Electric Velocipede, Issue 21/22, Fall 2010

cover

Electric Velocipede is a print magazine that started as a ‘zine in 2001. This issue will be the last published by Night Shade Books, according to a post on EV’s site by editor John Klima, as the magazine moves online. This issue contains fiction, poetry, an interview, and a book excerpt, with a total length of 218 pages. According to the submission guidelines they don’t publish horror, though some of the stories are quite dark. The magazine’s taste seems to run in the vein of LCRW, very comfortable with weird, and strongly preferential of shorter stories. In this issue there is a mix of what I’d call “literary weird” and sf and fantasy stories.

Continue reading

Posted in April 2011 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Polden, XXI Vek, April 2011

cover

In his editorial to the April issue, Samuel Lurie suggests to save this copy in a safe place. Why? Because this issue contains the first part of Plyvoon (Quicksand) by Alexander Zhitinsky, a sequel to his Lestnitza (Staircase). Having appeared forty years ago as samizdat (literally, an abbreviation for “self-published” in Russian), Staircase had gone viral among students and dissidents, becoming a cult classic of Russian science fiction literature. It has since been translated into a number of languages (German, Italian, Bulgarian, and others; however, I wasn’t able to locate an English translation) and become the basis for a Russian movie of the same name.
Continue reading

Posted in April 2011 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Whiff of Cold Air: The Longing for the Lost Dream of Space in Soviet and American Science Fiction.

The Moon Dream (The Moon Dream), by Alexandr Lazarevich, 1989

Requiem, by Robert A. Heinlein, in Adventures in Time and Space, eds. Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas, Random House, 1946

The Moon Dream and Requiem are two stories written by a Soviet and an American speculative fiction writers, separated by ideological and temporal borders, yet, related by a surprisingly close sentiment towards the space frontier. They come from an era of clearer dividing lines where the enemy was treacherous and the friends were reliable as our leaders liked us to think.
Continue reading

Posted in April 2011 | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Second Annual Boston IF Mini-Con

The Second Annual Boston Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention started on Thursday, March 11, and finished on Sunday, March 14. Held in parallel to PAX East 2011, a major gaming convention, the Second Annual Boston IF Mini-Con is actually the third IF mini-con to be held during a PAX event. The first Boston mini-con started it all during PAX East 2010, and a second mini-con followed in Seattle during PAX Prime 2010. The attendance and events during the latest IF mini-con demonstrate that the interest and excitement within and outside the IF community continues to grow. Continue reading

Posted in April 2011 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Editors’ Note, April 2011

Welcome, readers.

This month we’re planning to bring you more coverage of the interactive fiction mini-convention in March and coverage of an Israeli anthology.

Want to join us? See this page with info for potential coordinators, bureau heads, and reviewers.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Val Grimm, Editor-in-Chief
Elizabeth A. Allen, Editor

Posted in April 2011 | Tagged | 1 Comment

Racontons une histoire ensemble: History and Characteristics of French IF (Part 2)

cover of The IF Theory ReaderVal Grimm, Editors’ note: As part of our coverage of this year’s Second Annual Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention, we are publishing two articles from Interactive Fiction Theory Reader, a newly released collection of essays including work by Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Emily Short, and many more. This is the second article, the first being Francesco Cordella’s History of Italian IF. We are publishing it in two parts (read the first part here) due to the constraints of this WordPress installation.

Hugo Labrande is an IF author and reviewer. His game Gossip was first runner-up in IntroComp 2009. He is presently studying at the University of Calgary.

The “French Touch”: Interactive Fiction in France in the 80s)

The production of adventure games in French in the 80s was very diverse, as well as numerous: hundreds of games were released, with different themes, different interfaces, different tones, and the genre was extremely popular at the time. Enumerating all the games published during the period would be tedious, and to be fair quite useless; instead, we are going to attempt a review of the genre throughout the 80s in a transversal way, looking at some characteristics of adventure games rather than the games individually. This methodology will allow us to see better the evolution of the genre, as well as its specifics. Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Racontons une histoire ensemble: History and Characteristics of French IF (Part 1)

cover of the IF Theory Reader
Val Grimm, Editors’ note: As part of our coverage of this year’s Second Annual Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention, we are publishing two articles from Interactive Fiction Theory Reader, a newly released collection of essays including work by Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Emily Short, and many more. This is the second article, the first being Francesco Cordella’s History of Italian IF. We are publishing it in two parts (read the second part here) due to the constraints of this WordPress installation.

