Short Fiction, June 2005

Jun 6, 19:54 by Bluejack
Let's talk about short fiction!

Bluejack's reviews are here.
Jun 6, 21:00 by Bluejack
And, as promised, here are early links to other reviews of some of this material:

BestSF reviews Interzone: Interesting observations on "post-first contact" stories; prefers Hughes' Phoenicians over the F&SF stuff; likes most all the stories.

TangentOnline reviews "The Scribble Mind" (from SciFiction): Michael Fay reviewing. Mostly a plot summary.

TangentOnline reviews "Planet of the Amazon Women" (from Strange Horizons): Lois Tilton reviewing. A lengthy and spot-on consideration of Moles' story with historical perspective and analytic rigor.

TangentOnline reviews "Song of the Black Dog" (from SciFiction): Michael Fay reviewing. A little more than a plot summary, but Fay is more interested in asking questions than answering them.

TangentOnline reviews "The Girl in the Fabrilon" (from SciFiction): Michael Fay reviewing. Summarizes plot, and observes that the ending lacks impact.

Analog Discussion Boards discuss the big double issue: Everyone has favorites but Carl Frederick and Rajnar Vajra get a lot of kind words.

Asimov Discussion Boards discuss the July issue: More talk about the cover than anything, mixed reviews on the Swanwick. More enthusiasm for "Clipper's Last Ride" than I managed to muster.

F&SF Section on Nightshade discusses the July issue: Actually, there's not much discussion yet, but it could start at any minute!
Jun 7, 13:59 by Bluejack
I must also mention Locus, although their June issue hasn't made it here to Seattle yet. Nick Gevers and Rich Horton both regularly review a wide range of publications. I enjoy reading their reviews immensely because, while I almost never focus on the same stories that draw their eyes, I respect their views enormously. Nick often captures just what I wanted to say about a story in a single concise gem of a sentence; and Rich often articulates insights about stories I didn't care for in ways that make me want to go back and reread them. Should that June issue ever show up, I'll post more particulars.
Jun 9, 10:33 by twosheds
Concerning questionable covers, I used to write for martial arts mags. The big ones "Black Belt" would run covers with Bruce Lee maybe 4 to 6 times a year. Most of the time, those issues didn't even mention Bruce Lee, but they knew that they would get a bump in sales with a Lee cover. Is a mag editor wrong in creating an eye catching cover? Babes in chainmail with great hair might work for them (I'm from the 80's so I think the hair was great). I don't think they're especially straying from their content with those covers. I say: "more hot babes in chainmail for me."
Jun 9, 11:04 by Bluejack
Well, if the only alternative is ratty pictures of lesser Orlando Bloom films, I'm with you.
Jun 11, 14:02 by Bluejack
I finally got my hands on a June issue of Locus. Here's the overlap:

In addition to fiction I don's see (Argosy), and some publications reviewed in earlier editions of IROSF, Nick Gevers reviews the July F&SF, and May's offerings at SciFiction.

From F&SF, Gevers seems to have favored Albert E. Cowdrey's "Twilight States." He writes: "Cowdrey limns psychological disturbance and ontological uncertainty like a fevered hybrid of Robert Bloch and Philip K. Dick; this dark fantasy will linger in the mind." I thought the story was fine, but it definitely didn't strike me that way. Like myself, he also thought Bruce McAllister's "Hero, the Movie" was particularly noteworthy. As usual, Gevers does a much better job of concisely unveiling the heart of the story than I seem to.

In SciFiction, Gevers joins me in lauding Jeffrey Ford's "The Scribble Mind." I'm not sure we read it the same way, though. Gevers sees the story expressing an "opposition of art and science, of philosophies of life." We agree on the crucial role of the final sentence in tying the scribble together, but I'm not sure we both see the same knot.

Also reviewing short fiction is Rich Horton. Rich also reviews SciFiction. His review of "The Scribble Mind" was less analytic, and his reaction was that the choice of POV lead "to a certain distance and lack of focus that may have been necessary but that seemed to rob the story of some intensity." I will agree that the choice of POV was necessary to the story that Ford actually told. Because I liked the "other" character more than the POV character (until the end), I might have enjoyed a story that focussed more immediately on her -- but that would not have been this story.

Rich also read Realms of Fantasy, and only found "Fox Tails" by Richard Parks sufficiently interesting to review. I enjoyed this one, too... it was certainly a smoother story overall than "Midnight Hunt" -- but I just couldn't find much to say about it, beyond the blurb I put in the table. Rich concludes: "a touching love story, with a satisfying slight twist at the end." Fair enough.
Jun 13, 11:44 by Bluejack
Tangent Online has posted a review of the July F&SF (online here), Aimee Poynter reviewing.

* Liked John Morressy's "Tournament at Surreptitia" quite a lot. I don't know what's wrong with me that I just don't groove on Morressy -- I'm clearly in the minority.

* Less enthusiastic about Jim Young's "The Pitiless Stars" -- objections included "stilted dialogue," "mechanical characters," "difficult to connect with," "a little preachy." But she moderated this with some analysis explaining how some of this sort of worked. Conclusion: "Overall, I enjoyed the story, but was not blown away."

