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In 2014, our first calendar year, we proudly published four issues of short fiction and reviews, making Fantastic Stories of the Imagination eligible for the Hugo Award, Best Semiprozine; Locus Award, Best Magazine; and British Fantasy Award, Best Magazine/Periodical.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Warren Lapine, is eligible for the Hugo Award, Best Editor (Short Form), and the Locus Award, Editor.
Gillian Daniels, who writes the insightful New & Noteworthy Short Fiction column, is eligible for the Hugo Award, Best Fan Writer, and the Hugo Award, Best Related Work.
The following original stories from 2014 are eligible for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, World Fantasy Award, and British Fantasy Award in their stated categories:
Thank you to all of our contributors, and of course, our readers.
Fantasy is often considered a genre about other worlds. It’s less recognized that fantasy is also a genre about other times. Reflecting its origins in myths and fairytales, much of the genre takes place in a kind of faux medieval world: I say faux because it rarely has the a realistic depiction of feudalism, a cold brutalizing world for the majority of its inhabitants, its class stratifications justified at the level of ideas. History offers us few benevolent Kings or Queens, few Aragorns or Daeneryses. Many of these feudal fantasies are a kind of idealized version of the past, and tell the story of the farm-boy or girl destined to become king or queen.
The best fantasies give their worlds a history (though it’s surprising how many exist in a kind of timeless world). One of the most famous, of course, is Tolkien’s Middle Earth, which possesses a long, rich and epic past — described in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and elsewhere. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth has been in slow decline for centuries: the noble pastoral past is winding down, threatened firstly by the industrial world of the Dark Lord (and the ‘sharers’ who take over the Shire), and secondly by the rise of humankind. This combination of moral diminishing and rise of industry gives Tolkien’s world — for all its visionary heights — a melancholy conservative cast.
To depict a history for your fantasy world means to have a theory of that history. You have to explain how the world moved from one stage to another. That means you need to have a sense of history’s driving forces. Is history essentially a movement of progress or (like in Tolkien) a slow fall? Are all possible histories likely to follow the path of our world’s, from antiquity, through feudalism, to industrial capitalism? Or is history more contingent than that, able to move through all kinds of social structures? In this kind of thought experiment, fantasy comes close to science fiction and alternate history, both of which also need to have the same kinds of theories of history. In science fiction: how did the world get from now to the future? In alternate history: what event was decisive enough to change the past?
In recent years, there have been several shifts within fantasy. Most recently, Grimdark has offered us more realistic depictions of violence. Before that, the New Weird opened up a new space for fantasy, out and away from the feudal typologies. One of its innovations was to shift fantasy out of the rural world and into the modern city. This had consequences for the history depicted in the books. Modern cities are a product of industrial (and later in the west, post-industrial) capitalism. Gone are kings and queens, in come parliaments and Directors and bureaucracies. Modern cities mean modern political movements, modern political ideas, modern sensibilities.
For my own novel in this tradition, Unwrapped Sky, I pictured the city of Caeli-Amur as inhabiting the space between about 1870 and 1920. It’s a modern world, but it’s also a world that is in our past. There are factories, modern political movements, a kind of state capitalism run by three bureaucratic houses, an avant-garde art scene, and philosophical meetings within cafes and tiny bars. All of this is infused with an essence of Greek and Roman myth. Wandering among the dirty industrial alleyways are Minotaurs and Sirens: I still find that image exciting. But I made a second shift to accompany this one. Like Tolkien, I presupposed a lost ancient world. Unlike Tolkien, I suggested that this world — the world of the Ancients — was an advanced civilization, a utopia, ruined by an apocalypse. The remains of its sophisticated technology lie scattered throughout the world, mysterious and incomprehensible. Hence the world has gone through a devolution — a dark age — but by the start of the novel it is beginning to drag itself back up into industry. In this way Unwrapped Sky retains that sense of melancholy loss that so moves us in Tolkien, but jettisons the conservative shell. Hopefully it speaks in some way to our own losses — to the destruction of the environment, to the losses of many cultures and languages of the world, to the sense that things have somehow come apart. Caeli-Amur also has a future, and its story is a story of social change — the movement from that bureaucratic capitalism to something else, perhaps.
This is only one approach to history available to the fantasy writer. The delight of fantasy and science fiction, is that it is a thought experiment. It allows playfulness. Fantasy depicts what isn’t, and why shouldn’t it depict what isn’t, or what can never be, historically? Its fun and it’s also serious to ask what is and isn’t possible in a fantasy world. It inevitable gets us thinking about our own world. Robert Jordan depicted a society in which history is circular, but what other ideas might we depict? How about entirely new social systems, not antiquity, not feudalism, not capitalism, but something else? What about a fantasy utopia, one without oppression? What about a world where minorities are not marginalized? What about a matriarchal fantasy? Each of these would require the writer to think of how this came to be: what was the history of that particular world? We’re only just beginning to explore these regions, these times, but the possibilities are exhilarating. We live in exciting times for the fantasy genre.
Rjurik Davidson is a writer of short stories, essays, screenplays and reviews, and the Associate Editor of Overland magazine. He splits his time between Australia and Europe.PS Publishing published a collection of short stories, The Library of Forgotten Books, in 2010. He has been short-listed for, and won, a number of awards. His novel Unwrapped Sky was released in April, 2014 (Tor). SciFiNow claims it can “go toe-to-toe with China Miéville’s best.” Kirkus Reviews calls it “Impressively imagined and densely detailed.” And according to Library Journal it “marks Davidson as an author to watch.” A sequel, The Stars Askew, is scheduled for October, 2015 (Tor).
The comments field on stories is easy to see, a giant box at the bottom of the page; the comments on blog posts are accessed by clicking above the title in the RIGHT corner, in that reddish text there in the little gray tab.