Hugo Labrande is an IF author and reviewer. His game Gossip was first runner-up in IntroComp 2009. He is presently studying at the University of Calgary.

From the beginning to the present day, it seems that the language of interactive fiction is for the most part English. The first interactive fiction, Adventure, developed by Will Crowther, was written in English, modeled after a cave in Kentucky, and spread via the ARPANET, which was a strictly American network. Later, Infocom wrote games that are considered the canon of interactive fiction, again in English. In the early 90s, TADS and Inform were developed by English speakers, and the majority of the games that were subsequently developed with those two authoring systems were in English. As a matter of fact, at the date of the writing of this article, there are 3732 games in the IFDB, of which 388 are not written in English[1]: 90% of all interactive fiction is written in English. The majority of authors, reviewers, and IF critics are thus English speakers, and interactive fiction is mainly an English-speaking genre.

But interactive fiction in other languages exists, though in smaller numbers. Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Asimov’s Science Fiction, Vol. 35, #3, March 2011

cover

In “Clean” by John Kessel, Elizabeth and Daniel decide, against their daughter Jinny’s insistence, that Daniel should experience mechanical memory erasure in one fell swoop to stave off the degeneration of Alzheimer’s. The process strips away Daniel’s affective memories of his wife and daughter, but leaves his intellect intact. Kessel uses plain and uninflected prose that only hits a poetic surge when describing the memories of which Daniel is stripped as he forgets them. This is a cyclical story of the old becoming young again and the child eventually parenting the parent, but not that profound beyond “we are our memories” and not that affecting except when describing Daniel actually losing his memories. Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ideomancer, Vol. 10 Issue 1

According to the editor’s note, The March issue of ideomancer is comprised of three stories full of “slanted spring sunlight; stories light enough to float; stories about beginnings”. On the surface, I would agree, but what I really think the link they all share is that they are chock full of bittersweet flights of fancy. The three stories all transform ideas that initially seem imaginative but frothy and completely impractical (even verging on ridiculous) into something weighty that’s both beautiful and haunting.

Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Clarkesworld Magazine, #54, March 2011

cover

The two fiction pieces in the March issue of Clarkesworld share some similarities. Both stories have female protagonists who are also narrators. The protagonists have bodies that set them apart from the human species. The story-worlds in both are radically different from ours. Neither tale thinks much of the human species. Finally, both stories are concerned with the themes of rejection, marginalization, rebellion and self-discovery. Still, despite these structural similarities, we get to enjoy two very different tales.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A brief history of Hungarian fantasy

Word of ChaosHungarian fantasy is based on the  pre-existing anglophone literary traditions and did not develop independently. Hungarian fantastic literature is varied but authors did not form a movement based on the common usage of the surreal and the fantastic, and did not have a mentor-student tradition. Fantastic  elements may be significant in a writer’s work and even influences can be observed between authors and writings, but these were isolated examples, and therefore lacked the influence to start a boom of fantasy writings. That came with the abundance of translated foreign fantasy.

Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Curveship: A new way to write IF

Nick Montfort‘s overview of Curveship was among the programming associated with the second IF mini-convention at PAX East. We interviewed him about the project.”What Curveship does differently is allowing control over the telling, not just the underlying storyworld.”

How did you first become academically interested in the possibilities of interactive fiction?

My interest in interactive fiction (IF) isn’t really academic. I’ve been playing it since I was in middle school. Shortly after I stated playing IF, I started writing it, not very well, in BASIC on the Epson QX-10 and Commodore 64. I kept playing and reading about interactive fiction; in 1995, I did a senior thesis on the topic. After working on IF and related topics further for a few years, I wrote three games in Inform 6. And I ended up doing my PhD at Penn on what would eventually become Curveship. So, I’ve been interested in IF as a player, as an author/programmer, and as a system developer—and I’ve found that humanistic theories and computer science research have been helpful in trying to advance the state of the art.


What is Curveship, and what is a Python framework?

Curveship is a platform for interactive fiction development that is written in the programming language Python; to create a Curveship game or fiction, you write a Python program that builds on the basic platform.

