*reads the announcement*
HOLY CRAP, THAT'S ME.
So, as some of you may have guessed, my guest editing gigs at F&SF were a job audition. I guess I did okay. To be honest, all the writers who submitted great stories deserve the credit for that. But I'll take it!
I’m very grateful to F&SF’s publisher Gordon Van Gelder for giving me this opportunity. Also, readers of the magazine, I’m grateful to all of you. Thank you for loving speculative fiction and subscribing to and supporting magazines like F&SF.
Here are some answers to questions about the new job:
When do you take over as editor?
Officially, I take over with the March/April issue this year.
Unofficially, magazines get put together months in advance. March/April is at the printers so that means I’m already working on May/June. I started reading submissions for the magazine on January 1. Originally, it was going to be just for a guest editor spot in September/October, but now it is for all future issues of the magazine. So that worked out well.
What does this mean for readers of F&SF?
Short version: More great speculative fiction stories from the same magazine that’s been bringing them to you without interruption for over 65 years.
Current editor Gordon Van Gelder has an inventory of stories for the magazine. After the March/April issue, these will be mixed in with the stories that I select. It will probably take a few issues to make the transition, but it won't be sudden. Readers will still see many of the familiar writers they love. And I expect there to be new voices as well.
In the meantime, you can see a sample of the stories I like in the issue that I guest edited last July/August. https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1407.htm
What does this mean for writers?
For one thing, it means that the online submissions form for F&SF at http://submissions.ccfinlay.com/fsf/ will stay open past January 15. There’s no need to rush to meet that deadline now.
Electronic submissions are easier for writers. They reduce barriers to submitting, so more people from more backgrounds in more parts of the world can send me stories. That means a larger, more diverse pool of stories for me to read in search of great stories. It also means less recycling. So I strongly prefer electronic submissions.
However, if you still want to send paper submissions, it also means there’s a new address:
Fantasy & Science Fiction
PO Box 8420
Surprise AZ 85374-0123
Will F&FS still respond to submissions as quickly as Gordon Van Gelder?
That's my plan. Currently that plan is being stymied by the sheer volume of electronic submissions but I hope that will even out over time.
Aren’t you a writer? Isn’t it unusual for writers to become editors?
Uh, that's two questions, but yes, I’m a writer. In fact, over the past 15 years I’ve had 19 stories published in F&SF. That’s how Gordon Van Gelder and I got to know each other.
While F&SF has been defined mainly by two legendary editor/publishers – Gordon Van Gelder and Ed Ferman, who’ve done that job 44 out of the past 50 years – there is also a tradition of writer-editors. Kristine Kathryn Rusch was the editor from 1991-1997 and discovered a lot of new writers. Before her, Avram Davidson did the job in the early 1960s and helped introduce many international writers to readers through the translations he published in the magazine. And the great mystery writer Anthony Boucher helmed the first decade of F&SF, which was co-edited for five years by writer J. Francis McComas. They helped establish the F&SF tradition, with its focus on great writing and, for their time, diverse stories. I hope to follow in their footsteps and contribute like they did.
So yesterday, around 6pm, I was sitting by the front window writing an email to someone. Outside, there was steady rain pouring down one second, the next second rain slewed sideways in waves. Visibility dropped to ten feet, just far enough to see the flagpole in our front yard bending over. The winds sounded like a freight train rushing past. All around the house, the sounds of trees snapping and crashing. The crunch of metal and glass as something hit a car. The lights went out.
The storm lasted two minutes, maybe three, and then it passed. The rain still coming down seemed almost gentle. I ran outside to pull down the flag. Our house and car were completely untouched. (We had someone thin our trees out and cut a couple down when we bought the house.) The neighbor's car was smashed, but all the trees missed houses. One tree had the bark blown clean off it. There were power lines down in the street, and more lines sagging under the weight of fallen trees. Our whole block was dark.
The power crews came out almost immediately, so as the sun went down there were swirling orange lights and the sound of chainsaws and power tools. Rae and I read books by candlelight and hand-cranked lanterns. Lights finally came back on around 4:30am.
All in all, a pretty interesting evening.
