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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2015 (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, #718)

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CONTENT: Novella "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu Novelets "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim "The Mantis Tattoo" by Paul M. Berger Short Stories "Things Worth Knowing" by Jay O'Connell "La Héron" by Charlotte Ashley "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang" by Brian Dolton "Last Transaction" by Nik Constantine "Little Girls in Bone CONTENT: Novella "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu Novelets "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim "The Mantis Tattoo" by Paul M. Berger Short Stories "Things Worth Knowing" by Jay O'Connell "La Héron" by Charlotte Ashley "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang" by Brian Dolton "Last Transaction" by Nik Constantine "Little Girls in Bone Museums" by Sadie Bruce "A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell" by Jonathan L. Howard "How to Masquerade As a Human before the Invasion" by Jenn Reese "A Users Guide to Increments of Time" by Kat Howard "Bilingual" by Henry Lien ----------------------- Volume 128, No. 3&4 #718, March/April 2015 Edited by C.C. Finlay Cover art by David Hardy


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CONTENT: Novella "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu Novelets "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim "The Mantis Tattoo" by Paul M. Berger Short Stories "Things Worth Knowing" by Jay O'Connell "La Héron" by Charlotte Ashley "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang" by Brian Dolton "Last Transaction" by Nik Constantine "Little Girls in Bone CONTENT: Novella "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu Novelets "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim "The Mantis Tattoo" by Paul M. Berger Short Stories "Things Worth Knowing" by Jay O'Connell "La Héron" by Charlotte Ashley "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang" by Brian Dolton "Last Transaction" by Nik Constantine "Little Girls in Bone Museums" by Sadie Bruce "A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell" by Jonathan L. Howard "How to Masquerade As a Human before the Invasion" by Jenn Reese "A Users Guide to Increments of Time" by Kat Howard "Bilingual" by Henry Lien ----------------------- Volume 128, No. 3&4 #718, March/April 2015 Edited by C.C. Finlay Cover art by David Hardy

30 review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2015 (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, #718)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lanko

    I didn't read this magazine, I've only read What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear, by Bao Shu, through the Best SFF Novellas of 2016 Anthology. Unfortunately, that's the only place this novella appeared, so it doesn't have a cover or anything else and I've enjoyed it a lot and wanted it on my shelf. The story uses the concept of "Arrow of Time" and it passes on China. Imagine that instead of starting in 1917 with the Communist revolution in Russia, WWII in 1939 and the Cold War afterwards, I didn't read this magazine, I've only read What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear, by Bao Shu, through the Best SFF Novellas of 2016 Anthology. Unfortunately, that's the only place this novella appeared, so it doesn't have a cover or anything else and I've enjoyed it a lot and wanted it on my shelf. The story uses the concept of "Arrow of Time" and it passes on China. Imagine that instead of starting in 1917 with the Communist revolution in Russia, WWII in 1939 and the Cold War afterwards, until today, the arrow of time is reversed. We start in say in early 20th century (somewhere around that), but the world has the technology of 2016. Then the Gulf War happens, oil shortage and the Cold War makes some technologies disappear, Mao Zedong ascends and starts his reforms, then the world goes to shit when Hitler ascends in Germany, and so on. The character has smartphones, and then as year passes, that is only a distant memory, as technology "advances" backwards. He also appears to be the student who stood in front of the tanks in the Red Square. Pretty interesting concept, there's also a love story and other sub-plot going.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Esther

    This is the second edition edited by CC Finlay - and according to the announcement in this edition, he will be the on-going editor going forward. I think this is pretty exciting, as I've enjoyed his editing, though this edition less than the first. I do think he brings "fresh" eyes and a new voice. "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" [novella] by Boa Shu (translated by Ken Liu) I struggled with this one as I'm not as familiar with Chinese history as it probably requires. I also find the This is the second edition edited by CC Finlay - and according to the announcement in this edition, he will be the on-going editor going forward. I think this is pretty exciting, as I've enjoyed his editing, though this edition less than the first. I do think he brings "fresh" eyes and a new voice. "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" [novella] by Boa Shu (translated by Ken Liu) I struggled with this one as I'm not as familiar with Chinese history as it probably requires. I also find the style a bit "flat" though this probably facilitates it being a fast-paced read if you know the source material better. I liked the philosophical aspects around how we approach the sequencing of events. Despite it being challenging, I'm glad I got to read it. "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" by Alice Sola Kim A compelling dark story. I enjoyed it. Again, a slightly challenging choice, but worth the read. "The Mantis Tattoo" by Paul M. Berger I liked this one. It felt like an interesting mix of mythology and apocalyptic sci-fi. "Things Worth Knowing" by Jay O'Connell This was supposed to be a satirical piece, but I found it a bit too dark to find funny. There seems to be a growing "vision" of a world divided into those living on welfare and those subsisting in privilege. This zeroes in on education in quite an interesting way. As someone living in the developing world, I often see the growth of technology in education as positive, but this story paints it in quite a dark - and thought-provoking - light. "La Heron" by Charlotte Ashley A fun mix of historical medieval tournaments and faerie-lore. Reminded me a bit of George RR Martin (though slightly more girl-friendly). "This is the Way the Universe Ends: with a Bang" by Brian Dolton My stand-out favourite of the edition. I struggled to get into it at first, but so worth it in the end. "Last Transaction" by Nik Constantine A comic piece of science-fiction told in an interesting style with some thought-provoking aspects. "Little Girls in Bone Museums" by Sadie Bruce I sort of got the imagery in this story and I sort of didn't. Didn't particularly stand out for me. "A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell" by Jonathan L. Howard I think this was supposed to be a funny piece about time travel, but it didn't really work for me. "How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion" by Jenn Reese Fun piece of flat. Had a slightly thought-provoking ending. "A User's Guide to Increments of Time" by Kat Howard A love story gone bad about two individuals with the ability to affect time. Quite a haunting feel to it. I enjoyed reading it, but it didn't really stand out for me. "Bilingual" by Henry Lien A girl discovers she can talk to dolphins and wants to use this to warn wild dolphins to stay away from dangerous places. Told in a Twitter-based style. Didn't work for me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nuno R.

