Mag Review: Fantastic (March, 1974)

Greetings all

This week’s magazine won’t be the first I’ve reviewed published in my lifetime, but it’s the first one published after I’d learned how to read. It’s the Fantastic, Vol. 23, No. 2, published in March, 1974.

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58322

This month’s cover is disappointing. Not the artwork, because the art is a great example of this genre, but rather it’s the arrangement. The art is secondary to the text, as you can see. That’s a mistake, in my opinion.

However, there’s another treasure on the inside cover. It’s an ad for a book that will teach you about ESP. Better yet, it’s from the Rosicrucians. The AMORC is the kind of thing Dan Brown writes about. His stuff is a guilty pleasure, but I wish he would learn to write conclusions better.

Back to the cover, briefly. This issue’s cover price is $0.60 cents. In today’s dollars that’s about $3.20. Yeah, it’s smaller than a regular book, but that seems like a great price, especially since most people probably got this via a subscription at the corresponding reduced price.

Enough of me meandering. First is an editorial by Ted White. White’s name is not entirely unfamiliar to me, but if you had asked I could not have named a single place where I had read anything of his. He’s had a fun career, though. He’s also a jazz musician and critic. He’s written a Captain America novel. Where I might have seen him, though, is as an editor and writer for Heavy Metal. I read some of the magazines after the film came out. The soundtrack is still one of my favorites, by the way. OK, so maybe I’m not done meandering.

Anyway, in it White discusses why this issue bears no resemblance to any of the previous ads. He also talks about changes in typesetting and the challenges of an editor dealing with print companies. Interesting how the particulars change but the overall challenges do not.

White also discussed Alexei and Cory Panshin, Brian Stableford, and their respective works on science fiction and its place in society. Since I have not read the Panshins’ The World Beyond the Hill nor Stableford’s The Sociology of Science Fiction I am generally lost, though I will undoubtedly look all that up at some point, especially since we get a hint of what’s going on in Stableford’s essay later in the issue.

The big story in this issue is Part 1 of Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound. This story, shockingly enough, is the basis for the movie titled Frankenstein Unbound. I know, I know. You wouldn’t have guessed if I hadn’t told you, but it’s true nonetheless.

Much of this story will be familiar to you, of course. The main character, however, is someone who gets sent back in time because the use of nuclear weapons in space has damaged the space-time infrastructure. Nevertheless, the story, at least the first part of it, asks similar questions of what makes humanity human. It’s also about whether progress is really progress.

Overall, I haven’t liked this story much, to be honest. There are a number of good scenes, like a discussion including both Shelleys, Byron, and the main character. However, I struggle with time travel stories because I can’t suspend my disbelief as much. They have to be precise and consistent, or I get knocked out of the story. This one has a number of jerky time movements that mess things up.

Also, there are a couple of scenes that threw me out of the story, including a weird thing with the main character’s children that seemed gratuitous. I suppose it could play a prominent role in Part 2, but I don’t know what that could be. Overall, I will hold off on final judgment until I finish the story, but thus far it’s not my favorite thing that Brian Aldiss wrote.

However, there’s a great line in Part 1 that I really liked: “…[H]ell hath no fury like a reformer who wishes to remake the world and finds the world perfers (sic) its irredeemable self” (p. 37). This especially resonated with me.

Next is R. Faraday Nelson with The City of the Crocodile. He’s not a prolific author, but he worked with Philip K. Dick, taught Anne Rice in a workshop, and apparently was the first one to identify the propeller beanie with science fiction.

This story is pretty good. It’s about a Roman who tries to cure his impotence by buying a slave girl in Egypt. Unfortunately, this girl is already married to Sebek, the Egyptian crocodile god. It turns out Sebek isn’t jealous, but he does care that the protagonist doesn’t mistreat her. So he watches the couple and leaves crocodile tracks all around, even though where they are has no crocodiles.

However, the hero is tricked into thinking that the governor of the province has sent him a letter directing him to get rid of the girl. He doesn’t want to leave her, and the only solution he can think of is to marry the slave girl and then kill her, telling her “Ave atque vale.”

Sebek still isn’t enraged, but he is miffed and he and the slave girl start harassing the main character. Eventually, the main character confesses to the authorities, hoping to be put into jail for his own safety. Of course, he’s to be put to death… in a battle against crocodiles. Yet there’s another twist. Sebek intervenes and saves his life. At the end, he thinks he hears the slave girl whisper “Ave atque vale” to him.