If you do something once and it goes well, then do it again.
Which is to say that I'll be editing two more issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2015.
And yes, I will once again be taking electronic submissions.
The issues and their reading periods are:
March/April 2015 issue of F&SF
Reading period: August 1-15, 2014
September/October 2015 issue of F&SF
Reading period: January 1-15, 2015
Please spread the word! Stories can be submitted online, so bookmark this link: http://submissions.ccfinlay.com/fsf/
The July/August issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction will be available in real and virtual bookstores next week, if you want to check out the kinds of stories that I like. Or, if, you know, you just want to read a bunch of great stories.
Table of Contents: the 13 stories in the July/August F&SF
Nectar for Rejectomancers: a breakdown of the submissions I received for the July/August issue
The original announcement about the July/August guest editor gig
Not everyone has happy memories of their fathers. For some of us, all the Father’s Day wishes scratch open old scars.
My father was a handsome, charming artist who also happened to be an angry, misogynistic alcoholic. My mother was attracted to the former and made excuses for the latter. By all accounts, he beat my mother and took out his frustrations in life on his infant children, either by active neglect or willful harm.
The two stories I know about him from my childhood are these. Once, when he was supposed to be watching me while my mom worked, he got angry because I was crying – as babies who are a few months old sometimes do – and he locked up the house and left me there alone for 8 or 10 hours. When my mom finally got home from work, the neighbors said I had been screaming all day. They didn’t call anyone because that’s not what you did in the neighborhood I grew up in. The word mom used to describe me was inconsolable.
The other story is from when I was a little over a year old. My mom, who was pregnant again and who was the only one working by that time and who felt trapped in the marriage, gave me a milkshake to drink for breakfast so she would have time to get herself ready. When the milkshake was done, and she was dressed, she tried to give me “real food” for breakfast. I didn’t want to eat it. My father lost his temper and smacked my face so many times my cheeks swelled up and I couldn’t eat for days.
So that was my father. When my sister was born – I was about 18 months old – my father lost it because she was a “worthless girl” and threatened to stab her and my mother to death. There was a scuffle involved a knife. When he passed out for the night, my father’s own mother, who lived in the neighborhood, gave my mom some cash and told her to get away for her sake and for ours. Mom left all her belongings behind and got on a Greyhound bus with two infants and left New York to return to Ohio, where her mother made her life miserable: back in those days, no real woman ever left her husband – it was too shameful.
My father sent me a card once with $5 in it – for my birthday or Christmas, I don’t remember – when I was about 6. My mother, whenever she was angry at me for acting out or doing poorly in school or whatever, would accuse me of being just like my father. Usually before spanking me.
When I was 12, I flew out to New York to meet him. My mom bought me an orange polyester leisure suit, and orange knit suit to wear for the trip. It matched the color of my acne. My father went on a drinking bender and never showed up, so I stayed with my grandmother instead. I had one short phone call with him when I was there – he was obviously calling from a bathroom, telling me how he had the flu – in retrospect, he was just drunk. My grandmother wrangled some male cousins into spending time with me. That was my last interaction with my father during my childhood.
I did have a stepfather. My mom was pressured to remarry – “because children need a man in their life” – but my stepfather turned out to have a severe form of multiple sclerosis, something he knew when he dated my mother although he kept it secret from her. He was looking for someone to nurse him, not someone he could parent.
He had four kids from his previous marriage and it should be pretty telling that they wanted nothing to do with him. Three of them were boys, and like him they were all athletes and very traditional guys. One went on to work in a factory and be a farmer, one became a firefighter, and one became a housepainter.
My stepfather had no clue what to do with a nerdy, bookish, uncoordinated kid. He acted like he was ashamed of me most of the time, a favor I am embarrassed to say I returned to him. He did all the things he thought he was supposed to do to turn me into a man – spanked me, yelled at me, hit me with his fists – until I got hold enough to hit him back and knock him on his ass. After that we reached a mutual détente that involved ignoring each other. I didn’t know much about his life, and he didn’t know much about mine.
