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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2019 (F&SF, #746)

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THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION November/December • 71st Year of Publication NOVELETS HOW I CAME TO WRITE FANTASY -6- Michael Libling THE JOY IN WOUNDING -52- Charlotte Ashley A GEAS OF THE PURPLE SCHOOL - 87- Matthew Hughes BIRD THOU NEVER WERT -155- James Morrow THE VICIOUS WORLD OF BIRDS -218- Andy Stewart SHORT STORIES REJOICE, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS -37- Benjamin THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION November/December • 71st Year of Publication NOVELETS HOW I CAME TO WRITE FANTASY -6- Michael Libling THE JOY IN WOUNDING -52- Charlotte Ashley A GEAS OF THE PURPLE SCHOOL - 87- Matthew Hughes BIRD THOU NEVER WERT -155- James Morrow THE VICIOUS WORLD OF BIRDS -218- Andy Stewart SHORT STORIES REJOICE, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS -37- Benjamin Rosenbaum EVERGREEN -129- M. Rickert A HAND AT THE SERVICE OF DARKNESS -136- Gregor Hartmann IT NEVER SNOWS IN SNOWTOWN -180- Rebecca Zahabi KNIT THREE, SAVE FOUR -203- Marie Vibbert SHUCKED -243- Sam J. Miller POEMS SWING BETWEEN -178- Jane Yolen DEPARTMENTS BOOKS TO LOOK FOR -71- Charles de Lint MUSING ON BOOKS -79- Michelle West TELEVISION: THOSE WERE THE DAYS -190- David J. Skal SCIENCE: PORTABLE POWER -195- Jerry Oltion COMPETITION #98 -201- COMING ATTRACTIONS -254- INDEX TO VOLUMES 136 & 137 -256- CURIOSITIES -258- Paul Di Filippo Cartoons: Nick Downes (179). COVER: “THE SKY HOUSE” BY BOB EGGLETON


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THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION November/December • 71st Year of Publication NOVELETS HOW I CAME TO WRITE FANTASY -6- Michael Libling THE JOY IN WOUNDING -52- Charlotte Ashley A GEAS OF THE PURPLE SCHOOL - 87- Matthew Hughes BIRD THOU NEVER WERT -155- James Morrow THE VICIOUS WORLD OF BIRDS -218- Andy Stewart SHORT STORIES REJOICE, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS -37- Benjamin THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION November/December • 71st Year of Publication NOVELETS HOW I CAME TO WRITE FANTASY -6- Michael Libling THE JOY IN WOUNDING -52- Charlotte Ashley A GEAS OF THE PURPLE SCHOOL - 87- Matthew Hughes BIRD THOU NEVER WERT -155- James Morrow THE VICIOUS WORLD OF BIRDS -218- Andy Stewart SHORT STORIES REJOICE, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS -37- Benjamin Rosenbaum EVERGREEN -129- M. Rickert A HAND AT THE SERVICE OF DARKNESS -136- Gregor Hartmann IT NEVER SNOWS IN SNOWTOWN -180- Rebecca Zahabi KNIT THREE, SAVE FOUR -203- Marie Vibbert SHUCKED -243- Sam J. Miller POEMS SWING BETWEEN -178- Jane Yolen DEPARTMENTS BOOKS TO LOOK FOR -71- Charles de Lint MUSING ON BOOKS -79- Michelle West TELEVISION: THOSE WERE THE DAYS -190- David J. Skal SCIENCE: PORTABLE POWER -195- Jerry Oltion COMPETITION #98 -201- COMING ATTRACTIONS -254- INDEX TO VOLUMES 136 & 137 -256- CURIOSITIES -258- Paul Di Filippo Cartoons: Nick Downes (179). COVER: “THE SKY HOUSE” BY BOB EGGLETON

30 review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2019 (F&SF, #746)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Three stories from this issue made my list of the Best Short SFF of November 2019 - "Shucked" by Sam J. Miller; "Bird Thou Never Wert" by James Morrow; "How I Came to Write Fantasy" by Michael Libling: https://1000yearplan.com/2019/11/30/t...