His Last and First Woman by B. Alan Burhoe. Burhoe didn’t write much SF, but he was a well-known professional chef and a contributor to a bunch of magazines.

This story apparently got him complaints from Robert E. Howard fans and I can understand why. The main hero, Cirnon the Barbarian, returns home after gaining his throne. He meets a girl and they sleep together, but he soon finds out she is his daughter kept looking young by her mother, who has only slept with one man: Cirnon when he left his homeland. Now he wonders what he has always been.

While I can understand why some Howard fans got mad over this story, I kind of think that Howard himself might very well have liked it. Conan was a deeper character than is often portrayed, and while he is the bad guy in this story, he was not always the good guy.

All in all, a well-done homage, in my mind, with a bitter twist at the end. Stories do not have to end on a happy note to be good.

Barry N. Malzberg is the next author with At the Institute. This is a grim story about a murderer getting treatment at the clinic. The treatment consists of putting him into a dream world where he has the choice of killing, or not. In the last dream, he kills himself for his own good.

It’s got all of Malzberg’s cynicism with a dash of cruelty. In general, his style is not my cup of tea and this story is in some ways merely another example. However, it’s a good story. It’s paced well and it brings the reader in. Those who like that style may love this story.

Images by Jerry Meredith comes next. I can find very little about Meredith, at least, I don’t know if I’m finding stuff about the same Meredith. He didn’t write much with only one other ISFDB listing, and I can see why. It’s a mediocre story about what reality is or isn’t. It could have been interesting, but misses some beats and lacks some information that might have made it better. I don’t usually want more exposition, but maybe I would have liked this story more with some.

However, there’s little I can think of that would make The State of Ultimate Peace by William Nabors any better. It is, by far, the worst story I’ve read so far in this sojourn through SF magazines. It’s message fiction about how war is bad. OK, fair enough, except the story is incoherent, rambling, an awful protagonist, and has no real plot. It’s like he threw a collection of words together that will offend people just to offend people. Bleah.

David Bunch is next with Short Time at the Pearly Gates. It’s about a guy hit by a truck who ends up near the entrance of Heaven. While there, he meets a strange fellow who first offers him a job and then cleans him of his sins in a bath of lye soap, pebbles, and later harsher materials. I may be dumb, but I didn’t find a narrative here, really, just a few things happening. At best, it’s a mediocre story, though the premise could have been fun.

Let’s see if F.M. Busby  can get us out of this rut with I’m Going to Get You. He can’t, though this is a much better story. The main character is out to get God. He knows God exists because of all the bad stuff that has happened to him. His family dead, he’s paralyzed, his child dead at birth, and his wife dies. Now he is committing suicide in order to get back at God.

As I said, it’s a decent story, but really, not one that I’m glad I read.

Next is some of Brian Stableford’s sociological discussion that I mentioned at the beginning  of this review. Stableford is trying to get a handle on SF’s role in society. Since this is but a part of what went into his monograph, I won’t talk about it much, since there’s only a tidbit of what Stableford is researching here.

Next are some movie reviews by Fritz Lieber. Lieber’s dad, also named Fritz, was a notable actor in early movies, so the younger Fritz grew up around theater and screen.

In this column, he shows how Ingmar Bergman was a fantasy writer, though many of his movies are set in modern day and don’t, at first blush, appear to be fantasies. Then he lists his dozen favorite in three categories: SF, Horror, and Fantasy. His top in each category: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Phantom of the Opera (I’m guessing he meant this version which included Fritz, Sr.), and The Seventh Seal.

Now we get to According to You, the letters to the editor. These were disappointing too, though there’s quite a bit of space devoted to them. They were generally frustrated with something that was published before based on the messages in the fiction. One, however, was fun, because it wanted more fantasy and less SF. I won’t argue with that.

Another pointed out that in an earlier edition it’s the Gray Mouser in places and the Grey Mouser in others. You know, this sort of type doesn’t bother me a ton. However, I’m not surprised that it showed up. There are a *bunch* of typos in here. I’d guess a minimum of 2 per page, so around 250. Sheesh. Kicked me out of a number of stories.

Overall this was a drab, dreary issue with a bunch of stories that left you either wanting more, or wanting way less. It is especially disappointing as I had high hopes, but the depressing cynicism of awfulness that runs throughout this issue really brought me down. I said that a story doesn’t have to end happily to be good, but a happy ending can save a bad story.