    It was through N. K. Jemisin that I knew about Paul M. Berger, after her mentioning his name in a blog post. I believe they are in the same writting group. "The Mantis Tattoo" was first published in "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" and more recently the author asked and was granted permission to offer the download for free. Here is the PDF: http://www.paulmberger.com/2016/02/14... and it's worth reading. It would be great if it was re-published and we could actually pay the author too It was through N. K. Jemisin that I knew about Paul M. Berger, after her mentioning his name in a blog post. I believe they are in the same writting group. "The Mantis Tattoo" was first published in "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" and more recently the author asked and was granted permission to offer the download for free. Here is the PDF: http://www.paulmberger.com/2016/02/14... and it's worth reading. It would be great if it was re-published and we could actually pay the author too. The story envolves early humans. The writting is clean and the way myth is presented is quite striking. The characters' speech is very believable and they seem to be in the stage Malinowski wrote about, where we humans believed we can directly interefer with nature, spirits, the world. Now, we use the term "magical thinking" in a pejorative way. But that's it, a spirituality where there is no separation between human and physical reality nor between those and the spiritual realm. The narrative is well built, influenced by trickster stories. I hope that Berger is able to publish more of his work.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emmett Hoops

    If Bao Shu's story, What has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear does not win a major award as best novella 2015, I'll eat my beret. This is a really strong issue with some absolutely unforgettable stories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Dhu

    Short fiction I read this primarily for Bao Shu's contribution, but ended up enjoying most of the other pieces as well. Bao Shu's speculative novella What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear seems at first to be a straight-forward non-genre story about a young boy in modern-day China - excerpt of course, for that thing about him being born on the day the world was supposed to end, but obviously it didn't. You read on, thinking that's going to become the sfnal bit, but it isn't really mentioned Short fiction I read this primarily for Bao Shu's contribution, but ended up enjoying most of the other pieces as well. Bao Shu's speculative novella What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear seems at first to be a straight-forward non-genre story about a young boy in modern-day China - excerpt of course, for that thing about him being born on the day the world was supposed to end, but obviously it didn't. You read on, thinking that's going to become the sfnal bit, but it isn't really mentioned again, and the boy just keeps growing older and having perfectly normal boychild experiences. Then things get a bit confusing, and you start wondering just when he is supposed to have bern born - you try to remember in what year the Beijing Olympics took place, and when the Arab Spring happened in relation to that, and you wonder if maybe your memory has faded or if maybe the author got something a bit wrong. Then you decide that no, your memory of current events can't be that bad, and that no author is going to screw up that many references, so you decide that this is some kind of alternate history story, in which things happened in a different way than in our own world. And then you notice the pattern. And you remember that Xie Baosheng was four when the Olympics were in Beijing, and that there was a four-year gap between those Olympics and the day the Mayan Long Cycle calendar ran out in in 2012. And that's when it hits you. What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear isn't just a moving story about a man, the woman he loves all his life, and how he is shaped and his life is directed by the times he lives in. It's also a meditation on time and history - how we perceive then, how we understand them, how we try to create meaning and causality out of the passing of time and events. It is profoundly human, and profoundly philosophical, all at once. And kudos as well to Ken Liu, whose translation of this and other Chinese works of science fiction is making the global conversation of ideas wider and richer. Other pieces: "A Residence for Friendless Ladies," Alice Sola Kim - In this atmospheric novelette, a young trans man is forced to live as a woman when he is sent to stay with his grandmother, who runs an eerie and forbidding home for women - part hostel, part finishing school, part prison - who don't quite fit into society's roles. An unflinching look at identity denied and the courage needed to open closed doors. "The Mantis Tattoo," Paul M. Berger - A trickster story in an African-inspired setting. Mantis the trickster chooses a young man to serve him, and sends him on his first mission - to save his people from the return of their historical enemies. "Things Worth Knowing," Jay O'Connell - A highly dystopic look at the direction of privatised education and corporate recruitment. "La Héron," Charlotte Ashley - A mysterious swordswoman registers for the Black Bouts of Caen - a tournament of duellists that draws contestants from as distant a place as the lands of faerie. "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang," Brian Dolton - An interesting take on the death and rebirth of the universe, with a rather unusual and determined heroine. "Last Transaction," Nik Constantine - structured as a sequence of computer communications to a future citizen of a highly automated society, you think you know where this will end up... But you'd be wrong. "Little Girls in Bone Museums," Sadie Bruce - a disturbing piece about the ways that women have distorted and tortured their bodies to adhere to male standards of beauty, accepted objectification in the place of respect, and convinced themselves that this will make them happy. "A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell," Jonathan L. Howard - Sooner or later, bartenders see everything. This is a delightfully whimsical story about a day in the life of bartender in a place called Helix, and the twisty temporal paradoxes his time-travelling customers have been getting into. "How to Masquerade As a Human before the Invasion," Jenn Reese - a short short story about passing for human. Its advice will be shockingly familiar to those of us who never quite fit in "A Users Guide to Increments of Time," Kat Howard - two sorcerers whose magic can steal time become lovers , but cannot help stealing time - first to have more time together, and later, once love has altered, to destroy each other. "Bilingual," Henry Lien - a young girl sets out to find a way to communicate with dolphins in the wild about threats from human hunters. Told almost entirely via Tweets.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Fay

