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Editor’s Note for November/December 2017

Welcome to issue #734, the November/December 2017 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The new issue can be found in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon, AmazonUK, and — now, available worldwide and in every electronic format — through Weightless Books.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2017, cover by Kent BashThis month’s cover illustrates “Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm. The artwork is by Kent Bash. To see more of his work, visit his website at http://kentbash.com/.

EVERYTHING HINGES…

Although she had already been publishing in the pulp magazines for several years, Kate Wilhelm first appeared in F&SF with the January 1962 issue. That story, “A Time to Keep,” was a psychologically fraught tale about a professor with repressed memories, and it showed the kind of character insights and close study of constrained lives that made her work so remarkable during the rest of the 1960s. In the following decades, Wilhelm went on to win two Hugo and several Nebula awards, most recently in 2006 and 2009 respectively, and in 2016 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America renamed their Solstice Award — for outstanding contributions to the field — to the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award.

Her most recent story for F&SF was “The Fullness of Time” in our July/August 2012 issue. Time has long been a theme in her work, and this one is no different. How can it be, when there are ghosts involved? Of all the different “Attachments” found in this new story, the most important one may belong to a person who once made hinges.

THE RETURN OF GORLEN THE BARD

If you’re not already familiar with the adventures of the bard Gorlen Vizenfirthe, all you need to know is that he’s been cursed — his hand replaced with the stone paw of a gargoyle named Spar, who is reciprocally afflicted. Together, the two of them search for a cure to their problem and frequently end up in fresh varieties of trouble.

Gorlen debuted in the October 1995 issue of F&SF with “Dankden” and has returned six times since, most recently with the cover story “Rooksnight” in our May/June 2014 issue. Marc Laidlaw, Gordon and Spar’s creator and chronicler, tells us that this new adventure may not be the conclusion of their story, but it is certainly a conclusion. If you’re a fan of sword and sorcery adventures, this novella is one you don’t want to miss.

MORE GREAT FICTION

We’ve told you about the ghost story and the fantasy adventure that highlight this issue, but don’t think we’ve neglected science fiction.

We have a trio of hard sf speculative stories to entertain you this month. “Carbo,” a new novelet by Nick Wolven, offers a fresh take on self-driving cars that we haven’t seen before. “By the Red Giant’s Light” is a new Known Space story from Larry Niven that takes place at the edge of our solar system near the end of our sun. And “Racing the Rings of Saturn” by newcomer Ingrid Garcia, a young writer from Spain, looks at extreme sports in a future where the stakes are political as well as personal. Joining these three, you’ll find “Marley and Marley” by J. R. Dawson, a thoughtful time travel tale about the things that can happen when an older version of ourselves meets a younger version.

We also have some terrific and memorable fantasy lined up for you.

Philip K. Dick Award winner Meg Elison makes her F&SF debut with “Big Girl,” a story about the realization that women are always the wrong size, sometimes astonishingly so. R. S. Benedict — whose first published story was the highly acclaimed “My English Name,” inspired in part by her time in China, in our May/June issue earlier this year — returns with “Water God’s Dog,” another unique and powerful story, this time inspired in equal parts by Sumerian literature and a frustrating job hunt. And David Erik Nelson, whose novella “There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House” was the cover story in our July/August issue, moves from the city to the country with a disturbing road trip through the Midwest in “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.”

And finally we have a delightful new poem for you, “Down at the Goblin Boutique,” by the Irish poet and novelist John W. Sexton.

OUR REGULAR COLUMNS AND FEATURES

Charles de Lint recommends some Books to Look For by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli, Dean Koontz, A. G. Carpenter, Alan Baxter, Grady Hendrix, Christopher Farnsworth, and Angie Stanton. In Musing on Books, Michelle West reviews new books by Elizabeth Bear, Tanya Huff, Linda Nagata, and graphic novels by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. And in our monthly Curiosities column, rediscovering lost writers and books, David Langford turns out an early holiday treat by reviewing A Christmas Garland, a collection of seasonal parodies — whose targets included Kipling and H. G. Wells — by Max Beerbohm, originally published in 1912.

And beyond books? In his latest film column, David J. Skal provides a critical evaluation of Universal’s newest version of “The Mummy” and their monster movie strategy in general. The print version of this issue also offers up fresh cartoons by Bill Long, Danny Shanahan, Nick Downes, Arthur Masear, and S. Harris. Plus we bring you the winners of F&SF Competition #94, “Explain a Plot Badly,” and invite you to participate in our next competition — “Titles the Rearrange.”