There are no happy endings in this issue, except, perhaps a little fun with the ads in the back. I wonder if my dad ever ordered a .38 Snub Nose from one of these ads. He might have at $24.95. It also has a couple of ads seeking poems for songs and and records. Hmmm, I wonder if my drottkvaett or Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse is what they’re looking for.

I think it’s time to get back to something I know I’ll like, and that’s an early Astounding from my mom’s birth month.

Next Week’s Issue: Astounding (May, 1941)


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Jamie Ibson

Greetings all

I am continuing Four Horsetober with Jamie Ibson. Most of you will know him as the boss of 4HU – The Merc Guild Facebook group, but he’s also a writer and will be in Luck Is Not a Factor, the second Lyon’s Den Anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe. Take a look at another writer that Chris Kennedy has fostered.

Interview: Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson

What is your quest?

I’m right at the beginning of what may eventually become a career, so getting published is my main story quest. I have a non-sci-fi story out with Supervisive, my 4HU story “The Human Inside”, and a story in next year’s Freehold anthology called “Cry Havoc” about the FMF leopard handlers.

Influences include all the usual Baeniacs, Mad Mike, The ILOH, Oh John Ringo No, David Weber, David Drake, books I found on my dad’s bookshelf like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Joe Haldeman, Spider Robinson, Gordon R Dickson, as well as the next generation of up-and-coming authors like Kacey Ezell, Jason Cordova, Chris Smith and Mike Massa. My horizons were broadly expanded when I discovered the Four Horsemen series at LibertyCon 30. They say if you want to write you need to read. I read a lot.

What is your favorite color?

I like stories that get you out of the normal human perspective. Some of my favorite 4HU stories are the ones where the aliens are front and center. (Kacey does alien Very Very Well) so in my leopard story, I have parts where the narrative shifts from 3rd person limited to 1st person present and the cat tells the story. My current project, I’m doing full-conversion cyborgs and I try to imagine how alien it would be to have your entire interaction with the world be done through artificial/constructed means.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

I write too much dialogue and have to find ways to show action rather than rely on conversation.

I have a fantasy short meant to be an intro to a setting I put together but it has not been accepted yet for publication. The last response I got was that there was too much slang (I didn’t think I used hardly any slang), and that it tried to squish too much world into too short a story, which was the opposite of what I’d been told elsewhere. But I recall that one of my favorite Freehold stories, The Humans Call It Duty, was rejected multiple times before it was finally published, so maybe it’s just not the right time.

That, perhaps, is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in writing, is being patient. Things take time. (Rob’s Note: So true!)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? 

Somewhere along the way, a certain retired Navy SEAL declared that I was the Loremaster with regards to several of my favorite series and I’m rather honored to be called that. I think when writing in someone else’s universe it is vital to get the details and fiddly bits consistent. When I first talked to Mad Mike about what eventually became Cry Havoc, I made a point to review as much as I could on what Freehold had to say about the leopards and the handler program. Somewhere along the way I ended up writing a series bible for Mike which we’ve made available for everyone else writing in the anthology. I’ve been approached by others to give their universe a similar treatment so it can be opened up to a broader writing crowd, or I’ve been asked how I do what I do. (Notes, painstaking notes and multiple rereads!) So when I write in someone else’s universe, I try to keep a very clear idea on “What is canon” vs “Where can I expand” and ensure nothing I write conflicts with established lore. You only have to look at what happens to a series that becomes a show or movie to see whether it is accepted or rejected by fandom, based on how closely it remains true to the original. (I’m looking at you, Starship Troopers).

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Pepe
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Olympic Hockey Team Canada. I pretty much ignore everything else. (Rob’s Note: This is where I get to make a gratuitous note about watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice on a 12-inch black-and-white TV)
  • Cake or Pie? Cookie dough ice cream cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  7 layer but no olives
  • Wet or Dry? Umm
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? If you’ve seen my 4HU music playlist you will have seen Leo Morrachiolli. Norwegian metal cover god. Sultans of Swing and Feel Good Inc are always good, and then there’s 230+ more tunes to pick from. Seriously, the dude’s a machine. (Rob’s Note: And he makes the most amazing facial expressions)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Please.
  • Favorite Superhero? Canadian ones, obviously, that may not be as well known as the Avengers, like Wolverine and Deadpool, for example.
  • Steak Temperature? I’m going to be a heretic and admit I prefer burgers over steak. But if steak is what is being served, medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Heh, sweet, it counts. Dukes of Hazzard started in 1979 so… yep.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Favorite Pet? I love all my cats, past and present, but Naomi is our house panther who has declared me chief of staff.
  • Best Game Ever? Fantasy: The Witcher III. Sci Fi, Horizon Zero Dawn.
  • Coffee or Tea? Razzleberry Iced Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci fi.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? 