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Loyd

    6 • How I Came to Write Fantasy • 31 pages by Michael Libling Good/VG. Fairy tale-like. The narrator has the curse that people open up to him. He followed his girlfriend to Montreal. He got a job at as a busboy. Shelly soon broke up with him, but it led to him meeting Jacob. Jake started talking to him on their breaks. How he was 19, but older. His mother was tried as a witch in the 1500's and burned to death. This was the first time in 400 years that he'd ever opened up to anyone. The narrator 6 • How I Came to Write Fantasy • 31 pages by Michael Libling Good/VG. Fairy tale-like. The narrator has the curse that people open up to him. He followed his girlfriend to Montreal. He got a job at as a busboy. Shelly soon broke up with him, but it led to him meeting Jacob. Jake started talking to him on their breaks. How he was 19, but older. His mother was tried as a witch in the 1500's and burned to death. This was the first time in 400 years that he'd ever opened up to anyone. The narrator also lost his mother at an early age, so he wasn't completely bored with Jake. We get more and more of Jake's story until it merges with the present. 37 • Rejoice My Brothers and Sisters • 15 pages by Benjamin Rosenbaum OK+/Good. Sparrow is an angel (not the biblical sort, rather a being that lives outside the wall) who put himself into a physical body to go inside the wall and get the story of the humans that live inside. Felt like it was a single chapter in a much longer work. 52 • The Joy in Wounding • 19 pages by Charlotte Ashley Very Good. Thirty years ago Melatho and Lallange saved their sister Psykhe from Eros. Since then Fteroto, the castle, has been causing trouble. The three have made it their quest to keep Fteroto from causing Havoc. 87 • A Geas of the Purple School • 42 pages by Matthew Hughes Very Good. The murder of a man has been delegated to the Duke's Eyes and Ears. Baldemar and Vunt are on the case. They quickly determine the man worked for Sabaste, the Duke's daughter. More detective work and possibly going beyond their authority leads them to solution, but may also have put themselves in jeopardy. 129 • Evergreen • 7 pages by M. Rickert OK. The narrator goes back to her home town and is greeted by ghosts. The first being a character in a story she wrote. There was mention of "A Christmas Carol" type situation, but I didn't see it unfold like that. 136 • A Hand at the Service of Darkness • 19 pages by Gregor Hartmann Very Good. Philippa Song of the Stability Police is assigned to work with a DOS agent against her objections. They need to go into the seedy part of Zephyr to locate Luu. Philippa doesn't trust the motives of the DOS agency, they often work outside the law. 155 • Bird Thou Never Wert • 23 pages by James Morrow Good. Frame story. The inner frame being that Martha and Darko join a small writer's group. Darko is offered (and acts on the offer) a quill and ink that let him write a masterpiece. 180 • It Never Snows in Snowtown • 10 pages by Rebecca Zahabi Fair. The narrator has lived in Snowtown for years but never really taken the effort to see it. He hires a guide to show him around. Too metaphorical for me. The narrator sees graffiti that says "the snow isn't snow." So he asks the guide "What's white, flaky, falls from the sky, but isn't snow?" The kid says "That's easy, is ashes from the factory where they burn people." What? And this is a young kid coming up with that answer. 203 • Knit Three, Save Four • 15 pages by Marie Vibbert Good+. Mouth stowed away on a ship. It is now two days overdue to dock. The crew finds her and threatens to send her out the airlock, as she fears. It turns out that will be unnecessary anyway the port won't let the ship dock because of structural concerns. Then Mouth comes up with an idea! 218 • The Vicious World of Birds • 25 pages by Andy Stewart Good+. Gary and his siblings are coming home for Thanksgiving. His mom died seven months ago and already Karen has moved in with his dad. There's family tension heightened by the addition of Karen, along with a freak snowstorm and some weird wildlife. I really liked the story as far as it went, but felt there could have been a lot more. There was some climate change talk that went no further, and a kiss between Gary and his sister-in-law. Even the main topic, the strange bird. That is Gary's field of study. I thought he'd be calling in his academic friends. 243 • Shucked • 11 pages by Sam J. Miller OK/Good. Adney gets an indecent proposal from a man for one hour with her boyfriend Teek. Later when Teek returns she isn't sure he's the same.

