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EDITORIAL. Magazines have an immediacy and recklessness unmatched by any
other SF medium. Cheap, disposable, instantly gratifying, SF magazines are
the thin edge of the genre's cultural wedge. And non-fiction magazines can
help the SF writer and reader escape genre stereotypes and come to grips with
the real social and technical issues of the human future. Welcome, then, to
this special issue of CHEAP TRUTH On-Line, with the first installment of a
new review section, "Squirming Mags."
** State of the Field **
THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, Box 56, Cornwall, Conn.
06753. $17.50/yr. This splendid periodical, reputedly edited on Ed Ferman's
kitchen table, shows the long-standing primacy of small-scale craftsmanship
in the SF genre. Its standards are high, its overhead low, its distribution
excellent. The genre offers no better arena for young writers. The pay is
modest to the point of penury, but a well-placed F&SF story can attract more
attention than a novel.
F&SF is sometimes troubled by fantasies of a peculiarly matronly and
suburban air. But F&SF is unafraid of relatively harsh language and radical
concepts; and these often come to the rescue just as the reader is begging
for insulin. A lively Books column struggles manfully for credibility and
standards, and the Science column, though burdened by the increasing
flakiness of Isaac Asimov, serves as a useful ideological anchor. F&SF's
layout combines dignity and elegance. The covers excel, and the cartoons are
funny. And at $6.50 the long-advertised F&SF T-shirts are a real bargain.
They come in a vivid punk red and look great with the sleeves ripped out.
ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE, P. O. Box 1933, Marion, Ohio
43305. $19.50/yr. Hard-working editrix Shawna McCarthy now luxuriates in
the well-deserved ambience of her first Hugo. With Herculean effort, she has
diverted a river of new writers through the Augean stables of IASFM; and
while there is still plenty of crap around, it no longer actually chokes the
doorways. It is now possible to buy and read ASIMOV'S and find as many as
three decent stories in a single issue.
IASFM has always suffered from faanitis; it often cringingly
genuflects to Neanderthal fan-letters. It also suffers from Dr. Asimov's own
prolixity, for his prolificacy has now reached the terminal stage and he can
write any amount of anything about nothing. IASFM still does not take its
audience seriously, but at least it has stopped actively insulting it, and
things are looking up.
ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION/SCIENCE FACT, P. O. Box 1936, Marion Ohio
43306. $12/yr. ANALOG suffers from advanced hardening of the arteries; it
has become old, dull, and drivelling. In an era of unparallelled
sociotechnical ferment, ANALOG exudes the stale, mummylike odor of attitudes
preserved too long. ANALOG's brain and heart are in canopic jars somewhere,
while its contributors' word-processors spit out copy on automatic pilot. It
is a situation screaming for reform. ANALOG no longer permits itself to be
AMAZING SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, P. O. Box 72089-BL, Chicago, Ill
60609 $9/yr. The venerable AMAZING declines precipitously under the smug
and tactless editorship of George Scithers. In late years it has steadily
lost money, circulation, and influence, and it is currently surrounded by
rumors of collapse. Only a complete change in editorial outlook, plus a
sudden resurgence of intensity and quality throughout the genre, could save
INTERZONE, 370 Avocado Street, Apt. 1, Costa Mesa CA 92627 $10/yr.
This British SF quarterly is rife with puzzling self-contradiction. It has
the finest editorial ideology in the English-speaking world, bound
cheek-by-jowl with stories often riddled with conceit and void of substance.
Yet INTERZONE sustains hope with unpredictable bursts of appalling brilliance
and a consistent improvement in design and layout. It is the only truly
experimental SF magazine in the Anglophone market. Its ingenuously sincere
editorial cadre have done what they can; INTERZONE's problems are
symptomatic of much larger difficulties within the genre itself. INTERZONE's
success depends on a general reform, which INTERZONE is bravely attempting to
lead. It offers readers a unique sense of openness and risk. It truly
THE LAST WAVE, P. O. Box 3206, Grand Central Station, New York, NY
10163. $8/yr. This sad and awful effort, self-billed as "The Last Best Hope
of Speculative Fiction," demonstrates with ghastly clarity the utter
artistic bankruptcy of the '60's idiom. Its antiquarian writers hit
unerringly on the worst of both worlds, combining the intellectual
sluggishness of coda sci-fi with the self-satisfied pretension of would-be
literateurs. THE LAST WAVE is dead in the water.
