July's Short Fiction Column

Jul 4, 23:43 by IROSF
Let's talk about short fiction!

Bluejack's reviews are here.
Jul 5, 06:35 by Carl Frederick
Shortest review I've ever gotten on a story (two words). And yet, despite the brevity, I'm still trying to interpret it.
-Carl Frederick
Jul 5, 07:41 by Bluejack
"Fun enough" should be taken as a thumbs up, although the fact that there were so many similarly-themed stories in the same issue dampened my enthusiasm for all of them.

I will add that the alien fish forming themselves into a massive mirror broke the suspension of disbelief. I mean, I guess alien fish could be shaped right to accomplish this, and form a watertight bowl as well, but my reaction was... "I'd have to see how that was done."

"Fun enough" should definitely be taken as better than "Not fun enough" or "Barely fun enough".
Jul 5, 07:41 by Bluejack
And I'll post links to other reviews of the magainzes reviewed in this article later today.
Jul 5, 07:53 by Carl Frederick
Thanks, BJ. I appreciate the clarification. I'll happily take my thumbs-up where I can get them.

As for the fish: the bowl wasn't intended to be watertight; the mirror was underwater. I'd intended the fish-mirror to be like one of those solar ovens (for power generation) made from a large number of flat mirrors. If you were confused about that, then it is my problem not yours; the writing should have been clearer.
Jul 5, 14:10 by Gordon Van Gelder
Thanks for the reviews, Bluejack. As always.

The August F&SF cover, "Fairy Falls" by Max Bertolini, does not expressly illustrate "Maze of Trees."
Jul 5, 16:05 by Chris Cevasco

Thanks for another set of insightful reviews.

Regarding Eugie Foster's "The Tiger Fortune Princess" in Paradox, the tale is a re-telling of "Snow White" from a Far Eastern perspective, inspired by Chinese cultural traditions and superstitions surrounding such themes as pregnancy, child rearing, and ancestor veneration.

Jul 5, 17:25 by Bluejack
TangentOnline has a review of the August F&SF online.

Highlights: Henghis Hapthorne - Sherlock Holmes comparisons ... good thoughts on "Refried Cliches"
Jul 5, 17:34 by Bluejack
Tangent Online also has a review of the August Asimov's.

E. Sedia's favorite story is Pratt's "Bottom Feeding"... and I'll have to confess: I'm not sure I got this story. After reading Sedia's review, I get it even less. I agree that the prose is great, but the significance of many of the pivotal plot points and symbolic elements left me, uh, floundering.
Jul 5, 21:03 by twosheds
I've enjoyed both of the Henghis Hapthorn stories I've read in F&FS. Sure, I think the character is starting out two dimensional and clichéd, but we know that in the future, his integrator and his hidden side add challenges (and hopefully conflict) to his life. This will force the character to reveal some of his own flaws and make him more believable and interesting. I enjoyed all of the stories in this issue (a contrast to my whining about last issue). “Maze of Trees” was my favorite. I’m a fan of simple descriptions, and I know there might be some who’ll say her descriptions of the wilds of West Virginia could have been shortened, but in this story, I think they were perfect. The premise was a connection between the character and the wilds, so to understand her and the source of her magic, the reader had to understand the untamed parts of WV. I thought it was wonderful. I’ll admit that I didn’t fully grasp “A Very Little Madness…” although it certainly held my interest all the way through. I guess this is a literary style. We see the character’s disjointed thoughts through the writing style. I also enjoyed “Pure Vision” but there was such effort put into the set up of the glasses and what they might do, the ending doesn’t seem to match.

Jul 5, 22:00 by Bluejack
Hey Twosheds, thanks for the minireviews! I hope more people post stuff like that. With regard to "Pure Vision" what did you think of the main character? I thought the story would have been more fun if there was someone I could care about in the piece.

The reviewer at Tangent Online, however, thought "This is a not man who is out to make a better world, and, to be honest, I like that about him. There is an escapist pleasure and, in this increasingly censorious age, subversive thrill in his mild misanthropy that makes this story a fun read."

I guess I didn't experience the subversive thrill :(
Jul 6, 01:34 by Richard Lovett
FYI, and totally out of context, I believe that I have an answer for you on "second world". It's a Cold War reference: Us, Them, and the Third World (everyone else). That's how I understood it, anyway. So the "second world" is the old Iron Curtain, plus China, Korea, etc.

At least that's how I understand it. I collect that sort of useless information, but your should double-check it before using it in any important manner, since my neurons are olde enough that I actually think I remember when the term was invented ...
Jul 6, 09:42 by Tim Pratt
Thanks for the mention, Bluejack, and for pointing out the other review, which I hadn't seen. It's not my place to explain the story (it's out there, and that's the best I can do), but I will say that I wasn't trying to be deliberately obscure! It's about someone encountering and messing with something fantastical that they don't fully understand, so I couldn't very well explain everything. Sometimes I like my fantasy to have some capital-M Mystery.
Jul 6, 10:01 by twosheds
The anti-hero in "Pure Vision" didn't bother me, but I'm not sure it enhanced the story (for me). With anti-heros in books (Thomas Covenant or the Black Company, etc.) they eventually reveal their own flaws and become redeemable and likeable. But you can't do that with a short story; what you see is what you get. I like it in that the author gives us something out of the ordinary. We know these people; let's write about them.
Jul 6, 11:35 by Bluejack
Tim... that's a perfectly fair comment, and the dynamic of the author relating to a reviewer is always tricky.

I will clarify that I wasn't sure how to interpret the last line. It was intriguingly ambiguous, both on what it meant, and -- depending on what that meaning was -- how a reader might interpret it. However, the gnomic utterances contrasting the salmon with the catfish led me to expect some more conclusive twist at the end that would provide an example of this difference.

And, perhaps it did: perhaps I merely failed to put the dots together.

Regardless, definitely a story worth reading... and better: worth discussing!
Jul 6, 17:10 by Eric Stone

I'm glad you liked the science, even if you didn't like the politics. And I'm particularly pleased you liked the ultimate method for defeating the villains (which was written pre-Incredibles, in case there was any doubt.)

> I highly doubt that this story was written for the All-
> Star Zeppelin Stories anthology, but here they are again:
> high tech blimps!

Actually, it was -- which accounts for the "Ayn Rand Enlightened Industrialist" as the hero. Since the Zeppelin anthology guidelines said they were looking for "retro-pulp" stories, I decided to make my character a D.D.-Harriman-type (Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon.") I was trying to write the type of story that might have appeared in Analog back when it was Astounding Science Fiction, which were the kinds of stories I enjoyed reading as a kid.

I'm afraid I can't argue that the villains are fully developed, three-dimensional characters -- you're right, they're fairly stereotypical. But considering that there already are Islamist terrorists and eco-terrorists, and looking at the strange political bedfellows you'll find at anti-globalization and anti-war rallies these days, I don't see the development of a Gaia Jihad movement as any more implausible than, say, a "pro-life" terrorist bomber.

As for the $250 million, you're correct, the number was too small, even without my forgetting to account for inflation. I figured $250 million was about right in relation to the $10 million X-Prize for suborbital flight, and that it was unlikely anyone would offer much more than that merely as a prize. Subsequent to my writing the story, the X-Prize was won and people began talking about the possibility of $100 million prizes for achievements much less substantial than a space elevator, so I definitely underestimated the possibilities for prizes. (I suppose I could explain it away by claiming there was a substantial period of deflation, but that would really be implausible.)
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