  3. 5 out of 5

    G33z3r

    "How I Came To Write Fantasy" by Michael Libling Definitely an unusual storytelling technique, sort of breaking the forth wall, tells a story of cursed, star-crossed lovers down through the ages. "It Never Snows in Snowtown" by Rebecca Zahabi Interesting if vague allegory, well worth reading. "A Geas of the Purple School" by Matthew Hughes I've grown to like Hughes' Baldemar sword & sorcery stories. This installment, in which Baldemar seems to have joined his old mentor Vunt as Royal detectives "How I Came To Write Fantasy" by Michael Libling Definitely an unusual storytelling technique, sort of breaking the forth wall, tells a story of cursed, star-crossed lovers down through the ages. "It Never Snows in Snowtown" by Rebecca Zahabi Interesting if vague allegory, well worth reading. "A Geas of the Purple School" by Matthew Hughes I've grown to like Hughes' Baldemar sword & sorcery stories. This installment, in which Baldemar seems to have joined his old mentor Vunt as Royal detectives investigating a murder high in political intrigue, is a little unsatisfying due to... well, not quite a cliffhanger ending, but an abrupt turn left hanging. "Rejoice, My Brothers and Sisters" by Benjamin Rosenbaum There's an interesting far-future world only slightly sketched in this story of tech haves & have-nots and a hint of broader issues. Intriguing, at least. "Knit Three, Save Four" by Marie Vibbert Kind of silly story trying to make knitting an essential plot point in scifi. OK, it sort of works. "Shucked" by Sam J. Miller One of those "is it or isn't it" Twilight Zone-ish stories that the author leaves for the reader to decide. But I didn't really care enough to wonder.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kam Yung Soh

    An interesting set of stories in the issue, with the ones by Michael Libling, Matthew Hughes, Gregor Hartmann and Marie Vibbert. - “How I Came to Write Fantasy” by Michael Libling: an interesting story that starts off as a conversation between two waiters that later turns fantastic as one is revealed to be an immortal looking for his true love through the ages while the other has a revealing gift (or curse). It is only towards the end that the reason they got together is shown, but with a twist An interesting set of stories in the issue, with the ones by Michael Libling, Matthew Hughes, Gregor Hartmann and Marie Vibbert. - “How I Came to Write Fantasy” by Michael Libling: an interesting story that starts off as a conversation between two waiters that later turns fantastic as one is revealed to be an immortal looking for his true love through the ages while the other has a revealing gift (or curse). It is only towards the end that the reason they got together is shown, but with a twist involving the women they love. - “Rejoice, My Brothers and Sisters” by Benjamin Rosenbaum: in a strange future, a man enters a closed-off area, hoping to document the lives of its inhabitants. But things goes wrong: his contact with the outside is cut-off and his interactions with the people in the area reveal how closed off it is, and their struggle to get out into another different kind of world. - “The Joy in Wounding” by Charlotte Ashley: a tale of three sisters chasing after a floating house, which is the former home of one of the sisters who was forced to marry a god. As the house settled over a farmhouse, numerous violent events caused by the house would take place that would change their lives as well as the lives of the farmer whose own marriage to an unusual person would be one of the sources of violence. - “A Geas of the Purple School” by Matthew Hughes: next in the series of tails of a wizard's henchmen, this one has him and his partner investigating the murder of the messenger for the daughter of the Duke of the city. As they dig further, they discover that the diary of the daughter may prove to be the key behind the whole matter, if they are brave enough to open it and face the consequences of exposure to the magic in the diary. - “Evergreen” by M. Rickert: a variation of the usual tale of ghosts seen around Christmas time, this one has a woman who sees ghosts of people from her past and learning to find joy in the present despite the miseries of her life. - “A Hand at the Service of Darkness” by Gregor Hartmann: on a frontier world, a police officer is assigned a job with a secret service agent she does not like. They are to look for and take out a revolutionary who has committed a terrorist act. Going into the heart of a lawless place would need all her skills but it is only with the target in sight does her loyalties to her world kick in and she would have to make decisions that could change her life. - “Bird Thou Never Wert” by James Morrow: the story of a writers' meeting where people read and criticise manuscripts among themselves. But at this meeting, a magician makes a writing offer one cannot refuse for the offer would make a writer write like a genius. But the price of gift of genius would have to be paid in blood and in other old fashion ways like when humanity is offered a gift from the gods. - “It Never Snows in Snowtown” by Rebecca Zahabi: a story that starts off as a paid journey through a snowing town turns chilling when strange graffiti appears warning about the snow and the young child-like tour guide begins to exhibit un-childlike behaviour and we learn that the young may have to pay a price for the town to remain as it is: forever snowing. - “Knit Three, Save Four” by Marie Vibbert: an unusual story of a stowaway on a space ship that turns out to be in danger of running out of air as a space station refuses to let it dock to to hull integrity issues. But it will turn out than an hobby by the stowaway might be a way to hold the ship together; that and lots of cable. - “The Vicious World of Birds” by Andy Stewart: a uncomfortable family gathering during the holidays would turn into an unusual one when an usual bird starts attacking the family. The story also includes the thoughts of one member who compares his family members to various kinds of birds. - “Shucked” by Sam J. Miller: a story of a young man and woman who are approached by another man who asks for the company of the man for an hour. When the man returns, the woman gradually starts to notice small changes in his behaviour. But it is only later that she comes to a startling conclusion that something unusual has happened to the man. But does the conclusion hold.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Lubell

