Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gift Idea: Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine is known as a "pulp": printed on cheap newsprint, a little bit larger than a standard paperback. The format is a throwback to the pulps of the 1940's and '50's where now recognized Grand Masters--like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Theodore Sturgeon--first refined their craft. And in that tradition, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine publishes short stories and novellas from current authors like Connie Willis and Alan Steele and new authors as well.

The stories vary in length, style, and subject. Some are hard SF, some are soft, occasionally there is fantasy. Each issue includes poetry, editorial columns, book reviews, web site reviews, and a Convention Calendar.

Subscriptions for one year (10 issues), U.S., is about $33.00. There are "double issues" twice a year. Check the website ( for details. There is also an online version.

I've been a subscriber off-and-on since the mid-1980's. A subscription is now on my permanent Christmas list (Thanks, Mom!). Some issues, some stories, some authors stand out more than others. Other authors have used the stories first published in Asimov's as a basis for their novels.

Content warning! This is not a magazine for children. Some stories contain adult language, adult situations--including sex scenes and drug use--and violence. Some authors are not sympathetic to organized religion--and that bias may show up in some of their stories.

A warning is usually included in the front of the stories the editors think might be the most offensive. However, everyone has different triggers. Over the years, I've noticed the themes of the stories come in waves: a spate of bionic soldier stories, a spate of global cooling stories, a spate of global warming stories, a spate of First Encounter stories.

Overall, the quality of the writing is excellent. The short story and novella format allows for a lot of experimentation with themes and ideas that isn't possible with a novel because a novel is a significant investment of time and money on the part of the author and the publisher.

Asimov's is my favorite "commuter" magazine: it's small and there's a lot of variety, both in story length and content. I usually find one story I really enjoy and there are some, like Connie Willis's annual Christmas story, that I look forward to. A year of enjoyment for the cover price of a single hardback!

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks, excellent for the discriminating SF reader.

crossposted at Catholic Media Review