Empathy twists us. As I got older, and as he was confined to a nursing home because of the progression of his disease, at an age not much older than I am now, I felt sorry for him. So I started visiting him regularly, and I found out that he was an all right fellow, as long as I met him more than halfway and cared about the things he cared about, like Indian relics and old coins and farming.
That’s the thing fathers are supposed to do. Get interested in their kids’ interests and encourage them. But he was so caught up in his own pain, he never had that gift. When he died, I was still in college, and I was sad for both of us.
But at the same time I had reconnected with my own father, who had finally sobered up. I’ve written about that odd experience before – meeting a stranger in an airport terminal who looked and had physical mannerisms and an art style just like me – and how, when was unemployed and collecting bottles on the roadside for the deposit money, he won the lottery, how he gave me $10,000, a Thomas Moser rocking chair, and a bunch of promises, and then wanted to tell me how to live every aspect of my life.
For about ten years, in my twenties, we talked regularly, and I went to visit him 3 or 4 times and he came to see me once. When he was broke, for most of the time period, I send him food and art supplies. In exchange he imparted the wisdom of his life: how real men always cheat on their wives and girlfriends, how to buy illegal handguns and shoot the guy who crossed you and how to get rid of the weapon afterwards, and how to find good hookers in Portland, ME, which is where he lived at that point. He made me promise to piss on his grave someday.
He was charming and loved books and art and he had a talent, if you protested anything he said, for turning it into a joke or making it about your problems instead. I still wanted a father. I made some bad decisions to stay engaged with him.
He was the one who broke things off and disappeared out of my life again. When my first son was born, I had strong beliefs about the inherent wrongness of men giving their surnames to their children and my ex-wife shared them, or at least went along with me. So we named our son after my mother’s family and he took his mother’s last name.
My father, God bless him, lost his fucking shit. Called me during the day. Then started calling me at 3 or 4 in the morning, sounding drunk and threatening. Made my grandmother call me. I was supposed to name my son after him. He was going to disinherit me. How could I be so disrespectful?
His last words in his last conversation to me were “You don’t know how to be a father. No real man names his son after a couple of cunts.” Then he moved, changed his phone number, and disappeared from my life. This time I stopped trying to get in touch with him and let it go. When he died a couple years ago, I found out online.
With my own kids, I tried to be the father I never had. Spent years as a stay-at-home dad. Tried to be involved with their schools and activities. But let’s face it: a divorce and dating and remarriage, an absence of role models, and a life spent pursuing creative work, do not add up to being the most stable and consistent of fathers. I made a lot of mistakes but I didn’t always have a chance to apply what I learned from those mistakes. Kids grow up fast. As a parent, you just move on to your next error and don’t lose enthusiasm. I think my kids are honestly still making up their minds about whether they have happy memories of their father or not.
I don’t celebrate Father’s Day for my dads. My kids usually don’t do anything for Father’s Day for me. And that’s good.
This isn’t a story looking for sympathy. Maybe I needed it when I was 4 and so afraid of men, my grandfather couldn’t walk toward me without making me burst into tears, or when I was 12 and I was standing with my suitcase on the exit stairs of a plane in New York scanning the crowd for a father who wasn’t there. Now, not so much.
Nor is it looking for reassurances that I’ve been a good father. Sometimes I have been, sometimes I haven’t. Despite that, my sons have grown up well and I’m proud of them.
This post isn’t about my specific experience. Heck, my personal experience isn’t that bad. My mom escaped. I escaped mostly unscathed. Not everyone is so lucky.
No, it’s about the holiday. It’s about Father’s Day.
When it’s your birthday, it’s not everyone else’s birthday, and you don’t expect them to celebrate. Maybe you celebrate Christmas and Easter, but you know that some of your other friends observe Hannukah and Passover instead, or no seasonal holidays at all. If you’re American, you understand that your friends in Canada don’t have the day off on Fourth of July.
Father’ Day is not a universal holiday. It doesn’t apply to all fathers. Your happy memories of your father are not the same as someone else’s happy memories of escaping their father.
Let’s not make everyone celebrate. And let’s not ever talk about “all dads.” That’s a category without meaning. To everyone who doesn’t celebrate Father’s Day, to everyone who avoids it because it brings up too many painful memories, this post is for you. Congratulations on escaping and surviving and being better people. You rock.