    I liked "How I Came to Write Fantasy" by Michael Libling about an immortal who is cursed to have his lover reincarnate into different bodies and what happens when she suddenly remembers all her previous lives and deaths I thought that A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes was a strong entry in the long-running Baldemar series, but felt the ending did not adequately resolve the story but simply set up the next one. I enjoyed "A Hand at the Service of Darkness" by Gregor Hartmann which was I liked "How I Came to Write Fantasy" by Michael Libling about an immortal who is cursed to have his lover reincarnate into different bodies and what happens when she suddenly remembers all her previous lives and deaths I thought that A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes was a strong entry in the long-running Baldemar series, but felt the ending did not adequately resolve the story but simply set up the next one. I enjoyed "A Hand at the Service of Darkness" by Gregor Hartmann which was a fun, exciting story of a local cop being better at her job than the off-planet officer from the Directorate for Special Operations. I also liked Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow which, atypically for Morrow, was not religious satire but the story of a would-be writer who pays for quills from a magical bird that makes his writing into incredible prose. Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert is a humorous slight story about a stowaway on a spaceship with a rather different tone than the Cold Equations.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Poetreehugger

    So enjoyable. How I Came to Write Fantasy by Michael Libling was innnnteresting. A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes did not disappoint. Hughes always delivers. A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartmann was riveting, fun, imaginative. Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow was fascinating, and in a unique and suitable style. The Vicious World of Birds by Andy Stewart was scary and reminded me of my childhood fear of birds. But oh my goodness, Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert So enjoyable. How I Came to Write Fantasy by Michael Libling was innnnteresting. A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes did not disappoint. Hughes always delivers. A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartmann was riveting, fun, imaginative. Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow was fascinating, and in a unique and suitable style. The Vicious World of Birds by Andy Stewart was scary and reminded me of my childhood fear of birds. But oh my goodness, Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert just blew me away. Science fiction with a fresh, unique, down home twist. Great characters, visuals, sciencey details,...this one was my favourite.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    A mixed bag. Several stories were fantastic, others disappointed. For me, the standouts were: HOW I CAME TO WRITE FANTASY - Michael Libling BIRD THOU NEVER WERT - James Morrow THE VICIOUS WORLD OF BIRDS - Andy Stewart SHUCKED - Sam J. Miller

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Ratings for this issue: A (excellent): How I came to Write Fantasy by Michael Libling B (very good): Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow Evergreen by M. Rickert It Never Snows in Snowtown by Rebecca Zahabi Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert C (average): The Joy in Wounding by Charlotte Ashley A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes The Vicious World of Birds by Andy Stewart Rejoice, My Brothers & Sisters by Benjamin Rosenbaum A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartman D (poor): Shucked Ratings for this issue: A (excellent): How I came to Write Fantasy by Michael Libling B (very good): Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow Evergreen by M. Rickert It Never Snows in Snowtown by Rebecca Zahabi Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert C (average): The Joy in Wounding by Charlotte Ashley A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes The Vicious World of Birds by Andy Stewart Rejoice, My Brothers & Sisters by Benjamin Rosenbaum A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartman D (poor): Shucked by Sam J. Miller

