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Editor’s Note for Jan/Feb 2016

The January/February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is now on sale! You can order a single copy of the issue from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon or AmazonUK.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2016, cover by Bob Eggleton
Usually we start with a story we love and commission a cover for it, but when Bob Eggleton sent us the Martian landscape that adorns this issue, we snatched up the illustration and went looking for stories to match. Eggleton did his first cover for F&SF in 1991 and won four Chesley Awards for his F&SF covers (May 1996, May 1998, August 1999, July 2003). It’s been a few years since we featured his work on the magazine and we’re glad to have him back.

THREE TALES OF MARS

We’re also excited to share the three stories that we’ve lined up for this issue to go with the cover. We start with discoveries: in addition to his many literary achievements, Gregory Benford is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of California, Irvine, has been an advisor to NASA, and has served on the board of the Mars Society, so he’s uniquely suited to write about Martian exploration. His novel The Martian Race (1999) and its sequel The Sunborn (2005), were about the first team of scientists-explorers to visit the fourth planet. With “Vortex” in this issue, Benford continues those Martian explorations. From beginning to ends: in our second Martian tale, “Number Nine Moon” by Alex Irvine, we have an adventure story about mankind’s final day on Mars. And how things might have been: most stories set on our neighboring planet take place in the future, but Mary Robinette Kowal won the 2014 Hugo Award for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars,” which is set in an alternate history where a Martian base was established in the 1950s using the technology available in that era. “Rockets Red” by Kowal is set in that same Bradburyian universe.

MORE GREAT FICTION

But the issue isn’t all about outer space and other planets. “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones” in the debut story by Bennett North, a tale that skirts the borders of fantasy and horror to explore love and loss. That’s followed by “The White Piano” a ghost story by David Gerrold, who last appeared in our September/October issue with his vampire story, “Monsieur.”

We follow that with a group of science fiction stories that take place here on Earth, starting with “Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do?” by Nick Wolven. Wolven’s previous story for F&SFF&SF. “Robot From The Future,” this issue’s contribution, offers exactly what the title promises… and more. Leo Vladimirksy debuted in F&SF with the grim near future story “Collar” (March/April, 2014). He returns to that same desperate possible future in this issue with “Squidtown.”

The issue also includes a generous helping of fantasy, set on other worlds and our own. “Touch Me All Over” by Betsy James is her second story for F&SF, following “Paradise and Trout” (July/August, 2015). She tells us that it began when she imagined a knife so sharp it would cut through anything humans could create. In recent years, one of the most popular series with our readers has been Matthew Hughes’s tales from the Archonate universe. Of all the colorful Archonate personalities to traverse these pages – Guth Bandar, aspiring academic; Henghis Hapthorn, freelance discriminator; Luff Imbry, master criminal – perhaps none have been as welcome as Raffalon the Thief, who returns in this issue with “Telltale.” Albert E. Cowdrey’s stories can often be difficult to classify, which is just one of the reasons we love them. “The Visionaries” in this issue is one of those stories which straddles genre boundaries, but is very specific in its final effect.

The issue ends with “Braid of Days and Wake of Nights” by E. Lily Yu, who dedicates it in part to Jay Lake. Lake was one of the most prolific and promising young writers of the decade that stretched from 2004, when he won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction, to 2014, when cancer cut his life prematurely short. Like Lake, Yu is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award, taking home the trophy in 2012. This is her first story for F&SF.

That’s 12 stories and over 80,000 words of fiction!

READ “VORTEX” FOR FREE

Every issue features one story that we also offer for free 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 “Vortex” by Gregory Benford. Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can click on this link and read Benford’s story and all the columns in the issue for free.

OH YES, THE COLUMNS

Charles de Lint reviews Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers by Stephen King, The Land Beyond All Dreams and Dragon’s Luck by Bryan Fields, the Spirit Caller series by Krista D. Ball, and Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winnick. James Sallis reviews two new story collections, The End of the End of Everything by Dale Bailey and Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due. David J. Skal reviews the films “Air” and “Z for Zachariah.” In our science column, Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty discuss terraforming Earth to address the effects of runaway carbon and global climate change. And in our Curiosities column, Graham Andrews takes a look at The Truth About Wilson, a 1962 novel about sports, war, and the fantastic by W. S. K. Webb.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

After you read the issue, or even part of it, we hope you’ll share your thoughts on one of these sites:

In the meantime… enjoy!