* Enjoyed "Angry Duck" as a sort of "mockumentary."

* Initially uncertain about Cowdrey's "Twilight States" -- but won over in the end.

* Appreciated Reed's satire on intellectual property laws. "It's short, sweet, and well worth the ten minutes it takes to read."

* Particularly liked Utley's "Promised Land." I wasn't sure whether Poynter has read any of the many prior paleozoic stories, but I suspect not: I wouldn't have pegged this as the best story to pick up as an intro to Utley's growing oevre, but it sure worked for Poynter.

* Favorite of the issue was Mike Schultz' "Old as Books." She doesn't analyze this one much, but then again, neither did I. Sometimes when you just like a story a whole lot, there's not much you can do but praise it.

* As for "Hero, the Movie," Poynter summarizes and concludes: "The ending is surreal, but somehow appropriate." I think she took the structural format of the "movie pitch" a little too seriously, but then again, I thought that structure detracted from the story so perhaps I didn't take it seriously enough.
Jun 13, 11:49 by Bluejack
Also, a lively discussion of Interzone #198 over on the TTA Forums.
Jun 13, 12:54 by Bluejack
Also just discovered a new venue for discussing short fiction, a multi-author livejournal account called "shortform." (Top page is here.)

One recent entry is yet another consideration of Jeffrey Ford's "The Scribble Mind." Although responses are not all enthusiastic, this is definitely a story with buzz! The reviewer ("the_flea_king") describes this story as "one of the first serious Nebula/World Fantasy/Hugo award contenders that I've read this year." High praise... and the subsequent analysis gives some weight to this praise.
Jun 13, 18:56 by Bluejack
And, another collaborative blog which spends at least some of its time discussing short fiction is Dark Cabal.

They also have a review of "The Scribble Mind" (located here). This one is less gushing, although the author (Onyx) seems to com around in the end. Makes you wonder, though: what weird conspiracy is actually bringing so much attention to this particular story? Sure it's good, but how does that buzz get going?
Jun 14, 10:04 by Bluejack
Speaking of Dark Cabal, there's a fun thread on it over at the Ratbastard's section of Nightshade. Topic: are anonymous reviews worth reading? Are the authors cowards? Are they hyping their friends? Do "new" writers deserve to be treated differently than established writers? Good stuff.
Jun 18, 12:08 by Bluejack
Jeff Spock has a very smart review of Interzone #198 posted at TangentOnline. Good, insightful take on all the stories.
Jun 18, 12:14 by Bluejack
Also, about the same issue of Interzone, Lavie Tidhar has a review posted at a zine called Whispers of Wickedness, online here.

Seems like everyone grooved on "Clockwork Atom Bomb" more than I did, but one story that's getting thumbs up across the board is John Aegard's fantasy piece "The Beast Emperor".

Jun 19, 13:49 by Bluejack
ShortForm has posted an analysis of the hugo nominees in the novelette category. I have not read the Kelly Link or Benjamin Rosenbaum stories, but "coalescent's" discussion does not warm me to either overmuch. Of those I did read, I think my ranking would be just the opposite of the author's: I thought "The People of Sand and Slag" was beautiful and brilliant, and it is my number one pick. I did like "The Clapping Hands of God" a lot, and it's a worthy nominee. I must confess to a lot of sympathy with Coalescent's reaction to this story, and his/her reactions to it being an Analog story. The Voluntary State didn't leave the impression on me that the other two did -- or that it apparently left on other readers.
Jun 22, 10:32 by Bluejack
And now for something completely different, a market for short science fiction I don't normally review... The Onion has published an issue from 2056! And it's bloody brilliant!
Jun 23, 12:18 by Bluejack
Ahmed A. Khan has reviewed the July F&SF on his blog. Pretty much a rave, the nearest thing to a pan was "Jim Young: The Pitiless Stars - A fairly good story about AI in space but in my opinion the weakest in the book."

I have been quite surprised not to see more objections to "Angry Duck" -- I really didn't expect this to be a hit in the genre crowd.
Jul 5, 17:20 by Bluejack
Tangent Online has now reviewed the July/Aug Analog.

One quibble. Brit Marschalk and/or Douglas Hoffman writes: "Plante does not explain why someone would pay for a virtual reality "existence" after physical death if his consciousness would not survive, or if in fact it does." ... in fact, Plante does address this question: the post-mortem digital constructs are kept around for those who live on. The living like having convenient visiting hours with Mom. This is not the usual "upload" premise, and I thought it was a lot more plausible, in its way.

Jul 10, 09:11 by Brit Marschalk
in fact, Plante does address this question: the post-mortem digital constructs are kept around for those who live on.

This is certainly the case with two of the characters, but I got the distinct impression that most people put themselves in the Shady Rest.

Besides, if the relatives really visited that often, why would the community need "disrupters"? IIRC, the protagonist at least does not observe any visitations.
Jul 10, 21:49 by Bluejack
My recollection is that the "disrupters" are rather wry on that point: the relatives go to all this trouble to put people in, and then they hardly ever bother to visit.

I guess I'd have to reread it carefully to see whether my quibble is fully justifiable, and then provide page citations! I'm stickin' by my point, though!

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