OMNI, P. O. Box 5700, Bergenfield, N.J. 07621 $24/yr. This
anomalous publication, the virginal daughter of Bob Guccione's porn empire,
takes the prize for peculiarity. Though its rates are the best in the
business, its stories are often ignored. Genre readers resent paying $2.50
for one or two stories; while OMNI's "Boy Eats Own Foot" approach to science
coverage makes its reportage highly suspect. OMNI's fiction is often
excellent, but its power-mad art department has earned an unpleasant
notoriety. Stories are trimmed to fit like styrofoam, occasionally withoyt
authorial consultation; sometimes, incredibly, lines are even added. Stories
often bristle with non sequiturs and over-edited jumpiness. OMNI's
oppressive policies and slender output of fiction conspire to keep it out of
the first rank.
** The Tech-Head's Workshop **
SCIENCE (Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science) 1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington DC 20005 $56/yr.
No one actually READS all of each weekly issue of SCIENCE. Research
articles and papers are presented baldly, in painfully specialized
vocabularies meant to preserve intellectual turf rather than to enlighten the
layman. But close attention to the Letters, News and Comment, Editorials,
and above all the astonishing and wonderful ADVERTISEMENTS brings a wealth of
insight to the patient reader. SCIENCE is the tribal tom-tom of the nation's
scientific/technical culture, a bizarre and very human world full of odd,
passionate feuds and byzantine power-structures. It is a world worth
knowing, and SCIENCE, though sometimes as oblique as PRAVDA, shows it like no
SCIENCE 85 (same address, $18/yr.) This layman's magazine is the
sister publication of SCIENCE. Its news coverage is authoritative and
excellent, with fine graphics. But it often displays an irritating arrogance
and condescension, and its annoyingly up-scale ads reek of East Coast
yuppiedom. Genial essays and awful poetry sometimes fail to disguise its
essential nature as an organ of propaganda.
HIGH TECHNOLOGY, P. O. Box 358, Arlington, MA 02174 $21/yr. This
peculiar and wonderful publication is the handmaiden of yet another
subculture, that of the corporate investor and industrial entrepreneur.
These hard-bitten souls are impatient with academic obfuscation, which means
that HIGH TECH's articles are miracles of clarity. You'll find no gushing
cosmic gosh-wowism here; just cool analyses and cash-on-the-barrelhead
pragmatism. Ominous articles on high-tech weaponry take a prominent place,
putting the American military-industrial complex into refreshingly stark
relief. Strident editorials, unique advertisements, international scope, and
relentless practicality make HT an invaluable and fascinating document.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, P. O. Box 5919, New York N.Y. 10164 $24/yr.
For generations, Americans have read SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN with a vague,
gnawing sense of duty, in the earnest hope of intellectual betterment. And
for generations this magazine has narcotized them with its cluttered prose
and useless graphics. It's pretentious and dull and we deserve better.
AMERICAN SCIENTIST, P. O. Box 2889, Clinton, Ohio 52735 $24/yr.
This is the house journal of Sigma Xi, "The Scientific Research Society."
Sigma Xi seems to be a clubbier, more personal group than the AAAS, and its
articles are by members, who attempt to make the significance of their own
work clear in relatively straightforward language. The intended audience is
fellow scientists of different disciplines, rather than potential rivals for
priority or funding. This distinguishes AM-SCI essays from SCIENCE papers,
which are clearly intended to baffle outsiders, indoctrinate colleagues in
in-group terminology, and stake irrefutable claims to particular
sub-sub-disciplines. AMERICAN SCIENTIST is consequently much easier to read.
It's a professional journal, however, not a popularizing work, which means
that it comes with the marvelous specialized advertising that so often
provokes the layman's sense of wonder.
NEW SCIENTIST, 200 Meacham Avenue, Elmont, N.Y. 11003 $95/yr. This
intriguing British weekly has a deliberately activist point of view, replete
with wry comments on swaggering Yankees, Third World exploitation, and
lavishly funded military boondoggles. NEW SCIENTIST is see as somewhat
left-of-center by American standards. (With the American federal budget
showing a 65% increase in "defense-related" R&D, a certain chumminess with
the right-wing has become a bread-and-butter fact of life for batallions of
This is only a smattering of the smorgasboard of journals, many of
them newly founded, which exist to feed the technical curiosity of the new
post-industrial readership. And these are for generalists. The explosion of
specialized technical journals has given the world a new phenomenon:
"information pollution." This is hazardous territory, best dealt with by
computer. Theorists warn us that information is losing its value: it is
ATTENTION TO INFORMATION that must be rationed and conserved.
Technological literacy is crucial, but by no means ENOUGH. With NEW
SCIENTIST, we find ourselves edging onto the slippery slope of Social and
Political Issues. These journals, too, bizarre, outrageous, sometimes
blackly humorous, deserve a segment of our overloaded attention. We will
grapple with this topic in the second installment of "Squirming Mags."
CHEAP TRUTH On-Line 809-C West 12th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 U.S.A.
NOT COPYRIGHTED. Vincent Omniaveritas, editing. Shiva the Destroyer,
systems operation. "It is better to DO something than to BE someone"