The updated table of contents can be found under the picture.
The Table of Contents, in the order the stories appear in the issue:
Charlie Jane Anders, "Palm Strike’s Last Case"
Paul M. Berger, "Subduction"
Annalee Flower Horne, "Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned From the Trade Summit Incident"
David Erik Nelson, "The Traveling Salesman Solution"
Sandra McDonald, "End of the World Community College"
Cat Hellisen, "The Girls Who Go Below"
Dinesh Rao, "The Aerophone"
Sarina Dorie, "The Day of the Nuptial Flight"
Ian Tregillis, "Testimony of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events Upon His Majesty's Ship Confidence, 14-22 June, 1818, With Diagrams”
Spencer German Ellsworth, "Five Tales of the Aqueduct"
Haddayr Copley-Woods, "Belly"
William Alexander, "The Only Known Law"
Alaya Dawn Johnson, "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i"
With non-fiction by Charles de Lint, Chris Moriarty, Kathy Maio, and Paul Di Filippo.
Finally got a picture of her at our feeder at dusk tonight. She's tiny. But she looks like she's still nursing, so we assume that baby deer is well and hiding somewhere nearby.
On my way back from an emergency pie run tonight, I got a text from Rae. "Stay out of the driveway! Baby deer!"
I parked the car on the street and entered the house like I was planning to rob it and she brought me up to speed.
There is a large park next door to us, which shares a fencerow of trees with our yard. We see deer on both sides of the fence. Tonight, a doe with a fawn that could only have been a few hours old was on the park side of the trees.
Just around dusk, someone's dog ran loose the park barking and spooked mama deer, who bolted for our yard, followed -- at a constantly increasing distance -- by the fawn on its wobbly little legs.
Baby deer ran out of energy a few steps into our yard and bleated desperately for its mom.
Mom overcame her fear, stopped, and turned around for her fawn.
That's when one of the neighboring houses emptied half a dozen people into the yard to squeal and take pictures. As mama deer turned tentatively away, they started yelling at her to come back, which spooked her and made her bolt again.
Leaving the little fawn behind, quiet, trembling, near some bushes.
Because the deer regularly eat from our bird feeder, Rae quickly went and got the birdseed and tiptoed out to refill it. By that time, neither the neighbors nor the fawn were anywhere to be seen.
As soon as Rae went inside, mama deer returned and paced around our yard where the fawn had last been. Then she went over to the feeder and ate all the seed while she continued to scan the area for her baby.
More than a half hour has passed. Dusk has turned to darkness. Mama deer stood silently by the fencerow, forlorn, looking for her fawn until I couldn't see her any more in the shadows. Perhaps she's standing there still now.
And no sign of baby deer. We wonder if maybe the neighbors scooped it up and took it inside. We're hoping for a happy end to this story, but right now we just don't know.
Sexism blinds us to the logic of our own stories. X-Men: Days of Future Past is a perfect example.
Here be spoilers.
In 1973, in the world of this story, Charles Xavier is no longer Professor X. He's been hiding in his mansion for ten years, taking a serum developed by Hank McCoy that lets him walk but takes away his mutant powers.
Junkie Prof X: "Give me the drugs, Hank!"
Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, has spent the past ten years as a prisoner, locked up in solitary confinement in a glass-roofed prison cell.
"I don't care if you watch me masturbate, but the betting pool
on how long it takes me is cruel and unusual."
During these ten years, when neither Prof X or Magneto are using their powers or pursuing any worthwhile goals, Mystique is traveling all over the world at great personal risk to rescue mutants and serve mutant-kind. Our first glimpse of her is in Vietnam.
"And this is how we give thanks to Mutant Jesus
after scoring a touchdown."
As soon as she rescues her own team of mutants, she flies off to Paris to infiltrate the international peace accords.
"My other mutant ability is break-dancing."
In fact, the whole premise of the movie is that Mystique is so awesome and effective at identifying her targets and following through on her plans that she literally changes the course of human history.
