One of the things that I love about The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is that it’s a beautiful physical object. The September/October issue — available today! — is a perfect example, with its cover featuring an epic dragon illustrated by the team of Cory and Catska Ench. If you don’t have a copy yet, you can subscribe here or order a single copy here.
The Enches have done many covers for F&SF over the past decade. (The very first cover they ever did for the magazine was the illustration for my story “A Democracy of Trolls” back in Oct/Nov of 2002 — something I didn’t know until just now!) You can see more of their work, together and individually, at their website: enchgallery.com.
The cover illustrates this month’s novella, “The Lord of Ragnarök” by Albert E. Cowdrey. Regular readers of F&SF will be familiar with Cowdrey’s work and his range as a writer. But few may know that before he turned his attention to fiction he served as Chief of the Special History Branch in the U.S. Army, and published several non-fiction books on the history of medical service in the army as well as the environmental history of the U.S. south. Cowdrey won the World Fantasy Award in 2003 for his short story “Queen for a Day” and was a finalist again in 2009 for his novella “The Overseer.” We think this new novella is among his best work.
The story in this month’s free electronic digest for Kindle is “The Bone War” by Elizabeth Bear. This story marks the first fiction appearance by the multiple Hugo Award winning author in the pages of F&SF. (Bear’s first professional SF sale was the poem “ee ‘doc’ cummings” in the March 2003 issue of F&SF.) “The Bone War” takes place in the world of Bear’s Eternal Sky series. Fans who’ve read Bone and Jewel Creatures and Book of Iron will immediately recognize Bijou the Artificier. Everyone else is in for a new treat. Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can click on this link and read Bear’s story and all the columns in the issue for free.
The rest of the issue contains a mixture of new and familiar names.
Nick Wolven has published a half dozen stories in Asimov’s Science Fiction but his contemporary science fiction satire “We’re So Very Sorry For Your Recent Tragic Loss” marks his first appearance in this magazine. “Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water,” a fantasy inspired by her grandfather’s stamp collection, also marks the F&SF debut of the prolific Marissa Lingen. And we are excited to introduce you to Bo Balder, a multilingual writer from the Netherlands who is a two-time winner of the Paul Harland Prize for best original Dutch science fiction, fantasy, or horror. “A House of Her Own” is her first professional English short fiction publication. It’s a thought-provoking story about a far future where humans and aliens are connected in unexpected and revealing ways.
We’re happy to see other writers return to these pages with new stories. Paolo Bacigalupi’s “A Hot Day’s Night” originally appeared in a special issue of High Country News (where Bacigalupi once worked) devoted to the future of environmental ideas. We don’t think many genre readers will have seen it there, so we’re excited to share it and give a glimpse into the drought-plagued world of his new novel The Water Knife. “Don’t Move” by Dennis Etchison is a chilling tale from the three-time winner of both the British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards. And David Gerrold, recent World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor and Hugo Awards ceremony co-emcee, along with Tananarive Due, returns to these pages with a horror story, “Monsieur.”
We also have two new tales from recent series. “The Adventure of the Clockwork Men” by Ron Goulart marks the return of the Victorian supernatural sleuth Harry Challenge, who previously appeared in F&SF to uncover “The Secret of the City of Gold” (Jan/Feb, 2012) and solve “The Problem of the Elusive Cracksman” (Nov/Dec 2012). And “Rascal Saturday” is the latest story in Richard Bowes’s The Big Arena cycle, centered around a future, climate-changed eastern United States. The first tale in the series, “Sleep Walking, Now and Then,” was a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. But you don’t need to be familiar with the earlier stories in either series to appreciate these.
The magazine also has some great columns this month.
Charles de Lint tells you why you should read new books by Laura Bickle, Seanan McGuire, Eva Darrow, F.R. Mahler, and Andrew Klavan. David J. Skal offers his analysis of the film Ex Machina. In our regular “Curiosities” column, Phoenix Alexander discusses a forgotten classic of early 20th century African-American science fiction. And Chris Moriarty uses four recent anthologies — Mothership: Tales from Afro-Futurism and Beyond, Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction, Twelve Tomorrows, and Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future — as a jumping off point for an essay on women currently writing hard SF.
If that doesn’t make you want to read the issue, I don’t know what else to add. F&SF has never been a better bargain. You can order print or digital copies of the issue here: www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1509.htm. Enjoy!
This month’s cover art is by Jill Bauman. This is her tenth cover for F&SF (a couple of her earlier covers were finalists for the Chesley Award), and her first since 2009. You should check out her website at www.jillbauman.com/
The cover illustrates this month’s novella, “Johnny Rev,” by Rachel Pollack. Pollack may be better known to some of our readers for her comic book writing on Doom Patrol or for her role in creating the Vertigo Tarot Deck with Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. But she is also a Clarke Award and World Fantasy Award winning author. Her latest novel, The Child Eater, is about two very different boys bound by magic and pursued by the book’s eponymous enemy across two worlds. This month’s F&SF cover story is also a story of magic and danger, and we think you’ll enjoy it. It marks the return of Jack Shade, a present day private eye occultist shaman, who previously appeared in F&SF in “Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls” (July/Aug 2012) and “The Queen of Eyes” (Sept/Oct 2013).