Other systems that are generally like Curveship, in that they are also IF development systems, are Inform and TADS.

What Curveship does differently is allowing control over the telling, not just the underlying storyworld. So, as easily as you can move a character or object around in existing IF, you can change qualities of the narrator in Curveship. Events can be told out of order, in flashback or even in reverse order. Any actor in play can be used to focalize the story, so that the narrative restricts itself to the events seen by that actor and flashbacks use that actor’s past knowledge of the world. The narrator (the ‘I’ of the story) and the narratee (the ‘you’) can be easily changed.

 

What were your research goals in creating this framework?

My main goal is to enable new sorts of interactive fiction games that do the same powerful things done by books we love. To accomplish this, I’ve implemented certain ideas about how the telling of a story—the ‘narrative discourse’—operates separately from the underlying storyworld. So I’ve been able to offer new ways to teach narrative theory, to see how existing narrative theory can enable the generation of narrative and how it needs to be reworked, and to see how to balance a simple-to-use formalism for sentence generation with the flexibility needed for storytelling. But, again, the main goal is to create new, awesome kinds of interactive fiction.

 

What were your inspirations in this research project? Are you building on the work of other writers, or scholars in narrative theory, and if so, who and why?

Gérard Genette’s Narrative Discourse was my touchstone for narrative theory, although I also took plenty of ideas from work in this field since then. The very valuable concept of narrator and narratee, for instance, is from work that my advisor, Gerald Prince, did years ago. Marie-Laure Ryan’s work on fictional worlds was the basis for the concepts (theories about the world) that each individual actor has in Curveship. The three-stage language generation pipeline that I implemented is based on Reiter and Dale’s discussion in Building Applied Natural-Language Generation Systems. And I could go on, but listing the scholarship and research that Curveship is based on is not very interesting. Suffice it to say that there’s plenty of it, and I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with a system like this if I had needed to invent narrative theory, the theory of fictionality, and natural language generation from scratch.

 

What was your point of departure from Inform 7, or other IF authoring systems?

Work on Curveship started before Inform 7 was released, so Curveship didn’t take off from it. As far as world modeling was concerned, I tried to incorporate the insights of every system that I could learn about, although Inform 6 and TADS 2 were certainly foremost in my mind—Inform 6 particularly, since I’d used that system to create several games. I think that existing IF systems model the fictional world very well, at an appropriate level of abstraction. I won’t say that the problem is solved, but for me it’s not the bottleneck. Being able to control the telling and narrate in different ways is where I saw I could make a difference. So I didn’t try to innovate much when it came to the world model, although I made a few refinements in places. Improving the world model just wasn’t part of my research or part of my creative interests.

I looked outside of traditional IF for relevant work on changing the narrative discourse. Systems such as Michael Mateas’s Subjective Avatars and Mark Kantrowitz’s GLINDA, both done as part of CMU’s Oz Projects, were significant here. Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s project Façade was a great inspiration for this, although they developed a single large-scale creative work rather than a platform with a few small-scale demos.

 

Is there any way you can imagine it being a particularly powerful tool for writers authoring genre works (for example science fiction, fantasy, or horror)?

If what’s being authored is interactive fiction, it certainly can. Genre works, as much as any imaginative writing, succeed because the story is told in effective ways — not just because interesting things happen.

The system can certainly be used for teaching about the power of narrative variation and can be used to create IF. If the system is useful in creating standard (unilinear) stories, that would be great, too. I don’t know how to go about it, but maybe someone else will.


Can you imagine Curveship being used to create interactive/mutable electronic poetry, and if so, what direction do you think that exploration might take?

One of the nice things about creating work online is that it doesn’t have to get shoved into the ‘poetry’ section or the ‘fiction’ section exclusively. My concerns in creating Curveship have been those of narrative and fiction . . . but of course, there are plenty of poems (ballads, epics) that create fictional worlds and tell stories. So, I see no reason why the system can’t be put to explicitly poetic use. I wouldn’t want to try to corner such work before it’s created by guessing about what it will be.

 

How would you like to continue to develop this project?

I’d certainly like to write some interactive fiction in it, and to help others do the same. I also hope that others will make modifications and contributions that suit their needs. Ideally, I’d like to help cultivate a community of interested author/programmer/developers, including academic researchers and independent IF creators.