    Disclaimer: This issue was given to me by one of the authors published in this volume. In return I said I would give this issue an honest review on Goodreads. Overall I really enjoyed this issue of F&SF. I didn’t like every story in this volume, but the fact that it’s such a wide mix makes me appreciate it more than a magazine where I liked every story. This issue packs in a wide range of experiences, from quirky humor to body horror. ‘Things Worth Knowing’ is a near-future story about a school un Disclaimer: This issue was given to me by one of the authors published in this volume. In return I said I would give this issue an honest review on Goodreads. Overall I really enjoyed this issue of F&SF. I didn’t like every story in this volume, but the fact that it’s such a wide mix makes me appreciate it more than a magazine where I liked every story. This issue packs in a wide range of experiences, from quirky humor to body horror. ‘Things Worth Knowing’ is a near-future story about a school under attack as corporations try to literally steal away the school’s most promising student. Even though the story is fast-paced and action packed, it still manages to create an interesting main character in Stanley, a beleaguered security guard who is the closest thing the school has to a caring teacher. ‘La Heron’ is another action-packed story, only instead of it being a near-future sci-fi it’s medieval fantasy. The story follows two women (a dueler and her second) as they move their way through the ranks of a dueling tournament. I really enjoyed the writing and the characters, but it felt more like the opening to a novel than a complete short story (it felt more backstory than straight-up story to me). ‘This is the Way the Universe Ends: with a Bang’- This was one story I could not get into. Nothing against it, it just couldn’t keep my interest. ‘What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear’ is the headlining story for this issue, and for good reason. The story follows one man over the course of his lifetime, using his point of view to tell an epic (but oddly familiar) story of upheaval in China and around the world. I could go on and on about this story, but to say too much would ruin the joy of discovery as you see what the author, Chinese writer Bao Shu, is doing. It’s a story that manages to be clever but also heartfelt. ‘Last Transaction’ is also very clever, but didn’t grab me. I love stories told in interesting formats, but at times I found this one hard to follow and, because of that, hard to care about the events or characters. I had to make myself read ‘Little Girls in Bone Museums,’ not because it was bad but because it hit some of my personal squick buttons. I am a big baby when it comes to body horror. And the thing is, this story isn’t even that horrific, but it was enough to make my skin crawl. But even with that I still enjoyed the story about a woman who turns herself into a human knot in order to get ahead in the world. Weirdly enough, following the creepy ‘Bone Museums’ is the most humorous story in this issue, ‘A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell.’ I’m glad to see light-hearted stories published alongside dark ones, but in this case the humor just didn’t work for me. ‘How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion’ is a quick snapshot inside the mind of an alien-imposter. It’s well written, but I feel cheated with it being such a short piece. I think that the voice is really good, I just think that this piece could have been the heart of a really strong short story rather than just the flash piece it is here. ‘A Residence for Friendless Ladies’ is a story that has stayed with me. The spec element is slight but integral. What I liked most about this story was that it never went where I expected to go (or maybe I just never had any idea where it would go to start with). I had read Paul Berger’s story ‘Subduction’ in the July/August 2014 issue and I wasn’t a big fan. On the other hand, I really liked his story in this issue, ‘The Mantis Tattoo.’ It’s a fun adventure story set in an interesting world. ‘A User’s guide to Increments’ has an interesting central idea, but I felt oddly distant from the main characters and the story didn’t stay with me afterward. Part of me wonders if ‘Bilingual’ is a good fit for a print mag, seeing as it’s told in a series of tweets. The whole time I was reading it I wanted to click on the links in the story! But aside from that, this story about a teen figuring out a way to communicate with dolphins is fun and a good way to cap off this issue. Of course, there are also several columns in the issue talking about SF/F books and movies. I mostly just scanned them, though there were some reviews that caught my eye and made me take note of certain books/authors. Overall, a very enjoyable issue.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A change can be good from time to time, and I greeted the news that CC Finlay was taking over as editor of F&SF with optimism. Yet, I also found the one guest edited issue he did a few months ago to be rather underwhelming. His official inaugural issue here is really impressive though. While I didn't adore each story here, not a one was a clunker, and a few that I thought wouldn't be my cup of tea at first, quickly won me over. Of the three longer pieces, the novella by Bao Shu, as translated by A change can be good from time to time, and I greeted the news that CC Finlay was taking over as editor of F&SF with optimism. Yet, I also found the one guest edited issue he did a few months ago to be rather underwhelming. His official inaugural issue here is really impressive though. While I didn't adore each story here, not a one was a clunker, and a few that I thought wouldn't be my cup of tea at first, quickly won me over. Of the three longer pieces, the novella by Bao Shu, as translated by Ken Liu, was beautiful, an example of 'light' science fiction that packs a punch and impresses with the skill of its construction. It begins with a birth, and a vague global abnormality that may herald an apocalypse. But no apparent end comes from the strange occurrences and life on Earth continues on. We follow through the life of the protagonist and quickly learn that sociopolitical events mentioned appear to be happening in reverse. The author uses this structure to on the one hand relate a touching story about a Chinese man's relationships through life, particularly with the woman he most loves. On the other larger scale it is used to convey the ups and downs of a nation (and a world) and comment (with some existential references) on the concept of progress through time. Fascinating. I really enjoyed several of the short stories, each for unique strengths. O'Connell's "Things Worth Knowing" featured a theme dear to my heart, education. The style of it is rather standard, but the passion and commitment of the teacher in this speculative story where the mentoring and guidance of students has been replaced by computer and extreme corporate scouting, made this an interesting bit of scifi. I began "This is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang" wondering how Dolton was going to pull off a story taking place at the end of time, with a universe only populated by a small number of massive, highly evolved intelligences formed by merging and assimilations of life present throughout prior history. Yet Dolton makes these truly alien characters engaging and creates an 'end-times' story that is engrossing. Similarly, I turned to Henry Lien's "Bilingual" and groaned at the prospect of reading a story told through tweets. Yet, he pulled it off for me, proving there are always exceptions to our usual leanings. Finally, "Little Girls in Bone Museums" by Sadie Bruce bears special mention. This fantasy recounts a young girl visiting a museum with her grandmother, gazing in awe at the beautiful shapes of women on display, women preserved as bone in contorted positions of artistic and aesthetic wonder. As Bruce weaves in the story of the women who went through the painful ordeal of making this timeless, art possible, the grandmother faces the reality that the displays of equal horror and beauty compel the young girl to want to go through the same discomfort and torture to achieve the same recognition, celebrity. There is very little judging in this piece, just presentation, as a work in a museum would be, here left for the reader to ponder. An important and worthwhile story to digest.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Haralambi Markov

