October 17th, 2007

Summary: F&SF, 2007

 Summary, F&SF, 2007

F&SF published 62 stories in 2007, for a total of about 607,000 words of fiction, somewhat more than last year's word count, though with 11 fewer stories. According to my count there were 7 novellas (including one two part serial, Matthew Hughes's "The Helper and His Hero", which is actually about 42,000 words, fully novel length but also still eligible as a novella under both Hugo and Nebula rules), 26 novelets, and 29 short stories. Two of the short stories were short-shorts (under 1500 words). Three stories were reprints, all good: two from 2006 (Neil Gaiman's Hugo nominee "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" and Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Tamarisk Hunter", and one from 2007, David P. Marusek's "Osama, Phone Home"). Minus these reprints, there were 590,000 words of new fiction in F&SF in 2007.


The best novellas this year at F&SF were Ian R. MacLeod's "The Master Miller's Tale" (April) and Gene Wolfe's "Memorare" (May). MacLeod's story is set in the world of his novels The Light Ages and The House of Storms, and it concerns a miller who is set against his the upper class girl he loved as a child, who pushes a sort of industrial revolution analogue which will doom traditional jobs like the miller's. Wolfe's is an odd SF story about rather ghoulish asteroidal memorials to the dead, and also about marriage, sin, and redemption. I also liked Lucius Shepard's "Stars Seen Through Stone" (July), about a small time record producer in a small Pennsylvania town dealing with a rather repulsive but talented bluesman, and with the return of a curious visitation from space which has quite odd effects on his town. The other novellas were all at least interesting -- a new Hefn tale from Judith Berman, a retelling of the events of his novel Black Brillion from a different viewpoint by Matthew Hughes, an odd and not quite successful but interesting story of strange economics in future Eastern Europe by Bruce Sterling, and another murder mystery from Albert Cowdrey.


There is as usual a long list of fine novelets. In very rough order of preference: Charles Coleman Finlay's "An Eye for an Eye" (June), Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" (September), David Moles's "Finisterra" (December), Alexander Jablokov's "Brain Raid" (February) and "Wrong Number" (September), two by Fred Chappell: "Dance of Shadows" (March) and "The Diamond Shadow" (October-November); Chris Willrich's "A Wizard of the Old School" (August), and A. A. Attanasio's "Telefunken Remix" (May). There were also fine stories by Marta Randall, K. D. Wentworth, and Alex Irvine.

Finlay's story is a funny piece about a thief hired to steal some literal "family jewels" in a bio-engineering dominated future. Chiang's is a very interesting Arabesque story of time travel and fate. Moles's "Finisterra" is neat baroque SF set on a world of living floating "islands". Jablokov's pair include a nice SF piece about trying to recover a rogue AI and a fine contemporary fantasy about car repair and fixing personal mistakes. The Chappell stories are two of a series, somewhat Vancean in flavor, about a shadow dealer and his apprentice. Willrich's story is another Gaunt and Bone piece, though mostly about a minor character from a previous story, a wizard who they engage to cure their problems (inability to have a child) and who in the process comes to realize his own problems. Attanasio's story is just weird weird weird, about a man from the very very far future visiting the present day.

Short Stories

Not counting Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties", from the January issue but first published in 2006 -- and an outstanding story -- three pieces struck me as the best F&SF short stories this year. These are Daryl Gregory's "Unpossible" (October-November), a look at an adult trying to recapture childhood fantasies; Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert's "Stray" (December), powerful work about a sort of god who tries to live among people in the 20th century, with sad results; and M. Rickert's "Memoir of a Deer Woman" (March), an affecting story of a woman who becomes a deer, and her husband's reaction. There was also fine work from Robert Reed (a few good pieces), Heather Lindsley, Nancy Farmer, Don Webb, S. L. Gilbow, David Gerrold, Paul Park, and M. K. Hobson.


On the whole, a pretty good year for the magazine -- perhaps not quite as good as 2006.

Statistics: average novella length: 25800, novelet: 10600, short story: 5200.

Gender Balance: 16 of 62 stories -- something more than 25% (25.8%, if you insist), are by women. (Usual caveat about the occasional gender neutral byline -- I think I've got them sorted right, but I'm not sure.) Last year by my count the same number of stories -- 16 -- were by women, but out of 73 total, only 22%.

Which means that for all three of the traditional US "Big Three" magazines, the percentage of stories by women increased at least a bit from 2006 to 2007.

SF/Fantasy split: I make 32 of 62 stories fantasy, meaning the split is darn near 50/50. (Admittedly, some choices are questionable, like calling Matthew Hughes's pieces SF, when they are fairly explicitly borderline.)