Geoff and Jeff: The Wonder and Joy of Short Fiction

Life is endlessly weird. I struggle to get the books I want, and yet receive more books than I can possibly read. I am constantly chasing stories so I can consider them for year’s bests and such, and just because I like to read short stories, and yet feel like they’re slipping past me all the time.

This was brought home to me this morning. I got online this morning and downloaded the night’s email. In amongst it was an email from Gordon with the December F&SF attached. I was delighted to see that there was a new Geoff Ryman novelette in the issue, a story called “The Last Ten Years in the Life of Hero Kai”. From what I can tell, it’s the cover story for the issue and is quite unusual. The story head note references something called ‘monkpunk’, and it’s tempting to be glib and say this is it. But it would be glib. The story is a very subtle and quite powerful tale of a warrior monk who leads a revolt to save the country he loves, becomes what he detests and, possibly, is responsible for a change in the way the world works. It doesn’t matter whether this story is SF or fantasy (my bet is SF, though I’d be curious to hear what Gordon thinks), but it was either going to be masterful or awful. Following so closely on the heels of his completely wonderful novel Air, it should come as no surprise, that it is far closer to masterful than not. A highlight in a year of stories.

Following on from that comment, has anyone else noticed what a terrific year F&SF is having in 2005? Maybe three or four years ago I would have rated the magazines with Asimov’s first, then SciFiction, then F&SF. Last year I would have tipped SciFiction as the best, and this year it’s clearly F&SF. Extraordinary. Subscribe!

Not long after the email from Gordon, an email from Jeff VanderMeer tumbled into the email inbox. In his email he mentioned a new story, which he’d sent me a couple weeks ago and which is due to appear in Argosy. To be honest, I’d forgotten he’d sent it. Filed it away where I’d have read it before year’s end and book deadlines, but still forgotten it. I pulled up the file and was delighted. It’s a funny, engaging, and ultimately moving story. I’m not sure when the relevant issue of Argosy is due out, but it’s worth picking up. Along with VanderMeer’s upcoming “The Farmer’s Cat” in Polyphony 5, it bodes very well for his next collection.

edited 1 September 2005

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