They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

You Must Read The July-August F&SF

I first met Charles Coleman Finlay at Clarion in 2014. He had driven up from Ohio to the sorority house in East Lansing to consult with Gordon Van Gelder, who was our Guest Editor. Needing to pick Gordon's brain regarding the contract for his first novel, The Prodigal Troll, John Schoffstall and I found them standing by the sofa in the TV room off the back porch, looking over papers. We asked if we could sit in -- or stand in as the case was --and they both graciously insisted that we could. Bonus Clarion content.

Fast forward to more recent times and the announcement that not only was C.C. Finlay going to guest edit an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction -- a double-issue at that -- but for the first time ever Charlie would accept e-submissions on behalf of F&SF. Oh this is interesting.

Alas, Charlie didn't buy "The Gray Death", so I remain 0-and-50-something with F&SF.

Most magazines and anthologies have only a few stories that really get me. We'll ignore Writers of the Future Vol. XXIV, because I'm in it and I know all the authors. (grin) Otherwise, three of the rare 100% Likes have been The Best Science Fiction of the Year (#1, 1972) / edited by Terry Carr, The Green Hills of Earth / Robert Heinlein and Where Do We Go From Here? / edited by Isaac Asimov. Long time readers may remember I've raved about these before.

A few weeks ago Charlie posted that he had a few copies of his issue if people promised to review them. Really interested in this project, I bit. So the day I got it at the P.O. Box, I cracked it open to the lead story, figuring that Charlie and Gordon would want to lead with a strong one. I was not disappointed.

"Palm Strike’s Last Case" by Charlie Jane Anders
Comic book superhero plus off-world migration plus colony collapse disorder, so to speak. And the superhero part was really nicely done, much more real world than it might have been. And the villain story doesn't go the predictable way.

Wonderful story. Beautifully written. My favorite story so far.

"Subduction" by Paul M. Berger
Earthquakes and a guy who is reminiscent of Heinlein's "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag".

Wow. A second great story.

"Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned From the Trade Summit Incident" by Annalee Flower Horne
Military Space Cadet humor. Nicely done, Ensign Pulver-esque or even Redshirts. Full blown quiet orderly humor like this is wonderful -- and something I am no good at writing. Thankfully there are many writers out there and you don't have to depend on me for great SF humor. Oh and it starts off with a fart joke.


It wasn't until last night that I had time to get back to this issue and ended up finishing all the fiction pieces.

"The Traveling Salesman Solution" by David Erik Nelson
Okay, now Charlie is messing with me. Story starts in Michigan. The U.P. And just after my Detcon experience, our protag is in a wheelchair. And the mystery of the marathon runner is intriguing. Our guy is the perfect person to be investigate this -- perhaps too perfect but this is a short story afterall. And we are lucky to have him on the case. The very end changes things. Yeah it gives a reason for the narrative, but I wouldn't have written it that way. Who cares?

Really nicely done with the mystery, the explanation and the problem to be solved.

How the hell did we get to 4-for-4 so far?

"End of the World Community College" by Sandra McDonald
I love things like this. A bit rambling, but this future document is poignant AND funny as hell. And it really is the End of the World, sort of. Also most definately a 2014 story.

If The Walking Dead and Falling Skies were humorous...

"The Girls Who Go Below" by Cat Hellisen
An out of South Africa story that does NOT go where I thought it would, about two English girls being raised properly and play drowning at the lake, and the young man they meet. Could easily have been a Deep South story, too -- isolated either way. The end is both very beautiful and weirdly creepy at the same time.

"The Aerophone" by Dinesh Rao
This starts off as sort of a story I don't normally read. But it gets complicated AND it turns out to be about academics. The end isn't really the end, but a beginning of more questions that we started with.

Well played.

"The Day of the Nuptial Flight" by Sarina Dorie
Rarely do we get great stories from a truly alien point-of-view. Beautifully done with tremendous tension and misunderstanding between species. The only thing I had trouble with was what seemed to me to be a shifting sense of scale. But whether than was the author's fault or the fact I was reading so fast at 2am, I'm not sure. I chalk it up to the devotion to his reality of the alien's POV.


"Testimony of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events Upon His Majesty's Ship Confidence, 14-22 June, 1818, With Diagrams” by Ian Tregillis
Muntiny on the Bounty, Moby Dick, Master and Commander, Horatio Hornblower, Pirates of the Caribbean -- I love well constructed sea stories from the Age of Sail.

And sea monsters.

"Five Tales of the Aqueduct" by Spencer German Ellsworth
At first it looks like these five storylets are not connected. But they are, in a weird and wonderful way. I don't read strange like this often, but with this collection of stories, I will certainly go with it.

"Belly" by Haddayr Copley-Woods
Wow. This is like taking one of the throwaway witch fairy tales and building it out to a fully fledged story. There was a story, a couple years ago about a woman who was a may fly -- lived in just a day. A "how the hell did this get started" story. This is another excellent example and beautifully realized.

"The Only Known Law" by William Alexander
A First Contact of sorts story, with a human starfaring culture who has fled a dead Earth. It starts off with a great visual and the end is not broadcast early on.

"A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i" by Alaya Dawn Johnson
A war between the humans and the vampies, and we lost. Overtones of Nazi concentration camps with something else more disturbing. What would you do?

This one will stay with me a long, long time. And not just because I've been working on a doomed human race taken over by aliens story, it really is thought provoking.


So, thirteen stories and not a stinker amongst them. Are all 13 my faves of all time? No. But about half these stories I'll be thinking about for a long time. The rest are just fun. Shrewd Gordon is shrewd.

And now there are to be two more C.C. Finlay edited issues of F&SF:

March/April 2015 issue of F&SF
Reading period: August 1-15, 2014

September/October 2015 issue of F&SF
Reading period: January 1-15, 2015

E-subs at:

Charlie has been really open about this and talks about the 751 submissions he got in two weeks for this issue.

Gordon, Charlie -- all I can say is exceptionally well done.

Most Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil
Tags: fsf, reviews

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