Mundanespotting January 2007Posted by frankh at 10:42 PM
So now, after a long break because I have had little time for fiction, I am at it again. I try to be pretty tolerant of different approaches to mundane sf. If it’s about something reasonably human on something that seems reasonably like Earth in the future, I’ll give it a chance. I have some biases, but for the most part I am looking for any kind of meaningful speculative experience. There’s plenty of high quality escapist fiction in my collection, so I feel no need to dig through the current sf magazines to look for more.
Finally, I have the excitement of the Sony PRS-500, the e-reader with the funky “ink” technology that you can read about elsewhere (readability and low power drain are the big hooks). It is my first e-reader and it has surprised me by being substantially better than expected (after I got over the initial quirks). I am using the “large print PDF” format from fictionwise (which itself is a quirky source, but generally an excellent way to go), in landscape orientation (half page at a time) at the highest available magnification (medium). Now if I read from a digest magazine it seems like such a dirty experience. Skipping over the non-mundane stuff is also relatively easy. This overall scheme isn’t particularly cheap, but the experience of having my own growing library in the palm of my hand is a new one that I am liking. Maybe in the next generation of hardware it will be possible to read a full-blown facsimile of a digest magazine page on one of these things.
For this first new round of mundanespotting I have read or skimmed through the nominal January 2007 magazines in e-form. I report below on the short fiction, sorted alphabetically by author. Although Analog is a double issue, a lot of its pages were devoted to articles and a serial. I was pleasantly surprised for the first time by the experience of reading it. I will see if I sour on it in the future.
F&SF January 2007
Asimov's January 2007
Analog January-February 2007
[na = novella, nv = novelette, otherwise short story]
— “The Face of Hate” by Stephen L. Burns (Analog): aliens
— “Gunfight at the Sugarloaf Pet Food & Taxidermy” by Jeff Carlson (Asimov's): sort of a whimsical chase story; very little speculation and thus perhaps a bit too safely mundane
— “Café Culture” by Jack Dann (Asimov's): a decently edgy psychology-of-terrorism story complete with an Asimov’s brand disclaimer
— “Double Helix, Downward Gyre” by Carl Frederick (nv Analog): a somewhat preachy chase story that is nonetheless mundane enough for me and a nice story to see in Analog
— “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman (F&SF): an otherwise mundane story with fantasy or fantastic elements; I stopped halfway through, though the story probably had more going for it than the Gerrold…
— “The Strange Disappearance of David Gerrold” by David Gerrold (F&SF): a Being David Gerrold Story with fantastic or fantasy elements; I gave up halfway through
— “Radical Acceptance” by David W. Goldman (Analog): some sort of fannish non-mundane story, I guess
— “Exposure Therapy” by R. Emrys Gordon (Analog): interstellar travel or aliens or whatnot
— “Safeguard” by Nancy Kress (nv Asimov's): bio-political intrigue; not all that convincing but still a nice story
— “The Unrung Bells of the Marie Celeste” by Richard A. Lovett (Analog): FTL
— “Poison” by Bruce McAllister (Asimov's): overt fantasy
— “The Darkness Between” by Jeremy Minton (nv F&SF): generally traditional sf story about science and superstition in a fantastic future
— “Numerous Citations” by E. Mark Mitchell (na Analog): a somewhat mundane story with a bit too much unconvincing AI to make the cut; I would probably give this a mundane rating if the storytelling did not break down badly towards the end
— “The Hikikomori's Cartoon Kimono” by A.R. Morlan (nv Asimov's): a really funky story about art and culture in an otherwise straightforward mundane setting; my favorite story of this bunch—worthy for any “Best of” collection—Recommended
— “Battlefield Games” by Games R. Neube (Asimov's): non-mundane military sf
— “If Only We Knew” by Jerry Oltion (Analog): generally mundane story with hint of fantastic or fantasy elements I was unwilling to forgive
— “The Dark Boy” by Marta Randall (F&SF): mundane non-sf with a thin veneer of fantasy
— “X-Country” by Robert Reed (F&SF): I’ll call this a contemporary fantasy; interesting, but not credibly mundane
— “Super Gyro” by Grey Rollins (nv Analog): mundane sf power fantasy
— “The Taste of Miracles” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Analog): near Earth space story in a blatantly traditional non-mundane future
— “Kiosk” by Bruce Sterling (na F&SF): distinctive Sterling story about Eastern Europe and consumerism and technology and stuff like that; could easily be bloated into a novel that would bore me; works well enough in this form and is mundane enough for my tastes
— “Trunk and Disorderly” by Charles Stross (nv Asimov's): I think this was supposed to be about a future sport in a non-mundane future; I didn’t try reading very far into it
— “Emerald River, Pearl Sky” by Rajnar Vajra (na Analog): blurbed and skimmed as some sort of far future non-mundane science-is-like-magic story
OK, so that’s 7 stories that made the cut, including a fair number of long and memorable ones. That would make a good-sized mundane sf magazine for January if there was room in the field for a periodical with editorial tastes other than “eclectic,” “fantasy” or “Analog.” I will optimistically move on to February, thinking that the field for mundane sf may be improving. The next batch won’t include Analog because of the double issue this time, but I will be reporting on Interzone (in actual paper form!) and Jim Baen’s Universe (JBU) for the first time. Stay tuned.