THE SCIENCE COLUMN

At the beginning of this year, the F&SF Science Column by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty went from being a twice-yearly occurrence to a monthly feature. Murphy and Doherty had been writing the column for twenty years, it’s very popular with readers, and the change just seemed to make sense. The first full year of their column concludes with “The Science of Invisibility,” which looks closely at our eyes and what we can and can’t see.

We are saddened to report that, as we were going to press with this issue, Paul Doherty passed away following a brief battle with cancer. As a result, this month’s science column concludes with a short remembrance of him written by his friend and colleague Pat Murphy. While there will be no science column in our January/February issue, Pat will return in March/April 2018 with the last piece they were working on together and a longer tribute.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

We hope you’ll share your thoughts about the issue with us. We can be found on:

So grab a copy in your favorite format and enjoy.

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction
fandsf.com | @fandsf

Interview: Jeremy Minton on “The Care of House Plants”

Tell us a bit about “The Care of House Plants.”

I’m not quite sure how to categorise it. It’s either an SF story with a massively mean streak, or it’s a horror story disguised as a techno-thriller. The conception is archetypal. A pair of innocent strangers arrive at a place where something weird is happening and get into lots of trouble.

In this case, the strangers are a couple of enforcers from a biotech consortium hunting a researcher who has run off with one of their products, and the weird place is an English country cottage where the vegetation has got badly out of hand. There are mysteries and lies. Secrets to uncover. There is swearing and violence and blood.

 

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

My writing group runs this competition where you can grab an appealing title out of a long list of options, then write a story based on that title. Well, the title I’d picked for myself was beautiful and euphonious and deeply evocative, and I couldn’t figure out a damn thing to do with it.

I’d been prodding at it for a couple of days, trying to turn it into something, and not having any joy. And I was getting quite grumpy about it, because that’s my natural state when I’m stuck.

So, my wife and I went to this craft fair in a town down the road, and I was stomping around, looking at things and not really seeing them because my mind was taken up with this title. And there, in this little box of second hand books, I see an old gardening manual called “The Care Of House Plants.” (I’d love to say that it was “Just lying there amongst the zinnias” like Audrey II in Little Shop Of Horrors, but sadly that wasn’t the case.) The moment I registered the title my brain went, “That’s a horror story” and the story situation had pretty much presented itself before I got back to my car.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple. Pretty well all the elements which occurred to me in that burst of inspiration, the house, the snow, the strangers, the plants, the little old lady, were still there in the final version. None of them was how I originally imagined. Most of the time, the character and plot changes were the result of technical issues. The characters had to turn into what they did and act the way they acted because of the way the world of the text turned out to work.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “The Care of House Plants?”

To be honest, the thing which consumed most time for me was looking up names of flowering plants. Ironically, I’m terrible at gardening; I’m the kind of person who can plant mint and have it die. But I do a pretty solid visual imagination, and it took quite a while to figure out the kinds of plants which would fit my internal image of the rooms which Harry and Grayling were going to discover.

As for the science, well, what can I say? There’s a line of Douglas Adams’s from the radio series of the Hitch-hikers Guide To The Galaxy which I like to keep in mind when I’m constructing a plot: “What will Zaphod’s mission turn out to be? Will it be challenged and exciting, or will it just be a monster wanting to take over the universe for no very good reason?”

With House Plants, I had the image of the house and the idea that the plants were somehow monstrous, and I really wanted to do something with that, but so long as the plants just felt like unreasonable monsters the whole thing seemed deeply unsatisfying. I needed a reason why the plants were there and were causing trouble, and the search for that reason gave me most of the technical aspects of the story.

Two things, which turned in to the basis for the solution, came together in a rather happy way. One was the thought that this was an industrial process gone wrong. The second was given to me by the podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish. For those who happen not to know it, this is a weekly comedy podcast in which the research team behind the BBC show QI discuss interesting and unusual facts which they have discovered. In this case, the fact in question concerned the subject of mycorrhizae, which are a fungal network linking together various different species in an ecosystem and allowing them, in a strange and rather beautiful way, to pool resources and even share a sort of version of non-verbal information about predators and other environmental threats.

The overlap between biological and computational systems is something I find endlessly fascinating, and it’s a theme I go back to it on a regular basis. In consequence this idea was right up my street. It seemed to me that the idea was something that bio-engineers might want to use, and also an idea which could go wrong quite easily. I think it’s fair to say that I have pushed the idea, and the capacities of the plants, a long way farther than is technically plausible, but I guess that’s the joy of being a writer rather than a scientist.

 

What are you working on now?

