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Editor’s Note for the July/August Issue

An editor’s note for the July/August issue seems almost redundant because this includes one of my rare editorials, just the third since I took over the magazine. (There’s a link to it down in the Table of Contents below.) On the other hand, some things have changed so much since I wrote it just over two months ago that rereading it today feels almost like traveling in a time machine to the distant past.

So I’ll let that stand on its own and tell you about the rest of the new issue instead! Starting with where you can find it. Here in the U.S., many bookstores and newsstands are still closed, so if you can’t find us where you live, come find us where we live online.

If you’re not a subscriber and you’d like to subscribe right now, here are some links!

* Paper subscriptions here:
* Electronic subscriptions via Weightless Books anywhere in the world here:
* Electronic subscriptions for Kindle US:
* Electronic subsriptions for Kindle UK:

You can also buy single copies of this issue:

* Paper copies from our website
* Electronic copies, available worldwide and in every electronic format, from Weightless Books, starting July 1.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August, cover by Alan M. Clark


Alan M. Clark‘s disturbing cover art (because, let’s face it, who wants stanky demon feet treading on the stones where your pizza’s going to cook?) illustrates “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal,” a new novelet by David Erik Nelson.

Three years ago, in our July/August 2017 issue, David Erik Nelson also had the cover story, that time with his novella “There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House,” which readers are still sending us messages to tell us how much they loved it. His other stories for us include “The Traveling Salesman Solution” and “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.” Like any good pizza place, this new story delivers.


Let’s talk about fantasy. M. Rickert is here to escort us to “Last Night at the Fair.” James Morrow shares one of his “Bible Stories for Adults, No. 37: The Jawbone.” John Kessel explores being haunted and finding balance with “Spirit Level.” And Stephanie Feldman leads us to an unusual portal at the end of “The Staircase.”

Or we can talk about science fiction. Bennet North returns to our pages after a long absence with her space elevator story, “A Bridge from Sea to Sky.” Madeleine Robins mixes Pygmalion with R.U.R. to present us with “‘Omunculus.” And Brian Trent takes us to Mars to introduce us to “The Monsters of Olympus Mons.”

But we’d really like to talk about four writers making their F&SF debuts. Rati Mehrotra shows us that even spaceships can have a sense of humor, or at least try to, with “Knock, Knock Said the Ship.” Ana Hurtado invites us to Venezuela with “Madre Nuestra, Que Estás en Maracaibo.” Mel Kassel brings us along to a family’s summer outing at the lake so we can see “Crawfather” for ourselves. And World Fantasy Award winner Natalia Theodoridou joins us with a story about climate change and “The Shape of Gifts.”

We also don’t want to forget Mary Soon Lee, who offers up a sparkling bit of poetry with “A Quartet of Alphabetic Bubbles.”

Plus we have all our usual columns and features, which you can find linked in the Table of Contents below.


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

71st Year of Publication


“Spirit Level” – John Kessel
“All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” – David Erik Nelson
“‘Omunculus” – Madeleine Robins
“The Monsters of Olympus Mons” – Brian Trent


“Knock, Knock Said the Ship” – Rati Mehrotra
“Last Night at the Fair” – M. Rickert
“Bible Stories for Adults No. 37: The Jawbone” – James Morrow
“Madre Nuestra, Que Estás en Maracaibo” – Ana Hurtado
“A Bridge from Sea to Sky” – Bennett North
“Crawfather” – Mel Kassel
“The Staircase” – Stephanie Feldman
“The Shape of Gifts” – Natalia Theodoridou


“A Quartet of Alphabetic Babbles” – Mary Soon Lee


Editorial by C.C. Finlay
Books to Look For by Charles de Lint
Musing on Books by Michelle West
Film: Darkness Visible by David J. Skal
Science: What the Heck is an Analemma by Jerry Oltion
Curiosities: The Contaminant by Leonard Reiffel (1978) by Thomas Kaufsek

Cartoons by Arthur Masear, Arthur Masear, Danny Shanahan, Kendra Allenby, Nick Downes, Nick Downes

Cover: By Alan M. Clark for “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal”


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

A Change at the Magazine

Today’s interview with Richard Bowes marks Stephen Mazur’s last official act as Assistant Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

After the writers and contributors to the magazine, the editor and publisher tend to get most of the credit for making it happen. But the truth is we couldn’t complete any of our work without the constant effort of a whole team of people.

