Short Reviews of Short Fiction

Dec 21, 12:32 by Bluejack
C'mon folks. What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Let's talk about short stories!

(The reviews are here.)
Dec 21, 19:21 by Jim Van Pelt
Hi, Blunt. I was hoping you'd get a look sometime at the new reincarnation of Amazing Stories. I had a lot of fun with my piece in #605, but the critical community hasn't covered the magazine much as of yet other than the weak-wristed summary of story contents that passes for reviewing in some other venues.
Dec 21, 20:37 by Bluejack
Ah... I haven't seen it. Maybe I should try to bum a comp subscription off the editor; they don't seem to carry it in local stores.

Dec 22, 15:57 by twosheds
Concerning the review of Strange Horizon stories, I've got to agree with much of what you said. Having met Mary Ann, their first editor, I know that they're looking for literary and controversial (gay/lesbian) work that other publishers won't tackle, but recently, they've been pushing the extreme. The lesbian story where the girls are whoring for time machine parts could easily have been written without the SF sub-plot. Quite frankly, I got the feel that the authors shoe-horned in the SF sub-plot so they could sell it to S.H. And did you read the story about the guy who meets the girl with the missing finger? Absolutely no SF/F content. When readers took S.H. editors to task about this, they gave a vague comment about how, near the end, there was an existential abstraction which made the piece "speculative fiction." They're running the risk of alienating their readership (If they have any left). I hope they don't, because they still buy some of my non-fiction from time to time.
Dec 22, 18:24 by Bluejack
What did you think of the Great Old Pumpkin, Twosheds? I loved it, but I'm not sure if I was predisposed towards because I know the author.

Dec 22, 19:19 by twosheds
That's one I hadn't read. I'll go back in their archives and give it a look.
Dec 22, 21:48 by Carey McGee
Twosheds -- I agree that the stuff on SH is not for everyone and that the mag may be alienating a portion of its potential audience, but they're serving a particular niche. The editors are pursuing content not with the intent of alienating more traditional readers but with the aim of satisfying a particular portion of the readership -- many of whom are perhaps just as alienated by traditional SFF stories. I can't speak to any fluxuations in popularity, but they don't seem to have any trouble meeting goals in their annual fundraiser.

I like maybe half of the stories I read there, but I certainly don't begrudge them publishing what they think is good stuff. Diversity of venues is a good thing for both readers and writers.
Dec 22, 22:19 by Bluejack
Strange Horizons definitely has its own sensibility. I mentioned in this review that I was most surprised by the semi-military sci-fi, simply because it seemed to run pretty far off the Strange Horizons norm.

With all the venues catering to particular niches within the umbrella of speculative fiction, I don't have any problem with stories that play on the borders, or with Strange Horizon's focus.

Sometimes I do wonder whether I should review it though: I don't think I'm the target audience, and I wonder whether my reviews are even valuable to those readers who are the target audience. I have this same debate with myself periodically about Analog which is another magazine that seems to aim for something that's just outside my interest.

In both cases, I can only hope that I occasionally happen to spark some interest in readers that are also outside the target audience; or to find something useful to say about a story that happens to be in my area of interest. I expect that anyone reading my reviews on a regular basis will adjust for my bias: indeed, a total dismissal might be some people's cue to go read the story! (So I hope, anyway... the last thing I want to do is to come between a reader and a story that he or she would enjoy.)
Dec 22, 22:45 by Carey McGee
I think you do a good job of establishing your own biases in the context of your reviews -- dismissing things as outside your interest while reviewing the overall content of a publication is better than just ignoring the ones you don't like, as long as you're not dwelling needlessly or maliciously on the negative aspects.

Dec 23, 07:08 by John Joseph Adams
It's kind of strange that Amazing can't be found in your area, Bluejack, considering Paizo is based somewhere around there (if not in Seattle, somewhere nearby). Were you looking for it with the literary magazines, or with the sci-fi/entertainment mags? They're shelved in the latter category since the bulk of each issue is devoted to reviews and non-fiction.
Dec 23, 08:42 by twosheds
Concerning S.H: Truly, I like 3/4 of their fiction and I appreciate the fact that S.H. is going for the literary and off-beat stuff. I don't want it to sound like I'm dissing them. I really enjoyed "Into Something Rich and Strange." (I really, really like the fact that S.H. is free!) My single misgiving is that a few stories stretch the bounders of the genre itself. It's certainly their right as to what is best to publish. I will continue to read and enjoy S.H.
Dec 23, 10:34 by Bluejack
Talan... there is a surprising dearth of good places to buy sci-fi magazines in my area. Elliott Bay Books, otherwise an excellent bookstore, and despite a fine science fiction section, only seems to carry the occasional Analog. Then there are the Borders/Barnes & Noble chains, which I assume are distributed nationally. In the downtown area, there's only one good news-stand, but it only seems to carry the three digests and Realms. The University Book Store, widely regarded as the best place to buy science fiction in Seattle, might carry it... but I don't get up to that neighborhood often. There is also a newsstand on Capitol Hill (Bull Dog, or something like that) that has a good genre magazine section, but again it's not in my usual range. In case I haven't complained about this before, Seattle is bloody nowhere. I'd probably be better off in Omaha. I used to live in Philly and New York, and my exile to the provinces has been painful.
Dec 23, 12:54 by Matthew Cheney
Why is it bad to have "a few stories [that] stretch the boundaries of the genre itself"? What are boundaries good for except to be stretched? That's what I most appreciate about SH, personally.
Jan 1, 18:42 by Mark Hubbard
Yeah, just to add my two pennies, I've been really enjoying Strange Horizon's forays into slipstream lately.

One thing that perplexes me though is the comment that SH is looking for 'gender' issues material: I don't wholly get this from the content (and if I thought they had a gay/lesbian bias I'd have to say then I'd stop submitting my own stories there - none accepted - as I don't touch these topics ... nor am interested in them). Kate Bacchus's 'Bung' story (2003) concerned a lesbian relationship, however, it was a very well written story thus I assumed if was in the ezine for that reason alone.

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