    I've written this review with a few more additions you can find at SF Signal. NOTE: I go deep into the stories, so you want to be surprised by the works, better not read. Writing this introductory paragraph has involved more effort than the entire review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, issue March/April 2015. How does one introduce an issue without finding purchase on an overarching theme? I guess saying an issue doesn’t need to have one central conversation built in its table of I've written this review with a few more additions you can find at SF Signal. NOTE: I go deep into the stories, so you want to be surprised by the works, better not read. Writing this introductory paragraph has involved more effort than the entire review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, issue March/April 2015. How does one introduce an issue without finding purchase on an overarching theme? I guess saying an issue doesn’t need to have one central conversation built in its table of contents should suffice. What I do want to do is praise is C.C. Finlay’s editorial instincts and taste, as the stories featured differ wildly in both subject and genre, but work well as a whole and offer a cohesive reading experience. Female autonomy surfaces as a topic with two skillful writers dissecting the subject from counter angles. The surreal and downright sinister “Little Girls in Bone Museums” by Sadie Bruce is a chilling, but logical progression on the idea of the female body as object of beauty, status and decoration. Bruce is unflinching when depicting the process behind the making of bone knots: the practice of aesthetic self-mutilation women undertake in their desire to attain ultimate beauty and as a result, turn into immobile husks dependent on the care of others to sustain their existence. Beauty is pain. Beauty is crippling. These are lessons repeated to women, when they aren’t enforced, and within Bruce’s realm of extremes (extreme agony for extreme celebration and admiration) one such bone knot, Piedra, examines the tradeoff and its legacy with clarity once her novelty expires. After all, beauty fades is just another lesson women have to learn the hard way in their lifetime. What happens when you become obsolete? What happens to the women who displease? What happens to the women who are actually men? They end up in Alice Sola Kim’s “A Residence for Friendless Ladies”, where the residence in question is described as ‘a homeless shelter for femininity’ – a strange chimera of finishing school, dorm, substitute retirement home, occasional haven, but certainly a prison sentence in a fashion. After all, the friendless ladies in the residence aren’t friendless by their own fault or incapability to form relationships, but are castoffs and trimmings society has no intention to ever keep in its fold. This side commentary comes into stark illumination by the narrator’s hellish experience in the residence as the person furthest away from abiding the expectations of womanhood and isn’t a woman in the first place. He’s punished by his grandmother for daring to live life truthfully as a man rather than adhere to what’s expected of him as a her – a challenging undertaking considering he’s had to do this in a hostile environment. Kim doesn’t shy back from the psychological distress the narrator experiences at having his true identity erased and forced to live a false reality. It’s an experience that eats at the self, destroys and maddens. The surreal mechanics of the residence with its mysterious knocking at night that should never be answered and doors that best be left alone smear reality nicely and leave you shaken up. To counterpoint these heavy works, you have the joyous and adventurous “La Héron” by Charlotte Ashley that tips its hat to Dumas and the witchy feel-good revenge story “A Users Guide to Increments of Time” by Kat Howard. The eponymous La Héron, swordswoman extraordinaire, and Sister Louise-Alexandrine, a nun with a penchant for violence and her newly appointed second in an illegal tournament, make for an entertaining duo as they win match after match and face the fairy lord Herlechin of the Wild Hunt himself, who wants new souls to join him. Fast-paced, bold and with sword fighting that’s actually enjoyable to read unfold, Ashley hits the sweet spot between high stakes and lightheartedness. Howard also portrays a woman in a duel against a powerful adversary and here the price is her time. “A Users Guide to Increments of Time” focuses on the push-and-pull between two magic practitioners with the gift to control time. The story swings like a pendulum from Finn and Siobhan’s relationship to the trickery and complex methods, with which each steals time from each other, culminating in an imaginative showoff. I appreciate how Howard uses the characters’ wildly different approaches to time magic as a tool to develop their character, but apart from being a fun creative exercise (at least that is how I read it), the story is insular and there’s not enough meat to flesh out Siobhan and Finn as they exist only within the frame of their relationship and breakup. Henry Lien’s “Bilingual”, a Blackfish-but-for-dolphins story, examines other forms of intelligence and consciousness already present on our planet and through its whirlwind of Tweets questions our treatment thereof. Lien constructs a narrative from social media posts with spot-on teen angst and links (here for an online version of the story with working links), which provide an immersive reading rooted entirely in reality and achieve a splendid effect where unfolding events feel strange and displaced from this world. I appreciate the creative use of form, but also question whether it will stand on its own once Twitter becomes a relic and the links are no longer supported. As a reader, I seek out stories with explicit elements of the fantastic or futuristic and I didn’t feel as though I read an explicitly speculative tale, which threw me off in terms as to how to interpret this story. Bao Shu’s excellent “What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear” – the longest piece in the issue – offers particularly interesting nuance to alternative history as he moves the timeline of recent historical events that shook the world such as the Second World War and the Cultural Revolution in China. I’m not a history a buff, but I know enough about the sequence of events to the point every detail made me work to reconcile what I know to have happened with Shu’s rearrangement of their sequence. At its heart, though, this quietly told novella treks the rather cruel love story of the novella’s protagonist, Xie Baosheng, and his beloved Zhao Qi, or Qiqi as he calls her. It’s dramatic without it crossing into melodrama and accurately portrays how oppressing political regimes separate people from their loved ones. This is mostly due to the fact that Xie Baosheng feels as though he’s sitting beside you and telling his story; in itself an intimate, truthful act. Credit certainly must go to Ken Liu, who’s done a marvelous job translating the novella from Chinese. Since I’ve already rambled too long, I’ll keep the rest of my commentary brief, but rest assured the stories are entertaining. Jay O’Connell takes academic talent scouting in the not-so-distant future to Michael Bay proportions in “Things Worth Knowing”, where companies and corporations are not above using military grade weaponry to make their point across. But if it’s explosions and annihilations you seek, Brian Dolton gives you all in “This Is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang” – a whodunit murder mystery with godlike AI entities that are the sole beings in the entire universe after all life has died off. Nik Constantine’s “Last Transaction” – a science fiction story about a man on the run from the law on a colony – fits rather well into the fearful vision of the distant future as one of full automation and arbitrary systems in place for achieving proficiency, which are devoid of any nuance when dishing judgment. I appreciate the decision to depersonify the protagonist, but at the same time, I found it more or less forgettable in the same fashion I did Jenn Reese’s “How to Masquerade as a Human before the Invasion”, whose title clearly communicates enough so I won’t go in further detail. There’s nothing wrong with either but the issue has much more memorable pieces. I think the same of Paul M. Berger’s “The Mantis Tattoo”, which is a straightforward folk tale set in the savannahs. The young hero, Nadur, takes on a task from the mantis, which is a most dangerous mission, but through his actions he’ll be responsible for the protection of his people. It’s a very by-the-numbers coming-of-age tale. Nadur thinks himself not suitable to be marked by the cunning, trickster mantis only to discover those traits and emerges as a hero. It is a well-constructed story. It’s also a well-told story, but it does little build upon and add new elements to this type of storytelling. The one story I couldn’t read to the end is Jonathan L. Howard’s “A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell”, which simply didn’t click with its slow burning approach and three pages in, I gave up with the clear realization even if I did finish, I wouldn’t have anything insightful to say. But that’s one story I found lacking out of twelve works, which should be a sufficient indicator as to the strength of the issue.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Meran

