Monday, August 20, 2012

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

September/October 2012 F&SF
cover by Kent Bash

When I first started reading science fiction and fantasy short stories, it was mostly in anthologies that I picked up as a child at science fiction conventions. I'd wander the dealer's room halls (I think "huckster's room" was common terminology back then.) and pick up just about any collection of short fiction I could find cheap. This would have been in the early 1980's, when I was right around 9 to 11 years old. (So close to that "Golden Age" of science fiction -- 12.)

Among the anthologies I remember owning were collections of short stories from individual publications, often printed in the 1950s and 1960s: Astounding, Galaxy, F&SF, etc. At that age, I recall finding the Galaxy ones to hit my reading "sweet spot." The stories from the vintage F&SF stories were sometimes entertaining to me back then and they seemed to have a certain sophisticatedness at times that I remembering wanting to enjoy but didn't always "get." Of course, for "not getting it" as a youngster, nothing topped the old collections from the British New Wave publication "New Worlds." Full of authors I'd mostly never heard of and with stories that totally didn't match my then conception of "science fiction" or "fantasy", at that age these quickly moved into my "don't buy these" list.

Time went on and interests waxed and waned for me and along about the late 1980s, I got back into SF/Fantasy and had the desire to start not just reading the stuff but writing it. At that point, there were a handful of significant print magazines. Some of them, Amazing Stories and Weird Tales in particular, have had sporadic existences since that time. Some others, such as Science Fiction Age which didn't pop up until the early 1990's, came and went. But three remain, constant in their operation. Fantasy & Science Fiction (founded in 1949), Analog (founded in 1930 as Astounding), and Asimov's (a relative newcomer, founded in 1977).

Having a story appear in the pages of any one of those three would be a major life accomplishment for me. Two of them (Analog and F&SF) have connections back to some of the earliest SF I've read and Asimov's has an impressive track record, all the more so for coming into existence decades later than any surviving major digest fiction periodical. Of the three, I think that F&SF publishes fiction that most closely resonates with the me of 2012, though I enjoy items from each of the three.

Today, a copy of the upcoming issue of F&SF (September-October 2012, with stories by Peter Dickinson, Ken Liu, Grania Davis, Andy Duncan, Richard A. Lupoff and others) arrived in my mailbox. The magazine asked for bloggers who would be interested in writing about the issue and offered to send a copy for them to write about. I don't do formal reviews generally on this site, but that wasn't one of the requirements. What I will do is make a story from this issue my #storyeachnight every night until I've read the whole issue. So there will be tweets from me about every one of the 11 stories in this issue over the next couple of weeks. At the end, I'll pull it all together into a second blog post.

Regardless of whether this issue has a lot of stories that really strike a chord with me, F&SF in general is a publication that I wholeheartedly recommend and one that I hope continues to be a part of my life for many years to come.


  1. This is definitely one of the two magazine I subscribe to. Shimmer is the other. [I let my Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Asimov's lapse]

  2. Fantasy & Science Fiction has been on my bookshelf since 1973, when I was 14. I quite subscribing for a while toward the end of Ed Ferman's and the beginning of Kristine Kathryn Rusch's editing. If I read one more Barry Malzberg story, or saw one more wizard story, I was going to set my hair on fire.

    The variety and quality of the stories has grown substantially under the current editor. A good example of this is the Sept - Oct 2012 issue, currently available.

    Since you mentioned some other magazines, though, I'd like to chime in with my memories. At one time, I subscribed to F&SF, Amazing, Galaxy, and Whispers. Amazing was anything but; Galaxy was terribly uneven; Whispers was more a fanzine than anything else, written on a typewriter. Only F&SF seemed to my introverted teenage brain to have any lasting literary merit. I figured it would be around years later, and I'm happy I was right.

    1. Thanks for sharing your recollections, Emmett. Galaxy was long gone by the days I was starting to buy the digests but Amazing was still around and seemed reasonably healthy at that point. I think it was owned by TSR, the game company, but couldn't swear to that.

  3. I always had a soft spot for Amazing. Hugo Gernsback, and all. I remember when their editor (Ted White, as I recall) tried reintroducing the word "Scientifiction" into the English language. Needless to say, it existed only in his editorials, and struck me as Quixotically sad. I hope it can return someday, but with the proliferation of e-crap and video games, I'm not too optimistic.