Stephen Mazur has been a key part of that team since December of 2009, or just over ten and a half years. During his first five years on the job, he was the first line of contact for writers submitting to the magazine. Back in those days — it’s just a decade, but surely it feels much longer — F&SF only accepted paper submissions. Stephen opened the mail and read all those stories, writing thousands of rejection letters and helping to discover some new writers along the way.

When I became editor in 2015 and we switched over to electronic submissions, Stephen’s role gradually changed until he became my second reader, providing thoughtful and detailed notes on anything we were seriously considering for the magazine. If you ever got a rewrite request or a rejection with more detailed comments in it, chances are that Stephen’s hand was in that process somewhere along the way. In that role, he became an even stronger advocate for new writers and specific stories, sometimes arguing with me to give something he loved another look. He often ended up being right and I bought several stories only because of his intervention. He brought a sharp eye for great storytelling to his work, and there are many writers who will never know how much he did for them.

He was also one of the magazine’s main points of contact for the writers we did publish, primarily by conducting our blog interviews with them. Although he was based in F&SF‘s business office on the other side of the country and was responsible for many things in that of the operation, which consumed the majority of his work time by the end, I could not have been as effective in my role as editor without him, especially early on when I was still learning the ropes. He did a lot to help me build up F&SF‘s social media presence, acted as a sounding board for me when I was thinking about upcoming issues, was always eager to generate ideas to promote and develop the magazine, and served as an excellent ambassador for F&SF at conventions and in other venues.

Stephen is moving on to a writing-related job outside of publishing. His new employers will find themselves very lucky to have him. I suspect that he will come to think himself lucky too, as he can go back to reading fiction just for pleasure again. But the magazine, and I, in particular, will miss him. Please join us in wishing him good luck in his future ventures. Thanks, Stephen.

C.C. Finlay, Editor
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Interview: Richard Bowes on “In the Eyes of Jack Saul”

Tell us a bit about “In the Eyes of Jack Saul.”

“In the Eyes of Jack Saul” is an amalgamation of Victorian fiction and reality. Jack Saul was a real person and served, at one point, in a male brothel that was visited by several elites including Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria, for whom the era is named. The fictional inclusion was Oscar Wilde’s “The Portrait of Dorian Grey”, seen through the eyes of Jack Saul, as real a figure as the gay world has ever produced.


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

The Rent Boys and Mary-Ann’s in somewhat different circumstances appeared throughout my life. As a kid in Boston I realized that I wasn’t like the other boys. I sought out the attention of other men and found myself in situations not unlike Jack Saul’s. Later when I became a writer, I discovered that these experiences grabbed me above all else.


Was “In the Eyes of Jack Saul” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Gay material was fairly uncommon when I began writing stories like this one. People didn’t imagine there was much of a crossover between historical and gay stories. I knew it was working because it captivated me.


Can you tell us anything about your writing process, for this story or in general?

My writing process is this: I get an idea, I jump on it until I strangle it to death.


Why do you write?

It’s a bad habit, one I find hard to break.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Many people write, I steal from my influencers. It gives me a jumping off place to begin my own stories.


What are you working on now?

Something I am calling “My Old Inner Life”. What that may amount to, I have yet to find out.


“In the Eyes of Jack Saul” appears in the May/June 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

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Interview: Robert Reed on “Who Carries the World”

My daughter loves art, eats history, and works the Internet like a champ. Donatello’s wooden statue of Mary Magdalene was spellbinding for her, and when she showed/shared the image with me, I knew that I had to write about a prophet consumed by her cause.

But what kind of story?

The Great Ship seemed like the perfect venue. Aliens and high-technology. And I have several durable characters who might happily do the job. Perri and Quee Lee, for example. They’re always up for adventure. So sure, why not them? Except I soon decided to focus on Perri alone, shifting the usual dynamic.

About the story’s broad history … well, the machinations of why I decided on this and not that doesn’t particularly interest me. And I’m so rarely in the mood to wander back through the original attempts in Google Docs. What I do recall is that Perri was very cooperative. Which is only reasonable, since I know him and his wife better than I know any of my neighbors. But how to handle the mind-holding-an-entire-world business? How could such a thing be managed, in fiction and in reality? And most importantly, how would the afflicted think and speak?