    review later

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beaudette

    Favorite issue to date. This is the handoff issue between editor Gordan Van Gelder and C.C. Finlay. If this issue is representative of Finlay's influence on the selection (it's hard to tell), I can't wait to read his next ones. I usually only get through one of the two long novella/novelettes at the beginning of an issue. Maybe I'm not enough of a hardcore genre reader--in the plethora of Mars colony diaries and fantasy sagas about thieves with names like Raffalon, I sometimes miss real, complex Favorite issue to date. This is the handoff issue between editor Gordan Van Gelder and C.C. Finlay. If this issue is representative of Finlay's influence on the selection (it's hard to tell), I can't wait to read his next ones. I usually only get through one of the two long novella/novelettes at the beginning of an issue. Maybe I'm not enough of a hardcore genre reader--in the plethora of Mars colony diaries and fantasy sagas about thieves with names like Raffalon, I sometimes miss real, complex character development. This is an unfair generalization, and I've liked most of the stories well enough to keep reading, but this issue blows them all out of the water. Every story is incredibly strong, challenging, and delightful. As always, the novella at the beginning "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" was my least favorite, and it was still great. Each story afterward is incredible-not only unique worldview and postulates, but gripping plot and fantastic characters: -A Residence for Friendless Ladies-Creepy atmospheric story about a transgendered man forced to live at his grandmother's upscale home for ladies, where you should never answer the knock on your door after bedtime, and where residents occasionally disappear. -The Mantis Tattoo-Takes place in the time of creation myth stories, reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman and Christopher Moore. Cheeky gods wage war through their human devotees. -Things Worth Knowing-Scary look at the possible future of private education, where corporations own schooling stations, which are little more than standardized testing consoles designed to headhunt promising kids. If two companies want the same kid, things get violent. After all, the government doesn't have much of a say in anything anymore. La Heron-Fantasy dueling story set in Alexandre Dumas' 18th century France. I usually don't go for the fairy/swordplay/spell fantasies, but this one was cleverly done, a treat to read. This is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang - In the far far future, the characters of this story are complex sentient entities, more substructure than biology. The universe is coming to an end, but some of them want to hasten it and prevent the other entities from being reborn into the next one. Very quantum, but not hard to follow. Reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle. Last Transaction is told entirely through the program logs of the futuristic internet of things, and through user commands. AND, it's exciting and fast-paced. Author Nik Constantine pulled off a huge feat in this one. Little Girls in Bone Museums is disturbing in all the right ways. Grotesque and beautiful tale of human dolls made by tying flexible girls' limbs into fantastic contortions, and letting them sit until the girls' muscles atrophy and freeze them in place. A Small Diversion on the Road to Hell-The narrator is hilariously obtuse in this time travel story. How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion: Sharp little piece about loneliness couched in the conceit of an instructional pamphlet for aliens wanting to act like humans. A User's Guide to Increments of Time: A lover's spat turns nasty when both lovers are capable of stealing time. Not one of my favorites in the issue, but very lovely. Bilingual-A teenaged activist learns to communicate with dolphins well enough to record their language and piece together an audio warning to be posted in the ocean so that dolphins will keep away from the notorious Cove, the Taiji killing grounds. This story is genius. Not only is it grounded in our scientific knowledge about dolphin communication, but it's a great idea, and, by the way, is story is told entirely in tweets. Amazing way to end an amazing issue.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    After an eighteen year run as editor of F&SF, Gordon Van Gelder hands off with this issue to C.C. Finlay. Finlay did a guest editor issue back in 2014 that I have not read. This is his first official issue at the helm. In general this magazine has maintained a very high quality over the decades although I have not been reading it very much in recent years. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are twelve stories in this digest, along with several book and film review columns and After an eighteen year run as editor of F&SF, Gordon Van Gelder hands off with this issue to C.C. Finlay. Finlay did a guest editor issue back in 2014 that I have not read. This is his first official issue at the helm. In general this magazine has maintained a very high quality over the decades although I have not been reading it very much in recent years. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are twelve stories in this digest, along with several book and film review columns and editorials. I was unfamiliar with most of the authors. I'm not going to recap/review each story, just a few comments. Overall this issue didn't knock me out and I thought there were several rather 'meh' in newspeak, and one I actually disliked. This is partly a side effect of offering a variety of material. The stories included: • Things Worth Knowing • shortstory by Jay O'Connell • La Héron • shortstory by Charlotte Ashley • This Is the Way the Universe Ends: with a Bang • shortstory by Brian Dolton • What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear • chinese novella by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu • Last Transaction • shortstory by Nik Constantine • Little Girls in Bone Museums • shortstory by Sadie Bruce • A Small Diversion On the Road to Hell • shortstory by Jonathan L. Howard • How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion • shortstory by Jenn Reese • A Residence for Friendless Ladies • novelette by Alice Sola Kim • The Mantis Tattoo • novelette by Paul M. Berger • A User's Guide to Increments of Time • shortstory by Kat Howard • Bilingual • shortstory by Henry Lien The first three stories were quite varied and each offered something interesting. OK reading. "La Héron" was probably my favorite of the first three stories - it is pure fantasy with some very unlikely dueling partners and opponents. Think Three Musketeers meets the tricky faerie folk. The cover story and centerpiece of the issue is "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu. This is a Chinese novella, translated into English. I like being exposed to foreign science fiction, but I am afraid that in this case varied cultural specific references are going to be lost on non-Chinese and also younger readers. The story is potentially intriguing however. It is set in a different reality where time hits a point and then one midnight it starts to run backwards. There is an interesting little story woven into this. People's lives don't run backwards - you still grow up. But the years and progress run backwards. This is spoilery, a little, but from the viewpoint of our focus character he never lived prior history but his parents would certainly notice the backward repetition of events. So would numerous other people not the least of which are the major figures of the era. So although it could have been interesting, the schizoid nature of this backwardness just failed me and kept me from liking the story a lot. Which was a bummer for me because I did like the story. The remaining stories seem to mostly lean towards odd and creepy. A couple I would not consider either fantasy or science fiction and I didn't care for them. However, "The Mantis Tattoo" was probably my favorite story here. It is a kind of fable painted against a time when humans and Neanderthal-like peoples both lived. It gets a little brutal but I can't say it isn't appropriate. "Little Girls in Bone Museums" is a well written story but I rather intensely disliked the almost celebration of twisted body issues. I don't understand why people, young or old, have a desire to disfigure themselves - it is rather outside my realm of understanding - and this story did not help me understand it at all. It almost seemed to admire self-disfiguration. In that sense I found it very creepy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brigid Keely

