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
– Tell us a bit about “The Curse of the Myrmelon.”
It’s the latest in a series of fantasy stories that began when Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin asked me to send them something for their cross-genre anthology, Rogues – which, by the way, just won the Locus Award for best antho.
I thought I’d like to do a Cugel-the-Clever type story, set in my Archonate universe, so I invented a rather unlucky thief named Raffalon who is starving in a forest at the end of an unsuccessful career. The story, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings,” tells how his luck finally changes.
After I sold the story to Gardner and George, I decided the character had potential, so I began writing stories about him during his earlier years. “Myrmelon” is the fifth one to appear in F&SF. In each of them, I’ve tried to show a different element of the society in which Raffalon operates – kind of a thief’s-eye-view of a fantasy world.
In “Myrmelon,” a younger Raffalon actually plays a subordinate role to Cascor, a former provostman who was fired from the police force and has set up as a private detective. He’s also begun to dabble in magic, for which he has a talent, although he will get into trouble with the Wizards Guild if he keeps it up.
– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
I consider myself a crime writer trapped in an sff author’s career. I like to write about criminals and detectives (see my Luff Imbry and Henghis Hapthorn stories). I wanted to give Cascor the discriminator a good work-out and at the same time examine some of the world in which he lives. It’s a faux-medieval world of guilds and autonomous city states, something like Italy as it emerged from the Dark Ages, but with wizards.
My general motivation is to write enough Raffalon and Cascor stories to make a decent-sized collection, which I will self-publish as an ebook and POD paperback. I’ve found that selling my backlist on Amazon, Kobo, and my own webstore is the modern definition of “money for old rope.”
– The protagonist, Cascor the Discriminator, was a character spun off from the Raffalon story “Stones and Glass.” Do you often discover characters in this way, when writing your ‘Penultimate Earth’ stories?
Yes. I’m an intuitive writer. I can’t outline worth a damn. In “Stones and Glass,” I originally brought Cascor in as a plot complication and foil for Raffalon. As his backstory emerged, he began to develop some interesting qualities as a potential partner.
I always start with a character in his/her normal situation, add an event that triggers some kind of conflict, then see how it all evolves from there. When I started “Myrmelon,” I had Cascor answering the door to a little man who feared he was under a curse. I had no idea what would happen next, but I find that if I just let my characters be who they are (or, I suppose, whom I’m discovering them to be), a story begins to unwind out of the back of my head.
– What are you working on now?
Thanks to a healthy grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, may their tribe increase, I’m working on a historical novel I’ve wanted to write for more than forty years, ever since I came across a footnote in a university text that told about how some African slaves, survivors of a shipwreck on the Ecuadorean coast, conquered the aboriginal peoples of the area and created a new society – the Zambo State – that remained independent of Spanish authorities for generations.
– Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m grateful to F&SF for having accepted so many of my stories over the past dozen years. I used to buy the magazine for pennies a copy in second-hand bookstores when I was a poor kid in the sixties. If I’d known then that someday I’d be a regular it would have made my penurious adolescence a happier time.
And, if I can be permitted a plug, this summer I’m going to self-publish a collection of my non-Archonate short stories and novelettes, almost all of them originally published in F&SF. It will be titled Devil or Angel and Other Stories. Anyone who’s interested can keep tabs on the book’s progress by checking my web page: www.matthewhughes.org
“The Curse of the Myrmelon” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which you can order here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1507.htm.
The contracts have been sent out and accepted, so here’s a list of the new stories we bought in May that will be coming soon to an issue near you:
- “More Heat Than Light” by Charlotte Ashley
- “Golden Gate Blues” by James Cambias
- “Diamond” by Chris DeVito
- “The Winter Wraith” by Jeffrey Ford
- “A Gathering on Gravity’s Shore” by Gregor Hartmann
- “Jesus Has Forgiven Me, Why Can’t You?” by Betsy Phillips
- “Red in Tooth and Cog” by Cat Rambo
- “The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d” by N.J. Schrock
The Ashley and Rambo stories are novelets. The rest are short stories.
The Game of Thrones season finale seems like a good time to remind everyone of F&SF Competition #90. In 50 words or less write the last paragraph of A Dream of Spring, the final book in George R.R. Martin’s epic series. The funnier, the better. Winner gets a talking GRRM plushie. (IT KNOWS SECRETS.) 2nd place gets non-GRRM ARCs. Honorable mention wins an F&SF subscription. The deadline is July 15, 2015. For the email address to submit and all the rules, see: http://sfsite.com/fsf/2015/competition1505.htm
Alaya Dawn Johnson won this year’s Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her story “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” from the July/August issue of F&SF. Johnson also won the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy novel for her book LOVE IS THE DRUG.
For all the nominees and winners, see: http://www.tor.com/2015/06/06/announcing-the-2014-nebula-awards-winners/