Before I could settle into the writing, I had to “believe” my what-if.

Once that was accomplished, everything else was relatively easy. Perri as a detective trying to solve a crime … that was a very pleasant business, and I’m wondering now what else I might coax him into investigating in the future.

I originally intended to write a different ending for “Who Carries the World.” Which is not that unusual in my business, and I can’t recall what it might have been.

And here is some distracting trivia: I suspect that the flying organism at the beginning of the novelette is not what it seems to be. The Great Ship is inhabited by secrets, you see. And these secrets have taken an interest in the small motions and mammoth lives of certan people. My people.

Or maybe the critter is just a fancy bird.

I’m just the writer here. I’m not allowed to know all that much.


“Who Carries the World” appears in the May/June issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

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

Weightless Books (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

Interview: Rebecca Zahabi on “Birds Without Wings”

Tell us a bit about “Birds Without Wings.”

Zoe is hitch-hiking across Spain with her boyfriend Alex – but as the story progresses, they are separated along the road, and we discover that there are shifters in the country, fake people which can replace your loved ones, and you would never know… The story progresses from that premise. I can’t tell you more without spoilers! It’s a story about love and change, and life on the road.


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

I’ve lived with my partner for 7 years now, and of course we’ve both changed during that time. When I started writing this story, I was wondering – why does our love feel special? Lots of couples separate. There is no good reason to believe we won’t too, in time. To me, that is a frightening thought: the fact that what we have spent so much time building together, trust and love, can be overturned. That love, as well as people, can die. So I started playing with that idea: what if he changed – what if I changed? We weren’t the same people we were when we met. We could change again, and change more. What if he looked the same, spoke the same, was still the person I loved – but what made me love him had been taken away?

Of course in this story, the change is more than simply growing apart, or growing up; but I think it comes from the same place, this fear that we won’t recognise the people we love.


Was “Birds Without Wings” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

As I’ve said, I was writing from a personal place when I started this story. Aside from that, I’ve done the same trip as Zoe – the Santiago pilgrimage, picking the path across the North of Spain. When I was 18, I went hiking for a month, stopping in a different inn or youth hostel every night. I walked through the South of France, reached the border, and crossed over to the Northern Camino, which I followed until Bilbao, where I turned back. I didn’t do any hitch-hiking – I walked all the way – and I was alone, but it was an interesting setting which I wanted to put in a story. And it really did pour down with rain the whole time!


In this story and in your previous one for F&SF, “It Never Snows in Snowtown,” a recurring theme in your work seems to be the idea that evil lurks beneath the surface of people and places we trust.  Can you talk about this at all?

I think we take a lot for granted – the people around us, modern comforts such as food, heating, transport, etc. And we don’t spend much time worrying about what would happen if we lose it, because it feels so set in stone. But as we’ve seen with this pandemic, not everything is set in stone; people, and circumstances, can change quickly, leaving us treading quicksand. I think that’s why I often wonder what evil, or darkness, can lurk beneath the surface. Sometimes it was always there but we didn’t see it – like in It Never Snows in Snowtown – and sometimes it appears – like in Birds Without Wings.


Why do you write?

That’s a difficult question! For lots of reasons. Because I can’t not write; the voices whispering in my ear want to be heard. Because I believe (and I hope I’m not wrong!) that I have something useful to say. But mostly because we need stories: they change and shape our mindscape, and our mindscape changes and shapes the world. 


Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope readers enjoy the story and, if so, I’ve got an exciting announcement: my début novel, The Game Weavers, is coming out this fall 2020! I mentioned it briefly in the interview for Snowtown, but I can tell you a bit more now. We follow Seo Kuroaku, a champion of Twine, a high-pressure international sport. Played in arenas where thousands come to watch, weavers craft creatures from their fingertips to wage battle against fearsome opponents. But Seo is harbouring a secret. When he is outed, he has to find a way to get his life back on track, whilst facing the biggest match of his life.

Watch this space!


“Birds Without Wings” appears in the May/June 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

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

Weightless Books (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

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