    NOTE: I won this issue in a contest on twitter. I received no other consideration and my views are my own. I used to have a subscription to "Weird Tales" before the editorial shake up and subsequent doubling-down on racism and then implosion of the magazine. I really enjoyed it. It was a great chance to read a lot of different short fiction, essays, art, and poetry and I found some new favorite authors. It reminded me quite a bit of being a kid and having a subscription to "Cricket" magazine. Whe NOTE: I won this issue in a contest on twitter. I received no other consideration and my views are my own. I used to have a subscription to "Weird Tales" before the editorial shake up and subsequent doubling-down on racism and then implosion of the magazine. I really enjoyed it. It was a great chance to read a lot of different short fiction, essays, art, and poetry and I found some new favorite authors. It reminded me quite a bit of being a kid and having a subscription to "Cricket" magazine. When I saw a retweet to enter a give-away for the Mar/Apr issue of "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" I took a few seconds to enter (by retweeting) and a few days later was pleasantly surprised to see that I'd won. The issue arrived quickly and wasn't what I was expecting. It wasn't a floppy magazine, but more closely resembles a trade paperback. There's minimal advertising, minimal art (2 cartoons), and no poetry. There is, however, a novella, 2 novelettes, and 9 short stories as well as 5 essays/reviews/nonfiction pieces. In other words, this is a little anthology of hand selected pieces covering a range of topics. I enjoyed reading every piece in this issue, although I didn't "get" some of them... they just aren't FOR me and that's ok. I'm talking especially about Bao Shu's novella "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear." I think that I'm missing a lot of information/experiences/cultural touch stones to really GET the story. But it's still well written and the protagonist is interesting and I find myself coming back to the piece again and again in my mind. I put a little star in the table of contents next to the stories I really enjoyed, and I've starred the vast majority of them. Both novelets were big hits with me. "The Mantis Tattoo" is a sweet bit of speculative fiction about early humans and gods and fate and "A Residence for Friendless Ladies" is a haunting spook story about gender and finding one's place in the world. If you're a fan of Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's "Riverside" stories than the short story "La Heron," by Charlotte Ashley, about a woman and her nun sidekick dueling with armed fairy folk, will probably be up your alley. "Last Transaction," by Nik Constantine, is a prescient look at the future of debt and how quickly one can become an unperson. Sadie Bruce's "Little Girls in Bone Museums" is a thought provoking look at beauty and gender roles and desire, a glimpse at another world. Jenn Reese's "How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion" is very short, but very entertaining and thought provoking. Kat Howard's "A User's Guide to Increments of Time" feels like a foundational story about magic users, like something well rooted in a real world, something that could easily be expanded to a full novel, but instead of a self contained confection of a story about two people and their finished romance. "Bilingual," by Henry Lien, is that rare thing: a short story that uses modern social media (twitter) to tell a story WELL. This issue has a wonderful range of story types and voices. In an ideal world it would have more art in it, and more poetry. My only real problem is that now I want a subscription to this magazine. Maybe I'll request one as a special Mother's Day gift. Or maybe I'll go the digital (and slightly cheaper) route and subscribe with my kindle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Scott