Of course, it's a terrible future. Because she created it and she's a woman. Or maybe I'm reading too much into that. Nevermind, the important thing is that Wolverine is sent back in time to get the band back together and change her mind.
Wolverine: "Yoko Ono must be stopped, if you get my meaning."
So the gang tracks this strong, hyper-competent, independent woman down, and the first thing they try to do is reason with her.
Haha! No! Magneto shoots her.
"I read a lot of MRA blogs while I was locked up,
but that's completely unrelated to what I'm doing now."
But, okay, we get that, he's a bad guy. And hey, Mystique talks to him the next day and forgives him, so why can't we?
"Were you seriously going to ask me if I'm 'Charles' Raven or your Mystique'?
Because I'll cut you and then hunt down the screenwriter and cut them."
Wait, she does what?
At least we know that Charles will step up and do the right thing and treat her like an adult.
Oh, no, wait, when his chance comes he goes inside her head and physically controls her, at least long enough to make a speech about how important it is for her to make up her own mind.
"LISTEN TO ME! WHY WON'T YOU LISTEN TO ME, RAVEN? GOD!!!"
Never mind that, in the world of the story, Mystique has been making cold, rational choices based on information all along.
Here's the point where, in the world of the story, Mystique could have gotten her own speech. "Charles, your way alone is whack. Erik, your way is kinda whack too. Here's a third way... that I've been working on for ten years. From a dialectical perspective, Charles, you're thesis, Erik is antithesis, and I'm synthesis, bringing the two viewpoints together into a new way of looking at things. A little simplistic, but, hey, this is Hollywood, and that's the oversimplified way that stories are usually written... when the characters are treated as equals."
"So here's my own team of mutants... that I've been leading for ten years. While the two of you were doing jack-all for the past decade, I've been busy gladwelling my ten thousand hours of experience as a field operative and leader. I have more experience than either one of you now, in both tactics and strategy, and since I've saved the lives of all these mutants, some of them are loyal to me. Remind me why anyone follows either one of you again?"
"Oh, and by the way, during the ten years you were locked up, there was a thing called the women's liberation movement and the development of a whole body of feminist theory. So if either of you assume you have the right to make decisions about my life or my body ever again, I'll kill you in your sleep. Are we clear?"
"And don't blame me. This is the backstory that the writers wrote into the movie!"
Meanwhile, back in the future, during the big third act battle, the first mutant to die is...
"I'm safe as long as Bishop is alive. Everyone
knows the black guy dies first."
Let's be clear about the internal logic of the story, one last time.
Bad future happens when Mystique kills Bolivar Trask -- the first person she ever kills!
Good future happens and the world is restored when she decides not to kill Trask.
"I like living."
So the world is a better place because Mystique grows and changes as a person. And when we snap back to the future, we'll get to see a glimpse of her and how she's changed.
Just like Mystique only functions earlier in the story as a foil for Charles' man-pain vs. Magneto's man-pain, she's completely absent from the denouement. Because her growth as a character is irrelevant to the rewards that the men-folks get for a job well done.
"Hello! What about my job well done?"
When Wolverine wakes up in the good future, he gets the happy ending and the reward. And what do the screenwriters give him?
A woman. Jean Grey is still alive. He immediately goes to touch her, to put a hand on her possessively... and then Scott Summers steps in. "Oh oh oh! She's not yours, Logan. She's mine."
But the look that Jean gives Logan as she walks away is the face that launched a thousand fics.
By all rights, based on the internal logic of the story, Mystique should have been the hero at the end of this movie. But sexism makes us marginalize her story. As the men show up, she loses agency. She must choose Erik's way or Charles's way, and she can only do so after Charles gives her permission.
Never mind the great performance by Jennifer Fucking Lawrence. It's not like she's won Oscars or is one of the biggest box office draws in the world. There's no way she could carry that kind of role. Oh, wait, she is and she can.
We're so used to this kind of sexism that most reviews and reactions to the movie never question why it has to be that way, or stop to ask if it makes any sense.
Mystique, you're awesome. You deserved better than this hackneyed old sexist crap.
Short version: it's still on the way.
Meanwhile, it's only 32 days until VidCon.