 

Why is the system’s name “Curveship”?

Hart Crane was the first to use the word, as far as I know, in the last line of his poem “To Brooklyn Bridge”:

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

Based on this, I understand that ‘Curveship’ means ‘the essential quality of curvature,’ just like ‘authorship’ means ‘the essential quality of being an author.’ So, Curveship, a system which models the essential qualities of variation—that is, the curve of a story through its telling.

Also, fortunately, the domain was available.


Where can people learn more?

As I said, the domain was available: http://curveship.com/

You can not only learn more, but also download the system, which is free software and cross-platform (just requires a recent version of Python 2, such as 2.7.1.). Right now, it’s good to either have Python programming experience yourself or have a collaborator with such experience if you want to create using Curveship.

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 2011

cover

The best blend of science fiction stories is ones that can please both sides of my brain. This issue didn’t disappoint. I can easily recommend Adam-Troy Castro’s novella “The Hiding Place” and the novelettes “Ian’s Ions and Eons” by Paul Levinson and Thomas R. Dulski’s “Balm of Hurt Minds” as must-reads for this issue. The short stories pack quite an emotional and philosophical punch, though a couple of them were too cut-and-dried to be as effective. Gregory and James Benford provide the “Fact” side of this issue with their article “Smart SETI” and  the issue rounds off with Alastair Mayer’s “Small Penalties.”

Continue reading

Posted in April 2011, March 2011 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

World SF Blog, January-February 2011

The World SF Blog, run by Lavie Tidhar and Charles Tan, was set up in 2009 to carry news and features on science fiction from the world over. For the last few months, the blog has also been publishing fiction (mostly reprints); this is a look at the stories posted in the first two months of 2011, and it is quite a mixed bag. Nick Wood tells a fine tale of a man whose relationship is becoming as dried out as the land. Pyotr Kowalczyk contributes an amusing portrait of a ramshackle trip into space. Michael Haulica’s story of a gastronomic experiment gone wrong is let down by its translation. Ekaterina Sedia’s piece evokes a keen sense of loss as the supernatural meets the real world. Eliza Victoria brings magic into the real world in a different way, magic that’s enigmatic to her readers and characters alike. Stephen Kotowych poses some intriguing questions about time, in a story that doesn’t quite succeed as a whole. And Charlie Human chills with his brief depiction of a new way to fight a battle.

Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | 4 Comments

History of Italian IF

cover of the IF Theory ReaderVal Grimm; Editor’s Note: As part of our coverage of this year’s Second Annual Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention, we are publishing two articles from Interactive Fiction Theory Reader, a newly released collection of essays including work by Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Emily Short, and many more.

In my view, just as science fiction has continued to change since its first period of widespread popularity in the pulps of the 1920s, so too IF (which I was introduced to only recently thanks to the good offices of several in the community) today appears to be a somewhat different creature than it was in its infancy. Its authors often have literary as well as ludic goals, and academics including Nick Montfort at MIT have used it as a platform in which to explore narrative theory.

Francesco Cordella is an Italian IF author and reviewer as well as five-time organizer of the One Room Game Competition.


“The best thing would be a parser with just one word:

>BARMAN
Barman: What?

>BEER
Barman: A beer for you.

>MONEY?
Barman: Five bucks.

>PAY
Barman: Thanks.

So, this series of sentences seems perfect to me, maybe I’ll use it to write a game.”

The man who said this is Enrico Colombini, a programmer from Brescia (northern Italy) and the pioneer of adventure games in Italy—the Will Crowther of the Mediterrean, just to be clear. He has a curious aversion to the sophisticated parser invented by Infocom, and that’s why he proposed such a bizarre idea: the one-word parser. Fun, fantasy, and easy, straightforward work: no complicated sentences and no NPCs to ask “What’s wrong?” It’s certainly provocative, but it’s a way to focus mainly on the story and to create an “interactive fiction” for the modern era in Italy, where this genre seems dead: less puzzles, more story. Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Strange Horizons, January 3-31 2011

