Tag: F&SF

"Balancing Accounts" by James L. Cambias

imageJames L. Cambias, whose story "Balancing Accounts" is the cover story of the February 2008 issue of F&SF, said in an interview that the story is about a small-time independent robotic space tug called Annie who is hired by a mysterious client for a voyage between two of Saturn’s moons.  "During the voyage Annie learns the true nature of her cargo and must fight off pursuers determined to capture or destroy what she’s carrying," Cambias said.

"Balancing Accounts" is Cambias’s attempt to update an old space-opera trope: the scruffy, hand-to-mouth space merchant crew. "I tried to make it work without violating physical laws or realistic economics," he said. "That meant it had to be within the Solar System (no faster-than-light drives) and couldn’t involve a human crew."

The protagonist, Annie, is a robot rocket tug who hauls cargo among the moons of Saturn.  "She’s autonomous and ‘incentivized’ — her purpose is to generate income for her owners back on Earth and Mars, and can more or less do whatever she chooses in order to do so," Cambias said. "But Annie has learned that there’s more to life than just earning micrograms of Helium-3; she works just as hard to accumulate ‘non-quantifiable assets’ like the goodwill of her fellow robots, a reputation for honest dealing, and what a human might call friendship."


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F&SF December 2007 Acquisitions

F&SF’s December acquisitions include:

  • The Economy of Vacuum by Sarah Thomas (4900 words) *slush survivor*
  • You Are Such a One by Nancy Springer (4500)
  • Days of Wonder by Geoff Ryman (16,800)
  • In Denial by Albert E. Cowdrey (7600)
  • The Roberts by Michael Blumlein (20,507)
  • Shadow of the Valley by Fred Chappell (15,100)
  • The Texas Bake Sale by Charles Coleman Finlay (6000)
  • Dec. 22, 2012 by Sophie White (poem)

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"The Quest for Creeping Charlie" by James Powell

image James Powell, whose story "The Quest for Creeping Charlie" appears in the January 2008 issue of F&SF, said in an interview that the story is about a man who sets out to find a creature called the megamensalopes. "In the early 1950s in Toronto George Muir, a university student, finds this quotation in a book: ‘When asked to name the smartest of all the animals an ancient wise man replied, "Surely the megamensalopes, because they have avoided discovery by man."’ Then and there Muir decides that he will set out on a quest to find the megamensalopes," Powell said.

Muir joins the Toronto branch of the Explorers Club and pores over maps of the remote corners of the world where he believes the creatures must exist. "Then he has a revelation. Perhaps the creatures needed to live close to man where they could learn from him while, at the same time, avoiding discovery. Perhaps they were right there in Toronto," Powell said. "So he begins his search closer to home, using all his free time to find the creatures. He decides they graze on the common ground ivy Canadians call Creeping Charlie and because ‘megamensalope’ is too much of a mouthful and because we are what we eat he names his quarry ‘Creeping Charlie.’ His search costs him his marriage and his life in more ways that one."


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"Mars: A Traveler’s Guide" by Ruth Nestvold

image Ruth Nestvold, whose story “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” appears in the January 2008 issue of F&SF, said in an interview that the story is about a tourist on Mars who is stranded alone after an accident caused by a major dust storm. "The tour guide [is] dead and the rover damaged," Nestvold said. "The only thing the tourist has that is working is the supposedly ‘intelligent’ computer system to try to help him or her figure out a way to survive."

Like most of her stories, this one was brewing for a long time before it came together. "I think the original seed was a lecture Michael Swanwick gave at a workshop I once attended that he called ‘How to Win a Hugo,’" Nestvold said. "The gist of it was to have a character stranded somewhere in the solar system in a desperate situation with next to no options. The character should then solve the problem using science–so base the story on a combination of a ton of research and whatever hand-waving you need to get past the bumps. Of course, this impressed me, especially given the promise Michael made, and it was in the back of my mind for quite a few years before it came together with the idea of telling a story in a series of database entries."