    I may be writing this review on the whole issue prematurely, as I have only read a few stories. Regardless, I felt the need to capture some first impressions. I like CC Finlay as an editor, and was very excited to see his first dedicated issue of F&SF. I'm not sure our tastes overlap completely, but out of what I have read so far, a story I found to be memorable is Bilingual, referenced upthread by its author Henry. The Good: Nontraditional narrative, Emotional appeal, Colorful list of character I may be writing this review on the whole issue prematurely, as I have only read a few stories. Regardless, I felt the need to capture some first impressions. I like CC Finlay as an editor, and was very excited to see his first dedicated issue of F&SF. I'm not sure our tastes overlap completely, but out of what I have read so far, a story I found to be memorable is Bilingual, referenced upthread by its author Henry. The Good: Nontraditional narrative, Emotional appeal, Colorful list of characters (more on that below) The story is told through a series of tweets in the concept of a corporate memo, which is a really cool. Characters pop in and out as they appear on the main character's twitter feed, and are often characterized by nothing more than a twitter handle, and yet these are so good they feel like real people. I found this characterization to be impressively efficient. The story about dolphins will resonate with most people (at least it did for me, I am fascinated by their intelligence and in some ways pity their exploitation). Overall, the twitter piece of the story is well-paced and effective (more below). The Not So Good: Genre element too slight for my tastes, The story's actual end fell flat (more on that below) I don't have much in terms of negatives. Again, I overall enjoyed the story. Subjectively, for F&SF the genre element was not enough for me. With the possible exception of fantastically exaggerating the dolphins' intelligence, this story was realistic fiction. All the technology was modern, and this fantasy element (if one can call it that) was very slight. This is not damning in and of itself for most readers, but it was a knock for this reader. Also, I found the ending to be problematic. The tweets are told in the context of corporate memos. Therefore, the twitter story, while it IS the actual story, does not actually form the ending. The ending is a memo following up the memo that forms the story's opening. This didn't work for me; the twitter narrative was so effective, I think ending the story in that narrative would have been more effective. Moreover, the ending narrative as written does not directly provide closure to the narrative- I still am interested in what actually happened to the characters when they actually accomplished their mission. The memo could have directly referenced this, or- even better- it could have been written as some follow up tweets and the story closed directly in twitter narrative. So, if I had to cite a negative, it would be the ending. Summary: Overall, I enjoyed this nontraditional narrative and found it to be memorable. I enjoyed the narrative structure, the colorful and efficient characterization, and the good pacing. Things I did not enjoy include the slight genre element and the ending, which I found to be slightly unsatisfying and breaking with the pacing of the twitter feed. Overall, would recommend the issue, and the story above.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Standback

    A truly stand-out issue. Any issue of a magazine is naturally a grab-bag, and some stories are better than others, and every reader will have his own favorites. But this issue has a rare confluence of fantastic stories, of all kinds of different types, which will delight lovers of excellent short fiction - particularly those who delight in variety. The jewel in the crown is "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear," by Bao Shu (translated by Ken Liu); one of my favorite stories I've read all A truly stand-out issue. Any issue of a magazine is naturally a grab-bag, and some stories are better than others, and every reader will have his own favorites. But this issue has a rare confluence of fantastic stories, of all kinds of different types, which will delight lovers of excellent short fiction - particularly those who delight in variety. The jewel in the crown is "What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear," by Bao Shu (translated by Ken Liu); one of my favorite stories I've read all year. It has a brilliant speculative premise -- a twist on alternate-history that I won't spoil here, because it's fresh and original and it creeps up on you gradually. And that premise is married to a touching personal story of love and loss, a tour through the the history of China and the world entire, and a powerful theme about the narratives we construct around our lives. A stunning story. But the issue has many other excellent pieces, including: "La Héron," by Charlotte Ashley - A fantasy adventure story, where a mysterious warrior faces a tournament of duels against tricksy fairy knights. "This Is the Way the Universe Ends: with a Bang," by Brian Dolton - At the end of time, the universe's few remaining residents are a motley assortment of bizarre super-intelligent beings - each with its own nature, and each with its own approach to the impending heat-death of the universe. Some of those approaches are more amiable than others. A story that manages to be both bizarre, and very fun. "Little Girls In Bone Museums," by Sadie Bruce - A story of dark beauty and the capacity for mutilation, reminiscent of Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Fluted Girl." "How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion," by Jenn Reese - A sardonic little two-page piece that does just what it says on the tin. "A Residence for Friendless Ladies," by Alice Sola Kim - A lovely story that manages to be melancholy and sassy at the same time. It's a story of being boxed away where you don't belong, and how doing that creates places nobody could belong to at all. This also happens to be the issue where Gordon Van Gelder passes the editorial torch to Charles Coleman Finlay, so along with all the other great stuff, you get a couple of sweet essays celebrating the magazine and all stands for. Truly, an excellent issue to get your hands on :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zoe's Human

    An incredible alternate history in which the flow of time and the paths of two lovers are disrupted that may also be found in the magnificent anthology Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. An incredible alternate history in which the flow of time and the paths of two lovers are disrupted that may also be found in the magnificent anthology Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Loyd