The new year and a new format for this publication converged. I was unable to find a  unifying thread binding together three pieces of new fiction and a reprint of a story from 1955, along with an introduction by fiction editor Jeff Hartman. Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Aotearoa by Matt Wigdahl

cover

The winners of the XYZZY awards, the Interactive Fiction community’s answer to the Grammys and Oscars, have been announced. A plethora of science fiction and fantasy titles are among the award recipients, chief among them Matt Wigdahl‘s “Aotearoa“, a speculative fiction piece which also won the Interactive Fiction Competition last year. “Aotearoa” swept the awards, winning in no less than seven of the thirteen categories, including Best Game, Best Setting, Best Puzzles, Best NPCs, Best Individual Puzzle, Best Implementation, and Best Use of Innovation. Clearly, the game has a lot going for it, especially for a work of short IF, though its length teeters on the edge of our definition: It will take average players two hours to complete this game, if not a little more.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Current Danish Science Fiction

Every year the Danish fanzine SCIENCE FICTION hosts a themed short story competition. One winner in each of the three age categories (10-16, 17-20, and 21+) is selected, and the best runner-up stories are published in the fanzine alongside the category winners. The fanzine, dedicated to the science fiction short story, also publish translated fiction, focusing on stories from outside the English speaking regions of the world. Reviewer Andreas J. Søe recently wrote down his impressions of 4 issues, for the Danish clubzine HIMMELSKIBET.  We reprint this article here, as it gives examples of current Danish fiction writing among fans.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Universe of Things, by Gwyneth Jones

cover

The Universe of Things is a difficult anthology to review, since it is populated by some very difficult writing, and I don’t mean the language is hard to understand. By this, I mean that the stories are very challenging, and not straightforward at all. Gwyneth Jones’ writing is unsettling, which can be interpreted as a sign of her skill as a writer.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tor.com, January 2011

Tor.com published two original pieces of short fiction in January, covering two areas close to my heart: Japan and monkeys.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Quechuan Proto-Science Fiction

We know that modern science fiction is considered to have begun with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, yet despite this there are a lot of older stories that might be considered science fiction too. Those books are halfway between fantasy and explorations of human curiosity about natural phenomena. These authors used fiction to find explanations and to tell exciting adventures.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Editors’ Note, March 2011

Welcome, readers.

This month we’re planning to bring you an overview on the past forty years of Hungarian fantasy, Mike Hilborn’s review of Aotearoa (which swept this year’s XYZZY Awards), Valentin D. Ivanov’s musings on classic Soviet science fiction, and Miguel Esquirol’s thoughts on Quechuan proto-sf. We’ll also start offering translations of articles about Russian genre fiction from French review site Russkaya Fantastika either this month or next. In addition, we’ll have coverage of the IF mini-convention concurrent with PAX East, starting with an interview with Nick Montfort, creator of Curveship, and two excerpts from the recently released IF Theory Reader.

Want to join us? See this page with info for potential coordinators, bureau heads, and reviewers.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Val Grimm, Editor-in-Chief
Elizabeth A. Allen, Editor

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Alt Hist, Issue 1

cover

Alt Hist, Issue 1 is a new periodical aimed at filling a gap in the market for alternative history and historical fiction.  Published in the U.K. by Mark Lord, its mission is “to provide readers with entertaining and well-written short stories with a historical setting, whether portraying actual events or events that could have happened,” (“About Alt Hist.”) Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Analog, March 2011

cover

The March 2011 issue explores possibilities in the interaction between humans and robots, humans and aliens, and humans and our own social taboos, and the stories included feature time travel, nanotechnology, genetic mutation, and even the evolution of timeshares, which are no longer just condos on the beach.

Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, March/April 2011

cover

All of the stories in this issue are solidly written and thought-provoking. There was only one small disappointment among an array of excellent stories covering the themes of death and immortality, change and new beginnings.
Continue reading

