There are months when The Magazine of Fantasy AND Science Fiction is filled with sublime stuff. Then there are months when F&SF is just mildly diverting. This is looking to be one of those months. Things could be worse, of course.
Editor Robert Mills opens things up by asking if we’d like longer short stories (novelets), which apparently are in a bumper crop this year. Robert, if you’re reading, I think that’s a fine idea. I like a good 20 pages to feel the start, middle, and end of a story. Shorter pieces tend to rely on gimmick endings or be mood pieces. Not that those don’t have their place, but everybody has her or his preferences, and that one is mine.
What do y’all think?
First out of the gate is J.T. McIntosh’s Tenth Time Around, which takes place in a nearish future where travel back in time is possible, but expensive, and only into your younger self. Our protagonist uses his multiple lives trying to successfully woo a lost love. The result is not unpredictable, but McIntosh writes a fine yarn.
I much liked Asimov’s non-fiction column in this issue, detailing the fiendish difficulty involved in both escaping Earth’s gravity and ensuring subsequent capture by the moon. It is a subject of which I never had a real intuitive grasp, despite having followed all of the Pioneer and Mechta shots avidly (I’ve even published a few non-fiction articles on the subject, myself).
Satirist Ron Goulart’s Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir is a genuinely humorous account of a fictitious writer from the tarnished side of pulp’s Golden Age. I caught the Lovecraft references, having read virtually everything H.P. ever published, but I’m afraid I’ve missed the other jokes. Perhaps someone can help me with this one.
Then there’s The One that Got Away by Chad Oliver, who writes both science fiction and westerns. He combines the two to good effect here. Well, I’m not sure it actually takes place in “the west,” but the setting is a bucolic valley and involves by turns pyromania, a rustic lodge, good fishing, and aliens. Fun and fluffy.
Finally, for today, is Robert Graves’ The Shout, which Robert Mills found good enough to reprint, the story having first appeared in the magazine seven years ago (before I was a regular reader). Or perhaps F&SF is simply hard up for material. Or Mr. Graves is hard up for cash. Somehow I doubt the latter, the great classicist having penned such eternal works as I, Claudius.
In any event, Shout is a moody piece, told in a lunatic asylum, one inmate to another, involving a soul-shattering scream taught the narrator by Australian aboriginals. I found the tale a little too disjointed to be entirely comprehensible, but I did enjoy the idea that all of the souls of the world are actually small stones on a sandy hill between a town and beach in southern England.
I mean, they have to be somewhere, don’t they?
So there you go. Nothing stand-out, nothing offensive. Pleasant fire-side or shady tree fare. In two or three days, Part II (unless some space spectacular compels me to issue a stop-press…)
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