Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for August 2003

Since I let my subscription to F&SF lapse, there are a few things I miss. Actually, there are a few writers I miss, ones which editor Gordon Van Gelder features fairly often, namely Terry Bisson, Robert Reed and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. None of them are in this issue, which has a dragon on the cover. I really wish it didn't have a dragon on the cover. I wouldn't have paid for it, since it has a dragon on the cover, but since it was part of my booty from the World Fantasy Convention I didn't have to.

Basically, I don't feel like I'm missing a lot by not subscribing. There is a whacked-out and wonderful story by Benjamin Rosenbaum called "Red Leather Tassels," and a decent coming-of-middle-age story by Harvey Jacobs, but that's really about it. Not the strongest issue. I can't figure out if GVG has really good taste but feels pressure to buy a lot of conventional stories that he thinks his readers will appreciate, if he has really bad taste but a few gems manage to slip through, or if the magazine fully reflects his taste which only intersects with mine about ten percent of the time. Whatever the case, I find F&SF a hugely frustrating magazine to read.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester, by Alfred Bester, with an Introduction by Robert Silverberg

If I was to pick my own holy trinity of Golden Age science fiction writers, they would be Theodore Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, and Alfred Bester. Bester's novels The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination are among the best ever published in the genre. Seventeen pieces of Bester's short fiction are collected here, in a loose chronological order which shows his development from rather conventional, if imaginative, to confidently weird, poetic and original. Bester's science isn't always terribly plausible, because he's more concerned with writing believable people, and although his psychoanalytical approach to characterization is certainly a product of his time (as is the nuclear anxiety which runs through several of these stories), he transcends that with a grasp of humanity's universal preoccupations and a wry and sometimes gonzo sense of humor. Favorite stories here include "Time is the Traitor," "The Pi Man," "They Don't Make Life Like They Used To" and "Galatea Galante."