Posted in March 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Door to Lost Pages

cover

Troubled young runaway Aydee escapes her abusive home and stumbles across a bookstore called Lost Pages. After a series of bizarre encounters with a variety of creatures and divine beings, Aydee is befriended by Lost Pages’ shopkeeper Lucas and his myriad pet dogs. Together with Lucas, Aydee works and grows up at Lost Pages while dealing with its peculiar customers and the strange books in stock. But far from being a peaceful haven, Lost Pages thrusts Aydee into an ancient conflict between old gods and monsters until she is forced to confront the uncomfortable reality of her own true identity. Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction, Edited by Cecilia Tan and Bethany Zaiatz

cover

The Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction edited by Cecilia Tan and Bethany Zaiatz is a cohesive, balanced collection of stories that definitely live up to Circlet Press’ goal to find new ways to break open the strictures and formulas of the science fiction and fantasy genres in tandem with breaking open the formulas of erotica. There is a little something for everyone as long as you keep an open mind and aren’t shy about the s-word. As you might imagine this book is definitely all about SEX. But it’s also about many other things, most especially love. Love in all its wild and varied forms, from first love, to unrequited love, to obsessive love, to downright strange love. Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

MetaGalaktika #11: A thousand years of Hungarian science fiction, 2009

cover

by Mariann Benkö and Gábor Takács, translated by Csilla Kleinheincz

The subtitle of MetaGalaktika #11 (Metropolis Media, 2009) seems far-flung as the issue reviews only 200-250 years. The editors of the Hungarian science fiction magazine Galaktika were ambitious enough to show concisely and plainly the birth, development, present, and possible future of Hungarian science fiction. Writing about Hungarian science fiction is both a rewarding and a thankless challenge. On one hand, sources are plenty, there are no translation difficulties, on the other hand it is hard to be objective, especially when writing about the present. The contributors managed to put together an informative and interesting issue that is not drowned in scholarly terms yet  academic in depth.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Albedo One, #39, 2010

cover

Albedo One bills itself as Ireland’s longest-running and foremost magazine of the fantastic, and I’m happy to take their word for it.  This issue, # 39, contains an interview with Mike Resnick, several reviews of new novels, and six short stories.  Though remarkable in their breadth and diversity, all six stories probe in some way themes of time, death, and the transience of human life, and the more I consider it, the more I enjoy the subtle ways in which such seemingly disparate works overlap.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Welcome To The Greenhouse

cover

At the cusp of the twentieth century, the weather, as it was portrayed in utopian fiction, was something of a nuisance, an inconsiderate boor that could, should and would be reformed. Once war, sex and greed had been dealt with, the final item on the agenda in most fictional utopian societies was the control of weather. Thus in William Dean Howell’s “A Traveler From Altruria” series (1892), the visitor boasts about the superior weather on his terraformed world; Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein’s feminist utopia “Sultana’s Dream” (1905) has the guide describe, with similar pride, how in her world, a system of pipes tapped clouds for their water, thus also taming the monsoons; and Maxim Gorky wrote essay after essay describing weather-control as utopian communism’s killer app. As William Meyer, a geographer who’s made a specialty of studying utopian weather, put it: “Utopia, to be utopia, must enjoy perfect weather…”

Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Expanded Horizons #26, 2011

The webzine Expanded Horizons calls itself “speculative fiction for the rest of us,” which could mean a lot of things. Who exactly are “the rest of us”? People who are embarrassed to be science fiction and fantasy fans, perhaps? As it turns out, EH’s mission is to “increase diversity in the field of speculative fiction, both in the authors who contribute and in the perspectives presented.” They publish authors of various racial backgrounds and sexual orientations—straight white guys need not apply. The January 2011 issue contains two short stories, a poem, and a book review, all of which explore questions of gender, race, and sexuality in a science-fiction context. Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Fantasy Magazine, January 2011

Fantasy Magazine tells you what it’s about right there in the masthead: “From modern mythcraft to magic surrealism.” No ambiguous names, no hunting around to get a feel for the sort of stories they publish. They feature a new piece of fiction every week and publish regular non-fiction articles focusing things of interest to fans of fantasy, from reviews of contemporary films and books, to interviews with their authors and features on pieces of the genre which have been around for years, but not necessarily noticed or looked at with the eyes of a fan of fantasy. I’m sure there are those out there who can convince you that it is, indeed, a magazine when everything can be read on their website and there’s no physical copy you can hold in your hand; I’ve always liked something I can hold, but I’m still dubious of the label “magazine TV shows” so you probably shouldn’t worry too much. For a little under five dollars, you can buy a copy of Fantasy Magazine Issue #4, but from the date on the cover it seems they switched to digital format a while ago. The fiction is easily accessible under its own tab in the main navigation bar, and is brought from the authors at a pro-rate of 5c a word. This review will be looking at the four stories published in January 2011.

Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Words Without Borders, December 2010

cover

Words Without Borders is an online magazine dedicated to translating and publishing contemporary fiction from around the world. For their December issue, they decided to “counter the merriment with a dose of the macabre” by focusing on horror stories from a variety of countries—Germany, France, Serbia, and Japan, among others. Among the ten stories on offer, there’s a ghost tale, a visit from the devil, an invitation from a lunatic, and more than one mysterious death. All impeccably translated into English and capable of giving you chills.

Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What has Science Fiction meant to the UAE over the last few decades?

It’s difficult to put a finger on what constitutes science fiction in the United Arab Emirates. Difficult because the UAE has always been such an eclectic mix of nationalities that the culture has always consisted of a mix of Arab, Asian and European influences.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , | 7 Comments

An interview with Alberto Cola, winner of the Premio Urania.

Alberto Cola, born in 1967, as Italian science fiction author, has just been awarded the latest Premio Urania for his new novel Lazarus, now published by Mondadori in Italy.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

Tesseracts 14

cover

Tesseracts is a historic semi-annual anthology of Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Each volume is put together by a different pair of editors. Jean-Louis Trudel’s history of the series up until 1998 can be found in Tesseracts 7. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing acquired Tesseract Books (which published Tesseracts from its fourth volume onwards) in 2003. I first encountered the series in a used bookstore in Montréal a few years ago, and learned more about it while preparing NanopressAurora winners’ anthology in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the award last year. I have read volumes 3 and 8 in full, and portions of volumes 4, 5, and 9. As an increasingly devoted observer of Canadian genre writing and fandom, I chose to assign this review to myself, and I hope that what I consider my thoroughness and honesty come across as such. It is worth reminding our readers that I am indebted to several members of the Edge staff, particularly Brian and Anita Hades and Janice Shoults, for their help in holding the launch party for this magazine at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus this past fall. I have not allowed their kindness to prejudice this review, and in fact it is my affection for Canadian fandom and for Edge as a publisher that motivate me to be as truthful as possible.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Editors’ Note, February 2011

Welcome, readers.

This month we’ll bring you the first column by our Bureau Head for the UAE, Arafaat Ali Khan.
You can also look forward to several articles about Hungarian genre fiction, interviews with Jean-Claude Dunyach and Alberto Cola, Val’s review of Tesseracts 14, and more.

Want to join us? See this page with info for potential coordinators, bureau heads, and reviewers.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Val Grimm, Editor-in-Chief
Elizabeth A. Allen, Editor

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tenth Orbit

cover

Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places is a single-author collection by Argentine writer Gustavo Bondoni, put out by the small press Altered Dimensions and available in paperback and ebook editions. The twenty-two stories comprising this volume are primarily idea-driven science fiction. According to the author, all were originally written in English, rather than having been translated. I believe at least some of the stories were previously published, but there is neither publication history nor individual copyright date for any of them. I would have liked to trace the development of Bondoni’s writing style chronologically, but was unable to do so.
Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Asimov’s Science Fiction February 2011

Sci-fi shorts, I admit, are not my best subject, but I took the reviewer position to familiarize myself more with today’s up and coming science fiction authors. Asimov’s Science Fiction is one of the leading science fiction magazines in the market, and the selection they choose is said to be the best of in the short story market. Of course, many names are collected in this volume. The highlighted author of this issue is Paul McAuley’s novella “The Choice;” his latest book is the recently-published sci-fi thriller Cowboy Angels. Other rising stars and sci-fi veterans in this issue include contributions from Aliette de Bodard, David Ira Cleary, and Jane Yolen. This issue has been a solid introduction for me as a science fiction reader, and it provides a range of different subgenres and styles. While I didn’t 100% enjoy every single story in this issue, I was never bored by the stories and the issue as a whole had enough of an interesting selection to have me keep reading.

Continue reading

Posted in February 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Key, 31 January 2011

This week we’re offering up links about Chosen Ones, an interesting blog by a Locus short fiction reviewer, new (amusing) terms for sf criticism, sf in Romania, zombies and what people have done with them, “The Secret Feminist Cabal”, what the hell is mythpunk, toxic language, toxic architecture, and belief and imagination. Continue reading

Posted in January 2011 | Tagged | 2 Comments