If you share the post instead of the blog page, just click on the post title, it looks like the page comments field, huge, open, inviting you to participate in commenty-goodness.
I enjoyed this article by David Nickel on Lovecraft’s racism.
This quote indicates that my opinion, stated in my column, that most the community is under no illusions about HPLs racism, was probably inaccurate.
A few months later, I found myself on another Lovecraftian panel in San Antonio at Worldcon–this one about Lovecraft’s international appeal. There, in the midst of an excellent and exhaustive power point presentation about Lovecraft’s portability to Japan, I tried again to talk a bit about race. One of my co-panelists straight-facedly claimed she had seen no hints of racism in the Lovecraft that she’d read and wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I cited a few obvious examples–the proto-Tea-Party anti-immigration text (one can hardly call it subtext) of “The Horror at Red Hook,” the horrific take on miscegenation at the heart of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and a particular poem with a title that cannot be spoken, typed or spray-painted on a garage door in polite company–but didn’t push it much further.* Instead I spent most of the rest of that panel sitting back and taking in all those lovely slides of Lovecraftian manga panels and illustrations for translated stories.
Because really, it fast became clear that last year at least, not very many people at Lovecraftian panels wanted to talk about race as it pertained to Lovecraftian fiction.
The thing I wanted to add was that many of us have memories of having read HPL in a different time; the ‘man of his time’ thing is probably as much about the time the person read HPL as it is about HPLs time.
I’m 50 or so, I grew up in an era of great, casual racism, in the 60s and 70s. The Frito Bandito? A restaurant chain called Sambos? The Little Rascals, still on the air, with Buckwheat leading a parade in a white tuxedo in front of a truck of watermelons? Johnny Quest’s brutish bodyguard dude referring to the African natives casually as savages?
Racism! Still soaking in it!
For those of us most insulated, in white suburbs, in mostly white schools, I honestly think we didn’t have any clue what we were reading; we got the cosmic, existential horror of HPL; we didn’t get the racism. We enjoyed the scare. The racism permeated so much Golden Age stuff. The Lensmen? Jesus, is everyone white in Dune, do you suppose? Master races, breeding programs.. Eloi and Morlock…
Maybe HPL can no longer be read for pleasure by anyone sane. I can’t step into the same river twice.
I wanted someone to argue with me, that he shouldn’t be read anymore. I’m curious how that argument goes.
Politically, genre fiction covers, and often overflows, the boundaries of the political speech in mainstream media. We have our communitarian utopians and our free market libertarians, our atheists and our true believers, (and our atheist true believers) all crammed together under one tent.
The recent explosion of controversy over racist and sexist tweets and postings within SFWA is nothing new; different groups of writers famously took out a full page ad in Galaxy, attacking and defending the US war in Viet Nam, as pictured above.
Reading the names, for many people, came as a shock. This wasn’t about pleasing readers or winning fans. These were people feeling they had to make a stand.
So, the obvious thing to do is to not allow comments, avoid controversy, and just tell stories. But genre people aren’t like that.
Our comments will be moderated. I’m going to work up a ‘rules for comments’ document which no one will read, but, it’s one of those things that must be done. In short, be humane, constructive, polite; posts which denigrate others on the basis of race, creed, sexual preference or identity, or anything else I can think that shouldn’t be denigrated will be bounced by the mods.
Wilder Publications brings you great Science Fiction from the present, past, and future, in SF Super Pack #1, over 750 pages of stories from SF greats and new emerging voices, collected in a single volume; stories include The Cold Calculations by Michael A. Burstein, They Twinkled like Jewels by Philip José Farmer, Lingua Franca by Carole McDonnell, Dawn of Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Don’t Jump by Jamie Wild, Youth by Isaac Asimov, Digger Don’t Take No Requests by John Teehan, Lighter than You Think by Nelson Bond, Garden of Souls by M. Turville Heitz, The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick, Starwisps by Edward J. McFadden III, Gorgono and Slith by Ray Bradbury, I Was There When They Made the Video by Cynthia Ward, The Perfect Host by Theodore Sturgeon, That Universe We Both Dreamed Of by Jay O’Connell, The Lake of Light by Jack Williamson, Lies, Truth, and the Color of Faith by Gerri Leen, Hopscotch and Hottentots by Lou Antonelli, No Place to Hide by James Dorr, Industrial Revolution by Poul Anderson, The Visitor by Ann Wilkes, Travel Diary by Alfred Bester, Encounter in Redgunk by William R. Eakin, The Second Satellite by Edmond Hamilton, The Indecorous Rescue of Clarinda Merwin by Brenda W. Clough, Lost Paradise by C. L. Moore, Siblings by Warren Lapine, Gun for Hire by Mack Reynolds, The Answer by H. Beam Piper, Pythias by Frederik Pohl, Arm of the Law by Harry Harrison, The Good Neighbors by Edgar Pangborn, The Intruder by Emil Petaja, The Six Fingers of Time by R. A. Lafferty, An Ounce of Cure by Alan Edward Nourse, The Hoofer by Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Stellar Legion by Leigh Brackett, and Year of the Big Thaw by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Welcome to the premiere issue of the webzine version of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination.
Fantastic Stories has a wonderful history that I will do my very best to live up to. As many of you know, it was launched in 1952 by Ziff-Davis to be a companion to Amazing Stories, which they’d acquired in 1938. It never really lived up to its name until Cele Goldsmith was hired to edit it in 1958. I fell in love with Fantastic Stories because Cele Goldsmith published a lot of stories by my favorite author, Roger Zelazny. She also helped me find Ursula K. Leguin and Fritz Leiber, thus sealing the direction my adult life would go in. [READ MORE]