Visions of Paradise

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fantasy & Science Fiction

I have always been a big fan of sf prozines. I cut my teeth on Galaxy and Worlds of IF and read them both faithfully until their demise (although they were never the same after Frederik Pohl quit as editor). I also read Analog when Ben Bova was editor, Asimov’s through most of Gardner Dozois’ regime, and Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1971 through the mid 1990s. In 1995 I underwent a “mid-life crisis” which, in my case, did not consist of riding motorcycles or spring flings, but giving up reading all sf for about a year. When I gradually returned to the genre, the prozines had fallen by the wayside.

Early in this decade, I subscribed to F&SF again for a year, and enjoyed it, but did not enjoy being committed to a monthly reading schedule (especially since, by that time I had purchased all the 1950s issues of Galaxy and I was slowly going through them at the rate of about one issue per six months). I really enjoyed what Gordon van Gelder was doing with the zine though, so after my subscription expired I kept buying their annual double issue, although mostly I put them aside unread. When F&SF cut back its frequency from monthly to bi-monthly recently, I decided it was time to renew it again, but before reading the current issues I decided to go back and read those annual double issues first.

So this week I have been reading the October/November 2005 issue. It has 3 long novelets about which I have mixed feelings. Paolo Bacigalupi’s (and what kind of a name is that anyway? When I was growing up in an Italian-American community, we used the word “bacigalupi” as a derogatory for a person of low intelligence) “The Calorie Man” is a depressing look at a rather dismal near-future, the kind of story I did not enjoy during the Cyberpunk heyday. It is well-written, but not my thing. Matthew Hughes’ “Help Wonted” is one of his Vancian stories about ne’er-do-well Guth Bandar trapped as a slave and trying desperately to escape by any means. Like most Hughes stories I’ve read, it was enjoyable but slight.

The highlight of the issue though was Peter Beagles’ “Two Hearts” which deservedly won a Hugo Award in 2006 as Best Novelette. The story is a sequel to the famous novel The Last Unicorn, and it is marred slightly by a blatant deus ex machina ending which is probably the reason the story is so famous since it is a direct reference back to the novel. But in spite of that flaw, or perhaps partially because of it, this is Beagle at the peak of his considerable talents.

A few more annual double issues and I’ll start on the current issues. Now I need to find a way to fill in the gaps in my collection. ☺


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