Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review – The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Aug/Sept)

The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy is in its 60th year of publication. Pretty amazing when you think of it. Of all of the digest SF magazines it has always been my favourite, so much so that over the years I accumulated a complete run of the magazine beginning with its 1949 debut issue. Although I have not been reading it with any regularity the past few years (for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with the magazine); when I was offered a copy for review I gladly accepted to see how the venerable publication was doing.

F&SF has always had an eclectic mix of speculative fiction from hard science fiction to fantasy of every persuasion. Each issue brings you a selection of novelets, short stories, poems, several classic reprints and a host of departments that include book and film reviews, an editorial and more. With a small typeface and about 256 pages, you get a lot of great reading for the cover price of $6.50 US. Oh and I love the illustrations and cartoons. You can see the TOC for the current issue here.

One of the attractions of magazines is the non-fiction features that they provide. This issue offers two book review columns, one by fantasist Charles de Lint and the other by speculative fiction writer Elizabeth Hand. Of the two, I have been reading de Lint’s reviews for years and his love of books shines through. I have never been disappointed in a book that was recommended by him. I found Hand’s reviews to be more of a literary critique nature, less reader friendly, but nevertheless interesting and insightful.

The novelets contained a range of familiar authors (to me) such as Sean McMullen, Melinda Snodgrass, and Bruce Sterling and some less familiar such as Youn Ha Lee, Lawrence Connolly, Rand Lee and Albert Cowdrey. Short stories included the familiar Nancy Springer, Matthew Hughes and a translation of French author Georges-Olivier Chateaureynard. This mix of familiar and new has always been a hallmark of the magazine and in my view, the combination keeps the magazine fresh and relevant.

Nancy Springer’s story You are Such a One was a delightful tale of a woman who finally meets the reality she has been dreaming about all of her life - a poignant tale that concluded with an ending that frustrated me – in a good way. F&SF stories tend to do that – the unexpected. Matthew Hughes Hunchsters is a macabre little tale that left me with a grin on my face. The translated story by Chateaureynard is an interesting love story about a man with wings, his wife and an ending with a twist.

The Classic Reprints section was a new development to me but based on my reading of The Goddamned Tooth Fairy by Tina Kuzminski a good strategy. Sixty years of publication has produced some terrific fiction to choose from. This contemporary fantasy story tells the tale of two damaged individuals who might sail past one another in their search for love and acceptance if not for the intervention of the tooth fairy – a tooth fairy not exactly from canon.

All of the stories come with brief editorial introductions which is another feature that adds value to the magazine. I found the August/September of F&SF issue to be as entertaining as always and I will be sure to pick it up more frequently in the future. If you want to sample a broad range of genre fiction, you can’t go wrong with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.


  1. It's pieces like this that keep the wheels of fantasy and SF oiled. There is so much snobbery connected with literature and I think the fact that we are just supposed to enjoy it often gets lost in peoples' urgency to 'analyse the arse off it'.

    Long may the magazine ontinue and maybe, one day it will feature my new fanatasy novel (the first of a trilogy) - Randolph's Challenge, Book One-The Pendulum Swings. Those who want to read a book to enjoy the story rather than analyse it, might just like this one.

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph's Challenge, Book One-The Pendulum Swings

  2. Thanks Chris. F&SF is certainly my all-time favourite fiction mag. Good luck with your writing and maybe we will see you in the digest.


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