Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: F&SF Magazine, Vol. CXXVI, Issue 1 & 2, Jan/Feb 2014

F&SF Magazine's 2014 starts with a loud BOOM! I enjoyed every story of this issue and even the two that gave me the least literary pleasure (Reed's and Crone's) are still way above average.

This happened when I finished reading this issue of F&SF Magazine.

Seth Chambers's novella, C.C. Finlay's novelette and Chillemi/Di Filippo's team-up were outstanding. 
I seriously think that this issue has to be bought and kept. I thank all the authors; I will drink a cold beer while singing immoral chants of praise as my personal offering to their honor.
Let's dig quickly into the stories.

"In Her Eyes" by Seth Chambers is this issue's long novella. It certainly is one of the best stories I read in the past few months about Alex's love for Song a grotesque girl with a foul mouth and beautiful blue eyes. She is not a beauty. Paradoxically, she is beautiful. Why? Because she is a sort of shape shifter. I don't want to give it away, but this story is tragic on so many levels, and contains several perversions of our evaluation of physical attraction, racism and sexual pleasure. 

"The New Cambrian" by Andy Stewart is a novelette about a mission on Jupiter's moon Europa. The mission is one-way only and manned by forty-eight people. And then, there were forty-seven, as Dr. Schneider dies. Incidentally, Dr. Schneider is the wife of the main character, Ty, which is in love with Ana, another member of the team. Dr. Schneider - we don't know her first name - was a scientific celebrity as she found a form of life resembling our trilobite (they call it quadlobite). Things go downhill when in a Riley Scott moment Ty vomits a quadlobite. This story has everything, from high-technology, a love triangle, death and so on. The only question is that nowadays there are so many stories and movies based on Europa that when a future civilization will think that we had a colony on the jovian moon.

"The Man Who Hanged Three Times" got me at its first sentence. C.C. Finlay writes a sad story about a wrongful death sentence that is carried out... many times. Fat Pritchard is arrested because of the alleged murder of his love, Pearl. While proclaiming his innocence, Pritchard will discover a horrible secret. I would love to see a thirty minute movie of this short as the western setting perfectly fits the story and delivers the right mood. 

"The Via Panisperna Boys in Operation Harmony" by Claudio Chillemi and Paul Di Filippo. Well, being Italian I feel overwhelmed as soon as I read "Via Panisperna". We all know about Enrico Fermi and his friends. Yet, no one knows what happened to Ettore Majorana, the brightest of 'em all. It is said that he was able to solve the most complex problems in just a few seconds on napkins or wherever he could write. Unfortunately, one day he disappeared and since then many things were said about him and his disappearance. Majorana's is one of the most fascinating European mysteries; I read a couple of books about him and his mystery. Chillemi and Di Filippo give us a different (totally crazy) tale about what might have happened. The only minor issue I have with this story is that the authors located Bruno Pontecorvo in the US when in real life he defected to the USSR. Side note: my father-in-law was present at the Pontecorvo-Segre' reunion in Italy.

"The Story-Teller" by Bruce Jay Friedman, "We Don't Mean to Be" by Reed and "The Lion Wedding" by Moira Crone are weird enough.

Alex Irvine's "For All of Us Down Here" is a nice tale.  The world is afflicted by Singularity, and almost all humans are plugged into a virtual system and left the real world crumbling. I am not much into VR stories but I liked that this one was from the perspective of someone without access to the system.

"Out of the Deep" by Albert E. Cowdrey and "The Museum of Error" get their honorable mention as they are both pleasant and well narrated.

Overall, this issue of F&SF raised the bar. Big time.


  1. Thanks for the appreciation addressed to the story that I wrote with the great Paul Di Filippo. Obviously the story we told is a ucronia (this explains why Pontecorvo is not in the USSR, at least in this story;-)) out of the timeline in which we live. But I was born in Catania and Majorana in our blood, I could not help but write about him. So I convinced my friend Paul to put pen to paper a story about "one of the most fascinating mysteries of Europe" and we did it ... having a great time! Claudio Chillemi.

  2. Claudio - thank you for reading my blog.
    As I mentioned in my post, the idea to move Pontecorvo to the US is for me a minor issue, meaning that it just feels strange knowing where he actually was and how depressed he was later in life about his choice. Of course, the story works flawlessly; I had a lot of fun reading it. I guess you might have Pontecorvo defect to the USRR in the sequel to this story... or in the movie! :o)
    Ciao, Enrico
    PS: Pur essendo milanese, i miei nonni materni erano di Motta Sant'Anastasia. Ho passato ogni mia estate dalla nascita ai miei venti e passa anni in quelle zone, particolarmente Taormina (zona Lido Spisone).