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Summary: F&SF, 2009

Summary: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2009

F&SF published 62 new stories in 2009. This was somewhat fewer stories than in previous years, for two reasons. One reason is that they also published 9 reprints, as part of a 60th anniversary celebration. Of the new stories, 2 were novellas, 32 were novelets, and 28 were short-stories (two of these short-shorts). The nine reprints included 1 novella, and 4 each novelets and short stories, for some 85,000 words of reprinted fiction. And the new fiction came to about 517,000 words, making the combined total pretty similar to the last couple of years (maybe just slightly less).

I will note first that the reprinted stories were an excellent selection -- a mix of familiar and first-rate stories with stories that deserved to be better remembered.

Novellas

Both novellas were nice work. My favorite was Lucius Shepard's "Halloween Town" (October-November), about a strange town rather vertically situated in a gorge, and the upheaval resulting in part from one new arrival's fascination with a young woman who had been the mistress of the eccentric rock star who financially supports the town. The other novella is "Paradiso Lost" by Albert Cowdrey (June-July) in which his recurring character Robert Kohn tells the story of his first assignment, in which he investigates an murder on a starship heading to the planet Paradiso, then the mystery of where and/or why Paradiso's colonists have disappeared -- fine work, though perhaps a bit too long and episodic for its eventual resolution to carry.

Novelettes

It's often said that SF is a genre of novelets, and you could prove it by my lists of best stories, I suppose. My favorites from F&SF this year: Fred Chappell's "Shadow of the Valley" (February), in which the rivalry between shadow hunter Master Astolfo’s servants Falco and Mutano reaches a new pitch as he sends them to an obscure valley to obtain rare plants that consume people’s shadows; Ellen Kushner's "'A Wild and Wicked Youth'" (April-May), a very nice depiction of Richard St. Vier's early life; John C. Wright's "One Bright Star to Guide Them" (April-May), about a middle-aged man struggling to recruit his childhood fellows to another geste in the fantasy world they visited as children; Robert Reed's "Firehorn" (June-July), about a childhood invention that got out of hand -- and also about the interactions between AIs and humans; Yoon Ha Lee's "The Bones of Giants" (August-September),in which a man searching for revenge against the evil necromancer who killed his mother allies himself with a chance-encountered young woman -- a seemingly conventional fantasy that resolves itself unexpectedly; Charles Oberndorf's "Another Life" (October/November), about a man in a military which resurrects its dead -- and his memories of a lover he had before his first posting, and how they fell out of touch after his first resurrection; and Alex Irvine's "Dragon's Teeth" (December), about a quest to kill a dragon, and the political maneuverings behind that. I should also mention a story that didn't quite work for me, but that has stuck with me, Yoon Ha Lee's "The Unstrung Zither" (March), SF with a fantastical flavor, about a musician charged with learning how to defeat five child assassins.

Other strong novelets came from Charles Coleman Finlay, Mike O'Driscoll, Sean McMullen, Bruce Sterling, Elizabeth Hand, and Robert Silverberg.

Short Stories

And my favorite short stories: "Catalog", by Eugene Mirabelli (February), a decidedly original story about a man who suddenly finds himself in an unusual, and weirdly commercial, world, some of the nature of which is of course hinted at by the title; "The Motorman's Coat", by John Kessel (June-July), is quiet and affecting, about man operating a sort of antique store of the future, after the "Die-Off", and the prized title artifact he acquires; and "Blocked", by Geoff Ryman (October-November), which mixes several odd ingredients intriguingly: a Cambodian casino manager trying to become a man while alien invaders drive humanity to some sort of virtual existence.

Others receiving votes?: Carol Emshwiller (a couple of times), M. Rickert, Sarah Thomas, Alexandra Duncan, S. L. Gilbow, and Barry B. Longyear.

Things of Little Interest

The average novella was 25750 words, versus 23000 last year, the average novelette 10700, as against 11600 in 2007, and the average short story 4400 words, compared to 4300 in 2008.

Of the 62 pieces of new short fiction, 14, about 22.5%, were by women. This is very similar to last year's total. I also estimate that 28 of 62 stories are SF, which is 45%. This is a rather lower percentage than last year, but over multiple years the average seems to settle pretty close to 50% SF, 50% Fantasy.





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