There’s a great long list of short story ideas all clamouring for attention, but sadly they’re going to have to clamour for a while longer because for the last three years or so everything has been queued up behind this novel-shaped thing, involving criminal conspiracy in a post-human, post-Global Disaster world which I’m desperately trying to get finished before events push it out of the realm of speculative fiction.

For me, there’s this long, pretty open-ended period during story construction where I know I’ve got something to work on, and I’m kicking around ideas and situational interactions and seeing the kind of things which go together but don’t actually have a story, in terms of character and action and narrative shape. Eventually, if I’m lucky, something will coalesce out of this mess of ideas and concepts, like life emerging out of the primeval ooze.

About six week ago, that process of emergence started to occur and I felt like I was getting a solid form for the story. The way I’m thinking about it at the moment is that it’s a bit like Reservoir Dogs except that the criminals are human-like robots and rather than robbing an LA jewellery store, they’re trying to lift a rogue AI off the back of a two hundred metre long mechanical centipede.

I imagine that work on this is going to keep me occupied through until the end of the year, after which it would be really nice to go back to doing more work on some short fiction. And even nicer if I could get something else into F&SF which wasn’t introduced with the phrase, appeared a decade ago.

 

“The Care of House Plants” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1709.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/

Interview: Rebecca Campbell on “On Highway 18”

Tell us a bit about “On Highway 18.”

“On Highway 18” is about the volatility of friendship at the end of high school. It’s about small towns and hitchhiking and pit parties and the many ways in which young women are vulnerable.

It’s also about a ghost and about what we leave behind when we grow up.

 

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

My growing understanding of my own past, and experiences I had, as well as experiences I escaped (though others didn’t). Ghost stories are about something lost returning, and that’s often how my own memories feel to me.

I’ve always loved the story of the phantom hitchhiker, which is both a ghost and a kind of prefigure—a message about what could happen to a young woman alone, and a record of something that did happen. Just like all good urban legends, the ghostly figure on the highway also brings a sense of dread into an otherwise ordinary landscape. It’s a way to access the deeply weird that co-exists with the everyday.

 

Was “On Highway 18” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Very personal—which made it hard to write, though probably therapeutic. I used my own experience hitchhiking in the story—in fact, the only time I was ever afraid hitchhiking was also the last time I hitchhiked, and I used that in the story as a turning point for Petra’s character.  I also used the unsettling early experiences young women often have when they start attracting attention: men shouting from cars, men asking if you want to “party.”

 

What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

A sense of place: small logging towns, Canada’s Pacific coast, pit parties with cheap car stereos playing Bon Jovi. And a sense of time: before cellphones & social media when people couldn’t necessarily be found if they didn’t want to be.

I also wanted to explore an emotional landscape, where we can be haunted by alternative possibilities as well as the dead.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m scrambling with a novel, and I’m always working on short fiction, mostly about islands and rainforests and hauntings (that seems to be my territory).

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for reading! If you want to see my other stuff check out whereishere.ca

 

“On Highway 18” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1709.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/

Interview: Lisa Mason on “Riddle”

Lisa MasonTell us a bit about “Riddle.”

As a writer and a reader, I’m much more interested in inner space than outer space. In stories about people living on society’s fringe than in starship captains or kings. In tales exploring consciousness, gender, and identity than in tales of derring-do, fisticuffs, and gun battles. (Though there are some fisticuffs in “Riddle.”)

I prefer tight, bold prose and try to achieve that effect in “Riddle.”

 

 

 

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

I have no idea—for once. This is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever written. I will say I wanted to set a supernatural story in my fascinating old neighborhood of North Beach in San Francisco

“Riddle” is what bubbled out of my subconscious mind.

 

Was “Riddle” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

Oh, yes! I lived for some years in North Beach with my husband, Tom Robinson. Tom has degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute, the Academy of Art University, and the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. He’s a working artist, jeweler, and sculptor and at the time, he’d gotten the lease on a dream art studio.

The place was an entire flat above a belly dancing club in a Stick-Eastlake Victorian building on Broadway between Montgomery Street and Columbus Avenue. Twenty-foot ceilings, an entire wall of exposed brick, another of floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves.

Half a block west on Broadway is Enrico’s with its broad patio where, at three in the morning, we would see U2, Diana Ross, and Bill Cosby (yes, he was a foul-mouthed jerk even then). Two blocks down to Columbus and half a block up to the intersection of Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street is the Caffé Trieste, a coffeehouse situated at that location since 1956. The Beat poets congregated there—Philip Lamantia, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. Burroughs published science fiction in F&SF! Or at least his novel, Nova Express, was reviewed in F&SF in the 1960s.

I took Bruce Sterling to the Trieste when he was in town for the premier issue of Wired Magazine. Bruce was on the cover and a number of people were reading Wired when we walked in. Surreal!

