear-thickening non-Newtonian fluids are Silly Putty, flubber, and oobleck.  The key feature is that the molecules are loosely bound, so the material can flex, but if a strong external force is applied the molecules lock together, resist the force, and diffuse the energy. The US Army Research Lab is trying to use this stuff to create liquid body armor.

 

Are fight scenes something you typically write, and do you find them to be a challenge to get correct?

I’ve never written a story this “physical” before. I prefer to have characters solve problems with their wits, not their fists. So it was an interesting writerly challenge to myself to describe intense, realistic, violent action and make each punch reveal character and illuminate the society in which the fight occurred.

A writer pal of mine independently came up with a futuristic fight story at about the same time as I did. We joked we’re starting a new subgenre, to be known as “cyberpunch.”

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Take time to smell the flowers. Sometimes they bear encoded messages.

 

“What the Hands Know” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1705.htm

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

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

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