    9 • Things Worth Knowing • 14 pages by Jay O'Connell Good. Stanley is the custodian/principal of a teaching facility. There is a student doing very well and being aggressively recruited by several corporations. 23 • La Heron • 18 pages by Charlotte Ashley Good/VG. La Heron comes to Caen to enter the Black Bouts and win the contest prize. She needs to get a second, who turns out to be sister Alex. Nice description of her three bouts. 41 • This is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang • 21 pages by 9 • Things Worth Knowing • 14 pages by Jay O'Connell Good. Stanley is the custodian/principal of a teaching facility. There is a student doing very well and being aggressively recruited by several corporations. 23 • La Heron • 18 pages by Charlotte Ashley Good/VG. La Heron comes to Caen to enter the Black Bouts and win the contest prize. She needs to get a second, who turns out to be sister Alex. Nice description of her three bouts. 41 • This is the Way the Universe Ends: With a Bang • 21 pages by Brian Dolton Fair/poor. Near the end of time there are only 92 entities left. Titus happens upon some strange object and before she can investigate she is attacked. There is some conspiracy happening. 81 • What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear • 63 pages by Bao Shu Good/VG. This would have been better if I had realized right away that world events were moving backwards as the characters got older. Baosheng loves Qiqi but events keep them apart. Parents getting a job in another city, etc. 144 • Last Transaction • 12 pages by Nik Constantine OK/poor. A citizen is in a catch-22 situation. Would have been much better if it was easier to follow. 156 • Little Girls In Bone Museums • 10 pages by Sadie Bruce Grisly/poor. Piedra has herself transformed, the process is painful, into a [beautiful] living statue. Once the process is complete she loves the adoration she gets. 166 • A Small Diversion On the Road To Hell • 10 pages by Jonathan L. Howard Good/VG. Time travelers walk into a bar and relate their stories to the bartender. 176 • How to Masquerade as a Human Before the Invasion • 3 pages by Jenn Reese OK. For a two page story good. 179 • A Residence For Friendless Ladies • 20 pages by Alice Sola Kim OK. A girl wanting to be a man is put into a [spooky] institution to make her be a girly girl. If she rebels she'll be sent to Jamaica. 205 • The Mantis Tattoo • 23 pages by Paul M. Berger Very Good. Nudur is chosen by the Mantis. The Fathers (followers of the Fanged Lion) are returning to Nudur's land after many decades/centuries. The mantis sends Nudur to meet the Fathers. 228 • A User's Guide To Increments of Time • 8 pages by Kat Howard OK/Good. A pair of lovers steal time so they can enjoy their time together. Siobhan realizes what they have done and wants to make it right. 237 • Bilingual • 21 pages by Henry Lien Fair/Good. A decent story of a girl trying to warn dolphins about hunters, but told as a series of tweets.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    The short stories in this issue are mostly of decent to good quality, with a couple of mediocre pieces that made me question whether the editor was just using them to fill space. Jenn Reese's very brief How to Masquerade as Human Before the Invasion is creepy and funny and probably the most effective work among them. Bilingual by Henry Lien and Little Girls in Bone Museums by Sadie Bruce stand out as well, but my enthusiasm for them can be described as mild at best. The real draw for this issue, The short stories in this issue are mostly of decent to good quality, with a couple of mediocre pieces that made me question whether the editor was just using them to fill space. Jenn Reese's very brief How to Masquerade as Human Before the Invasion is creepy and funny and probably the most effective work among them. Bilingual by Henry Lien and Little Girls in Bone Museums by Sadie Bruce stand out as well, but my enthusiasm for them can be described as mild at best. The real draw for this issue, though, is the longer works. Paul M. Berger's The Mantis Tattoo is a very funny and surprisingly moving fable-like novelette. The other novelette, Alice Sola Kim's A Residence for Friendless Ladies, is a beautifully written character study with an appropriately lyrical ending, though it's SFF elements - some mild suggestion of the fantastical with ghost story-like elements - aren't the main draw. But I liked that it was published here because I probably wouldn't have come across it otherwise. The novella that opens the issue - What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear by Bao Shu (trans. Ken Liu) - is the best SF story I've read all year, period. Ken Liu really can't be praised enough for all the amazing Chinese SF he's introduced us to over the past year. This story alone is worth the cover price.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Schwarz

    F&SF is transitioning from the editorship of Gordon Van Gelder to C.C. Finlay. I expect to see more of Finlay's editorial style with every issue. So far I like what I see. There is a lot of variety in this issue, a little something for everyone, and everything was solid. This issue's novella is "What has Passed shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu. I enjoy any opportunity to read international science fiction/fantasy. I also enjoyed Charlotte Ashley's F&SF is transitioning from the editorship of Gordon Van Gelder to C.C. Finlay. I expect to see more of Finlay's editorial style with every issue. So far I like what I see. There is a lot of variety in this issue, a little something for everyone, and everything was solid. This issue's novella is "What has Passed shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu. I enjoy any opportunity to read international science fiction/fantasy. I also enjoyed Charlotte Ashley's "La Heron," a well-rendered fantasy, which had many contemporary and thought provoking elements salted in without losing its sense of fun. I also liked Henry Lien's "Bilingual," a story about the possibility of communicating with dolphins. Despite this story's ecological mission, it didn't come off as preachy to me. I did find the ending a touch pat. The entire story is rendered as a series of tweets, which suited the material. The unusual form emphasized the particular moment in time in which this story takes place. While our technological methods of social interaction will change, I think this story will age well as a snapshot of a particular moment.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt Bradley

    Took me a little longer to finish this issue due to a busy schedule. But it was definitely worth the wait. CC Finlay's recent attempt as a guest editor showed great potential, and his first issue as full-time editor certainly lives up to the hype. Great variety of stories from a mixture of older and newer writers. I cannot wait to dive into the next issue (which just happens to be waiting for me on my end table) .

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deale Hutton

    Excellent!! short story. One of the most grotesque stories I've ever read, and one of the best. Little Girls in Bone Museums is gripping...not bloody, horror, but just wonerfully grotesque. Highly recommend it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear," by Bao Shu. 5 stars. Novella. "La Heron," by Charlotte Ashley. 4 stars. Short Story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Koogler

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

  27. 4 out of 5

    Darrin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hindy Bertram

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rob Port

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christy

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