C.C. Finlay
Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction

Questions about publishing short fiction online

A few months ago, I was at a retirement party for a newspaper editor and the subject of publishing material online for free came up.  “Who ever thought it was a good idea to give away your main product for free?” asked one veteran journalist.  “I remember when I was at Time and we looked at it.  One of the smartest people I know said, ‘If you start giving it away, no one’s going to pay for it.'”

That comment has been echoing in my head a lot lately.  At Readercon, a veteran editor told me, “Even with PayPal, I think it’s going to get harder and harder to get anyone to pay for anything online.  There’s just too much out there for free.”

On August 3, John Scalzi posted in his blog (http://scalzi.com/whatever/?p=1231) that his story “After the Coup” published at www.tor.com has already gotten 49,566 hits, which is close to the combined circulations for Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF.  When I pointed out that he was comparing the number of paying customers with the number of people who took a freebie, he replied, ‘Well, on my end, I’m comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.'”

Here at F&SF, we’re open to experimentation and for the past year or so, we’ve been publishing one reprint a month on our Website.  Last month, the free story was “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay.  A few days ago, someone posted on our message board  (http://nightshadebooks.com/discus/messages/378/12233.html?1219150161) that he wanted to read that story.  I explained that it was no longer on our Website but he could buy a copy of that back issue from us or from Fictionwise.

As I did so, I realized that I was putting a reader in a position where he had to decide if he would pay for something he could have had for free just a few days earlier . . . which doesn’t strike me as a good position.  I know that I don’t like being asked to make such a choice.

So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?

I was thinking of this question in terms of contrast with trilogies.  The format of a trilogy has been around for a long time, but I think it’s accurate to say that in the 1970s and ‘80s, book publishers (especially the team of Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey) trained readers to expect fantasy fiction to come in series formats, particularly in sets of three.  For instance, Stephen Donaldson’s original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were one book—the del Reys split it into three volumes and published the trilogy to great success.  Nowadays, it’s noteworthy when someone published a fantasy novel and nothing indicates that the book is the start of a series.

I look at trilogies and the form appears to me to be thriving.  But I don’t see many publishers giving away the books for free.  By contrast, I see publishers posting short fiction for free in many places, but I don’t see many of those publishers reaping rewards for their efforts.  I think short fiction giveaways have been good for individual authors, but are they working for publishers?

Also, I realized that I’ve done something extremely stupid.  I’ve run an experiment without trying to measure the results.  Sure, we’ve looked at the number of hits our online stories and columns get, and we’ve done one or two other things to measure the effects of our online publications, but we’ve never done a survey.

So I’m posting now to ask for feedback on a few things:

  •  When you read a story online that you like, do you feel inclined to support the publisher of the piece?
  • Have you ever subscribed to a print magazine on account of a story you read on their site?
  • Most magazine publishers post their Hugo- and Nebula-nominated stories online for free.  If F&SF started charging the cost of an issue to read these stories, would you do so?
  • Do you think the prevalence of free short fiction online has made you less inclined to pay for short fiction?

Please note that I’m trying to keep the discussion just to fiction (not articles).

If you would care to do so, I’d be grateful if you’d include your age with your post.  No need to get specific—I just want to know if you’re in your teens or if you’re in your eighties.

And finally, please be aware that I plan to convert this post into an editorial for the print magazine, so don’t post anything here that you wouldn’t want me to reprint.  If you’d like to comment but don’t want to do so in public, you can use the Contact Us form on our Website (here: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/contact.htm).  Write “DNQ” on your email if you don’t want to be quoted.

Thanks for your feedback.

—GVG

Free Fiction: Footnotes by Charles Coleman Finlay

"Footnotes" by Charles Coleman Finlay originally appeared in our August 2001 issue. It’s currently available on Finlay’s website.

Free Fiction: Dale Bailey (x3)

The following stories by Dale Baliey originally appeared in the pages of F&SF. Now they’re all available online:

"Heat," Sep. 2000 [link]

"The Rain at the End of the World," Jul. 1999 [link]

"Night of the Fireflies," Jan. 1998 [link]

Free Fiction: James Patrick Kelly (x2)

"Serpent" by James Patrick Kelly originally appeared in our May 2004 issue. Kelly has since adapted it to audio as part of his "Free Reads" podcast. [link]

Another story of Kelly’s, "The Pyramid of Amirah," appeared in our March 2002 issue. That one is also now available via Free Reads. [link]

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