I’m afraid this month’s Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) thus far has been a bit of a let-down. I recognize that this sister magazine to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine has a reputation to uphold as the most “literary” of the Big Three science fiction digests (a lofty standing it shares with Galaxy and Astounding), but I think it has gone a bit too far.
Perhaps it’s the doing of the new editor, Robert P. Mills, who took the reins when Anthony Boucher stepped down to pursue a more active writing career. Maybe this is what the audience wants. Maybe it’s a phase. In any event, the stories are all long on imagery and short on plot and/or comprehensibility. I know I’m prone to writing purplish prose, and I’ve certainly got a strong snobbish streak, but this month’s stories go too far even for me.
“The Eye and the Lightning” is an Algis Budrys-penned tale about a future in which (I think) scanning devices have given people almost unlimited ability to surveil, to destroy, and to teleport. People live in constant fear of being murdered at any moment by an unknown assailant who tired of his peepshow subject. They go to town swaddled in concealing clothes as some version of the Law of Contagion makes it easier to be a target of surveillance and attack if some of your clothes, skin or blood falls into someone else’s possession. This tale chronicles what happens when one of the inhabitants of this dystopia invents a detector that allows a scanned person to identify and retaliate against his or her scanner.
Very atmospheric, but it didn’t make much sense to me.
Asimov’s science article goes too far in the other direction, perhaps. It is a primer on escape velocity, the minimum speed necessary to escape a body’s gravity. There is not much to it. We would have been just as well served had he just submitted the charts showing escape velocity by planet without bothering with the explanation.
“Pink Caterpillar” is Tony Boucher’s recent foray into writing: a mildly cute, but somewhat fluffy story about the paradox caused by the impossibility of being in two places (or times) at once.
At least I understood it. The same cannot be said for Fritz Leiber’s “Poor Little Miss MacBeth,” which (I think?) is about an old witch in a post-apocalyptic setting. It’s a short mood piece, and it doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps one of my three fans can read it and tell me what a dunce I am.
The final tale of the first half of the magazine is “Timequake,” by Miriam Allen Deford. Per the editorial forward, she’s written a lot, but I’ve never heard of her. This story is about the consequences of the clock resetting 12 hours into the past, eliminating all actions done in that period, but leaving the memories of everyone intact. An interesting, if silly, premise. It’s turned into a trivial, short tale.
Oh well. Here’s hoping Part 2 comprises more substantial stuff.
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