January 17th, 2010

Summary: Thrilling Wonder Stories, 2009

Summary: Thrilling Wonder Stories, 2009

Thrilling Wonder Stories was revived by Winston Engle in 2007, and I was excited to hear of it. I thought the idea pretty neat -- a modern day pulp, in essence. The first issue was OK, and seemed promising. The second issue didn't appear until 2009. Both were put out with very little publicity, nor much distribution, as far as I can tell. So it didn't surprise me to learn that after two issues the magazine (technically an anthology series) was dead. In this issue there were 7 new stories, three novelettes and four short stories (one of those a short-short). About 55,000 words of new fiction. There were also six reprints, some of them quite good: Sturgeon's "The Golden Helix", Fredric Brown's "Arena", even Harlan Ellison's first SF story, "Life Hutch". The gimmick this issue is that all the authors had some connection to Star Trek, either as writers of stories used as inspiration for Star Trek Episodes, or as writers of episode teleplays or Star Trek novels.

The magazine may be worth buying for the reprints (if you don't already have them), but I have to say I was disappointed by the new stories, despite the rather good track records of the contributors. Best probably was "Palladium", by Diane Duane, in which a mixed human-alien team intervenes on a primitive world.

All the stories qualify as SF, and 2 of the 7 (28%) were by women.

Summary: M-Brane SF, 2009

Summary: M-Brane SF, 2009

Here's a very ambitious new magazine. The editor and publisher is Christopher Fletcher. He plans for M-Brane to be a major SF magazine -- one to rival the likes of Asimov's and Analog. And in one sense he is well on his way -- M-Brane managed a remarkable 11 issues in 2009, essentially unheard of for a new magazine, and in fact more issues than any other SF magazine this year. I saw only two issues, and they included 19 stories, four novelettes, 15 shorts (2 of those short-shorts), for a total of some 95,000 words. Assuming the eleven issues all had about the same word count, the magazine for the whole year published in the neighborhood of 500,000 words, which means I have to revise what I said earlier about Beneath Ceaseless Skies -- that 'zine published an impressive 365,000 words, but M-Brane's totals are higher, and rank it 4th among all SF/Fantasy magazines as to word count.

Thus the quantity of new fiction at M-Brane was impressive indeed. The quality was a good deal more uneven, but I did see signs of promise. What I actually saw, in fact, was a curious mix of pretty weak stuff with some very nice stuff. (This I caution based on only two issues.) Well, always focus on the best! I really liked, for example, Douglas A. Van Belle's "The Barking Death Squirrels" (April), fun and fast-moving adventure with a science-based resolution, about a civil engineer in an extraterrestrial colony who has to find the weakness of invading aliens to fend them off. From November I found Alex Jeffers's "Jannicke's Cat" intriguing, about the last woman on a colony planet on which women stopped being born, and her relations with her descendants. Other nice work came from Toiya Kristen Finley, Larry Ivkovich, Lou Antonelli, and Jennifer Gifford.

M-Brane is explicitly a Science Fiction magazine, and I think all the stories qualify. 6 of 19 stories were by women (31.5%).

Summary: Apex Magazine, 2009

Summary: Apex Magazine, 2009

Apex Digest began as science fiction/fantasy/horror print magazine, with a certain tropism towards the horror end of things. Last year it migrated to the web and is now called Apex Magazine. It also seems to have increased it focus on SF -- still often with horror aspects -- but much less fantasy. The editor is Jason Sizemore. They usually publish two original stories per month plus a reprint, though I think there is some occasional variation. There are also essays and interviews. This year in 11 issues (one month was skipped) I saw 23 new stories, all short (one short-short), about 92,000 words total.

Apex Digest as a magazine kept improving over its four years or so, and I think the improvement has continued -- there was some fine stuff there this year. Highlights this year included "Cai and Her Ten Thousand Husbands" by Gord Sellar (February), about a teen girl kidnapped and raped and given alterations to preserve her as a prepubescent "wife" of a group of soldiers, and how she eventually took things into her own hads; "The Puma", by Theodora Goss (March), which returns to Wells’s Island of Dr. Moreau, having the puma woman from that story confront the narrator after his return to London, gaining new privileges for the altered animals; "A Dream of Stars", by Peter M. Ball (October), which reimagines the lives of real long-ago British astronomers (mainly John Flamsteed) as subjects of rather Lovecraftian-seeming alien rulers; and "59 Beads", by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (December), about a girl who sells herself into slavery, and terrible bodily modifications, to save her sister. Work by Ekaterina Sedia, Jennifer Pelland, Lavie Tidhar, Aliette de Bodard, and Ruth Nestvold also impressed, plus one reprint in particular, Aleksandar Ziljak's "An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, with Lydia on my Mind" (November), which first appeared in English in another Apex project, The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar, and very well worth checking out.

I called all 23 stories SF (a few were ambiguous), and 9 of the 23 new stories were by woman (39%).