Best place to learn to write/code wikis?

Rob’s Answer: Honestly, they’re not difficult. The most difficult thing to learn is the CSS coding to set up the main stuff. Wiki coding is mostly set up to use toolbars, and there are plenty of references.

They are like much else, though in that they become easier and quicker with practice. It takes time to think about what the most effective way to organize it, like what categories you’ll have and such.

Two things I suggest, though. First, download Editpad Lite. It’s my favorite text editor and you need a good one. If you already have one you know well, stay with it, but if not, Editpad is great. Second, as you’re editing create yourself a set of snippets. My philosophy of wiki editing is that it is better if you can standardize as much as possible. Similar things should be displayed in similar fashion as it will help the reader. Unlike writing prose, where you want to vary your word choice, consistency is useful in this context. Snippets help.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • My forthcoming 4HU story will be in Luck Is Not A Factor.
  • “Cry Havoc” due 2019 sometime.
  • Priorities via Superversive Press in To Be Men.

And where can we find you?

I’m north of the PNW so look for me at LibertyCon once a year (until I convince America to let me immigrate).

Do you have a creator biography?

Hey, I’m Jamie. Thanks for checking out my page. I’m Canadian, born and raised in Ontario and now on the left coast. Spent some time in the CF reserves and went on a peacekeeping mission when I finished highschool. Now I’m in law enforcement and write in my spare time. I’m married to the lovely Michelle, and we have cats.


Thanks to Jamie Ibson for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

 

Interview: Chris Kennedy (Rerun)

Greetings all

On Thursday, Tales from the Lyon’s Den was released. On November 2nd, Luck Is Not a Factor will be released. In honor of the fourth and fifth anthologies in the Four Horsemen Universe, I have decided to do a bunch of reviews of authors who have contributed to the universe throughout October.

We’re going to start with a re-run of an interview I did in June. Chris Kennedy is one of the founders of this universe, along with Mark H. Wandrey. He’s a really sharp guy who has done amazing things in the self-publishing world. He’s taught me quite a bit already, and I suggest you listen to him and watch what he does.

Interview: Chris Kennedy

What is your quest?

I want to sell a million books. Failing that, I want to help my authors sell ten million books.

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Not coming from a writing background, I had to learn to do it right. I read blogs for 15 minutes a day for four years to help develop my craft and my ability to sell more books. I’m still not totally where I want to be, but I’m a much better writer than when I started, and I’m a lot closer to the goal.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I like writing gritty combat and a good motivational speech once in a while.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Definitely crunchy. I don’t know why they make that other stuff.
  • Favorite Sports Team? UNC Tarheels basketball (despite their showing in the NCAAs last year), NY Yankees baseball, and Atlanta Falcons football.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie…but why can’t I have both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon…because you can put it in Corona and make it taste better.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Helluva Good Sour Cream and Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Sopping wet. (Rob’s Note: He’s a Navy guy)
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Two Steps from Hell. Outstanding for combat writing music.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Bud Light. (Rob’s Note: Sigh)
  • Favorite Superhero? Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. Because Gal Gadot.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Game Ever? In # of hours played? Everquest.
  • Coffee or Tea? Diet Pepsi
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Scifi, with a side of fantasy.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

Rob’s Answer: If we’re talking a magnetically accelerated piece of tungsten, then zero if the trooper isn’t in a CASPer. If we’re talking the fully-loaded magazine of MAC rounds we’re going to have at our LibertyCon party, I would say most can survive five or so, depending upon rate of fire and body mass. However, this survival is likely to be more painful and the target might prefer the quick death of tungsten.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “Do you have any free book promotions coming up soon?”

Why yes, yes he did. Back when this was run in June.

However, right now he does not have any promotions but take a look at Tales from the Lyon’s Den on Amazon. And if you haven’t read any of the Four Horsemen Universe, check out the first one, Cartwright’s Cavaliers.

Come back tomorrow for another author in the Universe.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.