“The Deepwater Bride” will introduce many of our readers to Tamsyn Muir, a New Zealand writer who has lived in the United States and now resides in the U.K. We don’t think this is the last time you’ll be seeing her work.
Longtime readers of this magazine may remember Richard Chwedyk best for his saur stories, including “Bronte’s Egg,” which won the Nebula Award in 2003. He says he is finishing up two more novellas in the series and then a much-anticipated collection will follow. In the meantime, he offers us “Dixon’s Road,” a story that took him almost twenty-five years to finish. “Dixon’s Road” is the story in this month’s free digest edition – so if you don’t subscribe (and why not?), you can download it and read this story on any free Kindle app.
We haven’t seen much short fiction from James Patrick Kelly (on Twitter at @jaspkelly) recently because he’s been working on his new novel. Luckily for us, he made time to polish “Oneness: A Triptych” for readers of F&SF. Meanwhile, Oliver Buckram returns to our pages with “This Quintessence of Dust” while Van Aaron Hughes brings us “The Body Pirate” and Betsy James offers us “Paradise and Trout.” It’s a mix of stories that will take you from a trout stream in the mountains, into the future, and across the depths of space.
This issue also features some familiar characters and worlds.
Raffalon the Thief returns in “The Curse of the Myrmelon” by Matthew Hughes. Raffalon appeared most recently in “Prisoner of Pandarius” in last January’s issue. The introduction to the story provides some new information on where Raffalon’s adventures fit into the Archonate universe.
Over the past few years, one of our most popular science fiction series has been Naomi Kritzer’s Seastead stories about a chain of man-made islands built by people who want more freedom and less government. This latest installment is “The Silicon Curtain.” It’s the perfect introduction for new readers, but also has plenty for the series’ fans.
Gregor Hartmann introduced us to literary con man (is that fair? it seems fair) Franden and the planet Zephyr last January in “The Man from X.” He returns this month with “Into the Fiery Planet” and gives us a closer look at Franden’s new home.
Plus we have our regular columns. Charles de Lint recommends new books by Alex Bledsoe (plus related music by Tuatha Dea), Melissa F. Olson, Pati Nagle, and James Goss, plus Spectrum 21 and a new biography of Joss Whedon by Amy Pascale. James Sallis offers an in-depth critical reading of Find Me, by Laura van den Berg. Kathi Maio reviews the new “Cinderella” remake in the context of all the Cinderella movies, and highly recommends the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt.”
In addition to the reviews, Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty bring us a new science column on “Traveling Through Time.” Paul De Filippo plucks Plumage from Pegasus with “Babel in Reverse is Lebab.” And the Curiosities columns presents American Denim: A New Folk Art (1975), an art book with text by Peter Beagle. Plus we have cartoons by Arthur Masear, Frank Cotham, J.P. Rini, and Danny Shanahan.
If that seems like a lot to squeeze into 260 pages, it’s because it is! F&SF has never been a better bargain. You can order print or digital copies of the issue here: www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1507.htm
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.
The September 2008 issue is now on sale. This issue includes the story “Picnic on Pentecost” by Rand B. Lee, so our free reprint this month is Lee’s “Coming of Age Day” (December 2003), which is set in the same universe. (This version has been revised and expanded from the original.)
Here’s the whole table of contents:
- Arkfall – Carolyn Ives Gilman
- Pump Six – Paolo Bacigalupi
- Search Continues For Elderly Man – Laura Kasischke
- Picnic on Pentecost – Rand B. Lee
- Shed That Guilt! Double Your Productivity Overnight! – Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn
- Salad for Two – Robert Reed
- Run! Run! – Jim Aikin
- Editorial – Gordon Van Gelder
- Books to Look For – Charles de Lint, covering You Call This the Future? by Nick Sagan, Mark Frary, and Andy Walker; Echo, by Terry Moore; The Born Queen, by Greg Keyes.
- Books – Elizabeth Hand, covering The Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt; Sway, by Zachary Lazar.
- Coming Attractions
- Curiosities – Dave Truesdale, covering Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, by Sir Walter Scott (1830).
- Joseph Farris, Arthur Masear
- Cory and Catska Ench for “Arkfall”
The August 2008 issue is now on sale. This issue includes the story "The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay, so our free reprint this month is "The Political Officer" which is set in the same universe.
Here’s the whole table of contents:
- The Political Prisoner – Charles Coleman Finlay
- Childrun – Marc Laidlaw
- But Wait! There’s More! – Richard Mueller
- An Open Letter to Earth – Scott Dalrymple
- Another Perfect Day – Steven Popkes
- Bounty – Rand B. Lee
- Editorial – Gordon Van Gelder
- Books to Look For – Charles de Lint, covering Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon; Heart of Stone and House of Cards by C. E. Murphy; and Jumper: Jumpscars by Nunzio Defilippis, Christina Weir, and Brian Hurtt.
- Books – Chris Moriarty, covering Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov; The Null-A Continuum by John C. Wright; Lorelei of the Red Mist by Leigh Brackett; The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman by Leigh Brackett; and The Martian General’s Daughter by Theodore Judson.
- Film: Not with a Bang, But with the Sex Pistols – Lucius Shepard, covering Doomsday.
- Coming Attractions
- Curiosities – David Langford, covering Adrift in the Stratosphere, by Professor A.M. Low (1937).
- Bill Long
- Kent Bash for "The Political Prisoner"