F&SF Magazine had a giveaway promotion to those of us who agreed to read the July 2008 issue, then blog about it (preferably in that order). It's been years since I picked up a sci-fi magazine; I certainly have not been helping the species survive. Most of my magazine reading these days is online. What fun it was to actually read this physical magazine, haul it around with me, leave it lying upside down as a bookmark, keep nibbling at it while I made coffee, and sneak a story while in the bathtub. The issue arrived Monday afternoon, and I have read nearly all 160 juicy pages of it already.
Not only was the fiction wonderful - I especially enjoyed The Dinosaur Train, by James L. Cambias - but the reviews were fine, particularly Kathi Maio's disappointment with Jumper, after reading and loving the book of the same name, and Charles de Lint's preview of Stephen King's Duma Key.
I have to say that some of my favorite science fiction is and has long been the short story. Most short stories offer just tantalizing little tastes of an imagined world and leave me wanting much more. It is that very frustrating fact that makes me love them so much. Take The Dinosaur Train, for example: A rather beat-up traveling circus that features live dinosaurs. We get only hints of how this can possibly be (something about finding an island where dinosaurs still lived). We are offered just a breath of how truly problematic it would be to run such a circus - how to feed the animals, how to manage them, how to treat their ills and, most importantly, how to keep the scientific world and PETA from swooping down and rescuing them for a higher purpose. The story's tone is so matter-of-fact. I guess that's what I loved about it. It's told from the POV of a young man who is the third generation of the Dinosaur Train. Caring for dinos is in his blood and bones. Wonderful.
Another favorite from this issue was an alternate history story called Poison Victory, by Albert E. Cowdrey. Yet another look at "what if Germany had won The War?" Not the Nazis. Germany. Hard to describe the mood of it. Dusty, dreary, depressing, with a hint of an odd chemical smell hanging at the edges of one's senses. Seriously, I felt a little mildewed after reading it. I don't want to spoil anything for you but this was worth reading and quite thought provoking.
I sure appreciate the gift of this issue from Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. Thanks, Andrew Grossman.