Around the corner was the Roma Caffé. I took Robert Silverberg there for pizza and Ellen Datlow for omelets on the back patio.

When you head two blocks down on Columbus Avenue, you’ll find Vesuvio, another gathering place for nearly sixty years. My favorite spot is the John Wilkes Booth on the mezzanine.

So North Beach is a very cool neighborhood. Coolness isn’t enough to drive a story, though. I needed a high concept. A supernatural high concept. I found that in “Riddle.”

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

Once I had my supernatural hook, I researched (plot spoiler alert!) sphinxes.

The classic legend tells of the sphinx in the desert who waylays travelers and poses a riddle. If a traveler can’t produce the answer, she kills and devours them.

Then Ulysses on his travels encountered the sphinx. She asked, “What walks on four legs at sunrise, two legs at noon, and three legs at sunset? He correctly answered, “Man. As a baby he crawls on hands and knees. As an adult he walks on his own two legs. And as elderly, he walks with a cane.” Infuriated, the sphinx turned to stone and that’s what we see before the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

Greek and ancient Egyptian iconography portray the sphinx as a male animal—a man’s head and chest atop a lion’s body like the Great Sphinx at Giza. French sphinxes from the Louis the Fourteenth era, however, depict sphinxes as voluptuously female. (Leave it to the French!)

I knew I wanted my sphinx to be voluptuously, wickedly female.

 

What would you want a reader to take away from “Riddle?”

That love is complicated. Human consciousness is complicated. And life…you can’t be too sure about life. Fiction is meant to provide structure for our chaotic reality. I strove to make that point in “Anything For You,” published in the September-October 2016 F&SF. But sometimes fiction needs to point out the chaos.

I deliberately left an ambiguity at the story’s end, which I hope readers will ponder. If any reader wants to discuss this with me, I’ve got a Facebook Author Page and I’m on Goodreads. Come visit and we’ll talk!

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve just published a short novel, One Day in the Life of Alexa, with my ebook publisher, Bast Books, for the purpose of placing it in an international fiction competition with a 20,000 pound prize. So now the title is available as a brand-new beautiful trade paperback and as an ebook worldwide on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. The first review, on Goodreads, says, “Incorporates lively prose, past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology…An absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms.”

Also, I’ve just re-released in print Summer of Love, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, and The Gilded Age (originally titled The Golden Nineties), a New York Times Notable Book. This is an Author’s Preferred Edition set, with Tom Robinson’s beautiful covers. Both are feminist historical novels as well as extrapolations into the far future when women’s issues—and humanity’s issues—have taken a different turn. Those two books are as timely as ever and I’m very glad to republish them in print and as ebooks worldwide on all the retailers.

More of my backlist books will be forthcoming in print in the next several months. And another dark modern fantasy, “Aurelia,” is forthcoming in F&SF in 2018.

I’ve got an SF novel in the works and, always, more stories!

For more news about upcoming projects, print books, ebooks, stories, interviews, blogs, cute cat pictures, Tom’s bespoke art and jewelry, and more, please visit me at www.lisamason.com.

 

“Riddle” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1709.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/

Interview: Gwendolyn Clare on “Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast”

Tell us a bit about “Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast.”

The story is about a master vintner sent to sample and make a record of the wines in a foreign country while a military invasion takes place.

 

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

This is unusual for me, but in the case of “Tasting Notes” I can actually point to a specific moment of inspiration. I attended a wonderful talk by medievalist Michael Livingston at the Nebula Conference last year, and in describing his research on the Battle of Crecy, he mentioned acquiring key information from, of all things, a cook’s journal. I was fascinated with the idea of reconstructing major political events from the perspective of someone whose concerns are tangential to those events — people like that cook, who was more worried about how many chickens the English king was eating than he was about the battle they were marching toward.

As you can probably tell from the story, I am also an incurable wine snob. Anything worth enjoying is also worth analyzing to death — that’s my motto. It’s a particularly interesting challenge to try to describe senses like taste, smell, and mouthfeel, because there’s such a paucity of words for those (in the English language, at least).

 

What are you working on now?

My debut novel comes out in February 2018 from Imprint/Macmillan. Ink, Iron, and Glass is a steampunk historical fantasy full of mad science and man-made pocket universes, set against the backdrop of the Italian unification movement. Currently, I’m drafting the as-yet-unnamed sequel.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m very excited to make my first appearance in F&SF!

 

 

“Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1709.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/

Click on the image of Ms. Clare’s forthcoming book and you’ll be taken to her website: http://www.gwendolynclare.com/

 

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