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Magazine Catchup Part I – Asimov’s & F&SF, August ’07 and Interzone July-Aug ’07

In the last year, I traveled a lot — weeks and weeks, in fact — and ended up falling far behind on my magazine subscriptions. I usually catch up during the semester, sneaking a magazine in here or there, but last semester was so incredibly busy that I barely read any of my magazines. So here I am, in April, reading magazines from last August. Well, the good news is, I’m at least enjoying them, and catching up somewhat.

Asimov’s Science Fiction‘s issue from last August (2007) was one I was very eager to read. Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling are two of my favorite writers — but their story, “Hormiga Canyon” (excerpt linked), didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped. It was fun enough, but it didn’t shine with the sophistication and wildness of some of the best work by either author. Still, it had its moments.

I did get a big kick out of “Dead Horse Point,” by Daryl Gregory, and Jack Skillingstead’s “Thank You, Mr. Whiskers” reminded me of the weird thrill I used to get out of watching old Twilight Zone reruns… in a good way. I also was impressed with Kathleen Ann Goonan’s novelette, “The Bridge” (excerpt), less for the detectiveness of it — detective stories are my least favorite for of SF — and more for the glimpse of what I’m certain is the same fictional world as in her novel Queen City Jazz, which I picked up in Thailand, read a little of, was impressed by, but had to relegate to the read-later pile. Good story.

Interzone 211 (July-August 2007) was good fun, and I inhaled it mostly this afternoon, between classes. The Moorcock feature was interesting — for me especially, as I’ve not read much of his stuff, and because it was interesting to compare Thomas Disch’s comments about Jerry Cornelius (in The Dreams Our Stuff is Made of, which I’m also currently reading) to Moorcock’s own. I have to say I got a bigger kick out of the London, My Life! extract than the short story Moorcock contributed (“The Affair of the Bassin les Hivers” which I think one can enjoy fully only if one is very familiar with other works in the Moorcock oeuvre, as characters are clearly from different multiverse stories mentioned in the interview, or which I’d heard about from elsewhere), and that of most interest was the excerpt from the Peake biography, but I’d be lying if I said I disliked any of Moorcock’s pages. Of the other stories, Aussie writer Grace Dugan’s Knowledge was the spookiest, while Carlos Hernandez’s “Exvisible” was the most the one that grabbed me by the hair and shook me. (It’s kind of like a very dark, realistic take on Rudy Rucker’s notion of the “lifebox,” except that it’s really all about screwed up relationships.) The gag of “Elevator Episodes” by Ahmed A. Khan was okay, but I’m not one for this kid of comedic, genre-cycling postcard fiction. And Aliette de Bodard was straight fantasy, but pretty good for what it was. (Just not my thing.) However. I must once again note that the issue was beautiful. Stunning. Colin Harvey’s comment here was a pretty fair assessment, really: InterZone did put other magazines to shame, when it had color pages inside to match the stunning artwork. (It’s switched back to black-and-white, though maybe it’ll go colour again. I hope so. It’s so lovely in that format!)

The August 2007 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction was a pleasant surprise. Indeed, it was better than a number of the issues preceding it in 2007. This is unusual, since much of it was fantasy, and the SF was more tropey and less sciency, if you know what I mean. But even so, I liked the novella — Albert Cowdrey’s “Murder in the Flying Vatican” — and everything else was at least interesting enough for me to read all the way to the end. This was especially shocking since I expected to hate Chris Willrich’s “A Wizard of the Old School” (because it’s extremely rare I like anything with the word “wizard” in the title, but for some reason, this story was actually sort of interesting to me). “The Tomb Wife” was alright, though a lot of the tropes were familiar, and “The Mole Cure” was fun, though I wanted more. “At These Prices” was the least convincing effort, though I learned long ago that Van Gelder has a very different sense of humor from me. But I have to say, if there was one thing that had me nodding my head, it was Kathi Maio’s critique of The Last Mimzy — despite her positive reassurances, it made me even more certain that I need to read the original story. Oh, and I don’t really understand why F&SF has two book columns, honestly. But hey, who am I, right?

Coming Soon: reviews of Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown (a reread), and Naomi Wolf’s The End of America. And yeah, them links? Two out of these three books are available online, for free. In toto. Typical, too, that it’s the books by SF authors that are free, while the Wolf book, supposedly part of a crusade to save America’s future, must be paid-for if you want to read it.

(Not that I’m trying to shame Wolf for trying to make a living. I’m trying to shame her for claiming she’s on a serious crusade to save America, while, yes, not yet having made the electronic version of the book available free online. Because it’s not like a bestseller couldn’t demand that right in her contract. And if SF authors can do it, just for the sake of self-promotion, it makes one wonder how ardent the crusade really is. Or, indeed, how urgent.)

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