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F&SF, January 2008

The January 2008 issue of F&SF is now on sale. Here’s the table of contents: 


  • The Twilight Year – Sean McMullen
  • Pride and Prometheus – John Kessel
  • Mystery Hill  – Alex Irvine


  • It’s a Wonderful Life  – Michaela Roessner
  • Mars: A Traveler’s Guide  – Ruth Nestvold
  • The Quest for Creeping Charlie – James Powell



  • J.P. Rini
  • Arthur Masear
  • S. Harris


  • "Hypermail" by Darrel Anderson



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F&SF November 2007 Acquisitions

F&SF’s November acquisitions include:

  • Planetesimal Dawn by Tim Sullivan (11,000 words)
  • I Needs Must Part the Policeman Said by Richard Bowes  (11,000 words)
  • Sleepless Years by Steven Utley (4,800 words)
  • Enfant Terrible by Scott Dalrymple (2,500 words)
  • Childrun by Marc Laidlaw (10,500 words)
  • Going Back in Time by Laurel Winter (600 words)
  • Shadows on the Wall of the Cave by Kate Wilhelm (5600 words)

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"The Bone Man" by Frederic S. Durbin

image Frederic S. Durbin, whose story “The Bone Man” appears in the December 2007 issue of F&SF, said in an interview that his story tells the story of Conlin, a hit man who "rediscovers" the true spirit of Hallowe’en.

"On his way back to Chicago from a hit in tiny Enfield, Illinois, Conlin turns off the interstate for lunch and wanders into a small town among the fields and woods—a town that isn’t on his map," Durbin said. "He quickly discovers that he’s arrived on the day of the annual Hallowe’en parade, apparently a major event for this community; and he is intrigued by references to someone called ‘the Bone Man,’ a dancing skeleton that shows up every year as a kind of Grand Master of the parade."

Conlin’s curiosity is piqued by the locals’ apparent combination of dread and reverence for this figure, and especially by photos he’s shown: photos too old to be digital hoaxes, which indeed seem to depict an animated skeleton, Durbin said. "As he watches the town’s preparations for the evening, Conlin is drawn back into his childhood memories of the season and the sinister holiday for which he’s always had an affinity," he said. "Of course, Conlin, in the midst of the dark revelry, meets the Bone Man; and the specter is very real; and the encounter leaves Conlin forever changed (ominous chuckle)."


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Night Shade Books: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 2

Night Shade just posted the table of contents for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 2 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I’ve bolded titles that originally appeared in F&SF.

  • Introduction, Jonathan Strahan
  • The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, Ted Chiang
  • The Last and Only, or Mr. Moskowitz
  • Becomes French, Peter S. Beagle
  • Trunk and Disorderly, Charles Stross
  • Glory, Greg Egan
  • Dead Horse Point, Daryl Gregory
  • The Dreaming Wind, Jeffrey Ford
  • The Coat of Stars, Holly Black
  • The Prophet of Flores, Ted Kosmatka
  • Wizard’s Six, Alex Irvine
  • The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics, Daniel Abraham
  • By Fools Like Me, Nancy Kress
  • Kiosk, Bruce Sterling
  • Singing of Mount Abora, Theodora Goss
  • The Witch’s Headstone, Neil Gaiman
  • Last Contact, Stephen Baxter
  • Jesus Christ, Reanimator, Ken Macleod
  • Sorrel’s Heart, Susan Palwick
  • Urdumheim, Michael Swanwick
  • Holiday, M. Rickert
  • The Valley of the Gardens, Tony Daniel
  • Winter’s Wife, Elizabeth Hand
  • The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small, Chris Roberson
  • Orm the Beautiful, Elizabeth Bear
  • The Constable of Abal, Kelly Link

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F&SF, Dec. 2007 humor, reviews, & criticism

As I mentioned in my interview with David Moles, the December 2007  issue of F&SF is now on sale. That means that all of the non-fiction in the issue is now available on our website:

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Enter humor comp / But try and make it funny / Or you’ll hear "alas."

Carol Pinchefsky, editor of F&SF‘s humor competitions, is looking for a few good Haiku:

Retell a well-known science fiction or fantasy story in the form of a Haiku. (First line, five syllables; second line, seven syllables; third line, five syllables.) Limit your expertise to six entries, and try to make it funny.

  • First prize: Infinity x 2: The Life and Art of Ed and Carol Emshwiller by Luis Ortiz
  • Second prize: three advanced reading copies of upcoming novels
  • Runners-up win a one-year subscription to F&SF


Deadline is November 15, 2007.


“A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison:

A boy loves his dog.
Dog is hurt. Needs meat to live.
A dog loves boy’s girl—cooked.


Send entries to:

Competition Editor, F&SF,
240 West 73rd St. #1201
New York, NY 10023-2794

or email entries to carol@cybrid.net.

Be sure to include your contact information. Entries must be received by November 15, 2007. Judges are the editors of F&SF, and their decision is final. All entries become the property of F&SF.

For more information, visit the competition page on F&SF’s website.

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