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy Kristensen

    This edition of TMoFaSF was an example of massive whiplash in terms of the quality of stories in a literary magazine-some were a mess, some were outstanding, and there were a few middling stories thrown in for the rest. Now, I don't want to get too negative and nitpick the stories that I didn't feel were as good, so all I'll say about them is the following: the plots were murky or messy, often all over the place and nonsensical or half-way fleshed out; the characters were cliches and/or poorly This edition of TMoFaSF was an example of massive whiplash in terms of the quality of stories in a literary magazine-some were a mess, some were outstanding, and there were a few middling stories thrown in for the rest. Now, I don't want to get too negative and nitpick the stories that I didn't feel were as good, so all I'll say about them is the following: the plots were murky or messy, often all over the place and nonsensical or half-way fleshed out; the characters were cliches and/or poorly rounded-out, with some of the actions they committed nonsensical, and the dialogue was stilted and wooden; and the stories themselves were just poorly structured, sometimes going up to the tip of a good plot device or turn in the story and then falling back down. On a side note, even though I feel I'm in the extreme minority of readers of this magazine on this based on other reviews, I do not understand the apparent craze for Matthew Hughes' 'Baldemar' tales and why he keeps popping up in issue after issue. I find the stories rather tedious, the action boring, the stakes low, and the overall tone of the stories a little overwritten in terms of style. Now, saying that, I thought the last two stories in the issue, 'The Vicious World of Birds' by Andy Stewart and 'Shucked' by Sam J. Miller, were tremendous, so good that they need to be nominated for some kind of yearly 'Best Of' anthology, whether that be a sci-fi/fantasy one (as the genres of both stories straddle numerous footholds) or even something more literary like 'The Best American Short Stories' anthology. Yes, they were that good. Both stories had: intriguing yet simple plots; the characters were well-rounded and realistic with the dialogue superbly written; the stakes were interesting and made me want to keep reading; the pacing was perfect and never felt bogged down even once; and the settings were well-written and conceived. The little climate details we also got in Stewart's story of a world undergoing massive climate change and the political undertones of it, along with the rather taboo subject of Miller's story and how the author so deftly writes about it through one character's thoughts, were awesome details and highlights. I sincerely hope these two stories get nominated for some kind of award or anthology because they are both among the best stories I've read in any literary magazine over the last year period.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Frasca

    Here are my favorite stories: * A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes. I really enjoy the Baldemar stories that have been appearing in F&SF. This time, Baldemar discovers the perils of reading a lady’s diary. * Evergreen by M. Rickert. A bittersweet poetic tale about coping with loss while alone during the holidays. * A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartmann. Detective Philippa Song faces an ethical and moral dilemma after she is ordered to assist an off-world undercover Here are my favorite stories: * A Geas of the Purple School by Matthew Hughes. I really enjoy the Baldemar stories that have been appearing in F&SF. This time, Baldemar discovers the perils of reading a lady’s diary. * Evergreen by M. Rickert. A bittersweet poetic tale about coping with loss while alone during the holidays. * A Hand at the Service of Darkness by Gregor Hartmann. Detective Philippa Song faces an ethical and moral dilemma after she is ordered to assist an off-world undercover operative. Good thing she has a degree in philosophy! * Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow. Poe-ish cautionary tale. Shortcuts to excellence can sometimes turn around and bite you in the liver. * It Never Snows in Snowtown by Rebecca Zahabi. Puzzle pieces are strewn throughout the story. Can you put together them together before the end? Most of us may not agree with the message of this allegory, but it is effective none the less. * Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert. The Cold Equations…with a cosy solution! * The Vicious World of Birds by Andy Stewart. A bottle story about a family holiday get-together that spirals into conflict, fear and alienation. Imagine Edward Albee writing the script and Alfred Hitchcock directing. Pairs well with Railroad Earth’s song “Birds of America” which I listened too as I read the story.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NQ-x... * Shucked by Sam J. Miller. A young college couple have an unfortunate (or perhaps a fortunate?) encounter with Amenophis Fikee in Amalfi. * It's not a story, but be sure to check out the Fantasy & Science Fiction Market place for a very meta Easter Egg. * Curiosities by Paul Di Filippo. A short biographical sketch of Clemence Dane along with a recommendation for her novel The Arrogant History of White Ben.
I had never heard of Dane before. Her life story is fascinating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anne Seebach

    I thoroughly enjoyed every single story and article of this edition. A nicely balanced sampling of humour, entertainment and thought-provoking offerings.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin DeHaan

    My favorites were “Bird Thou Never Wert”, “Rejoice, My Brothers and Sisters”, and “The Vicious World of Birds” A great year of excellent reads in 2019!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher D. Burge

    Wilde

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Smith

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mike Smith

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Tunis

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Arl

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leroy Erickson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bartlett

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Orgel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Goulart

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dash Landars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sjoerd

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue Dubrovich

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Cook

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