Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Helix magazine, #7 (Winter 2008): Annotated partial table of contents & review

I picked this up seeing the word "SF" in url, & was in for a pleasant surprise. It's by far the most interesting online genre magazine I've seen to date. Almost all stories are science fiction; fantasy & non-genre content is very limited. While stories are nowhere near Analog in class, they generally aren't bad either.

If you are someone primarily interested in science fiction, & get bugged even by Asimov's because of its mostly fantasy leanings, this one probably won't disappoint. Assuming this is a typical issue, I will very likely be looking out for more issues.

They don't seem to provide a permalink for current issue (it's available only for back issues)! It's currently at their home page; I suppose there will be links to it there even when new content replaces it on their home page.

List below is of all stories, plus a non-fiction article I found interesting - ranked by quality (best first). My rating is in brackets (A = time well spent; C = don't bother).

  1. [non fiction] Bud Webster's "Past Masters" (A); download: An introduction to works of H Beam Piper. I've only read his "Omnilingual"; so cannot comment on content. But I found it very readable.
  2. [ss] Laura J Underwood's "Drooling Wizards" (B); download; fantasy, humor: Position of an Idiot has fallen vacant in a village, & applications are welcome! Clod Hopper is interested in the job. Amid some magic spells between a warring wizard & witch, village will end up getting two Idiots.
  3. [ss] David W Goldman's "The Last Man's First Year on Earth" (B); download: Somewhat dark story. A future earth of very long lived humans who cannot physically develop beyond puberty because that is the only time you can get longevity treatment; & that effectively freezes physical development, but not mental maturity. We get a glimpse of the society through the eyes of a single physical adult who happens to have been thrown here by an accident.
  4. [ss] Maya Bohnhoff's "Seraphim" (B); download: Fast moving & very readable story of investigative journalism, government conspiracy, & invention of a machine that will give US military advantage over its enemies. But this story is may be a century too late; it would have been far more interesting if it were published during Rudyard Kipling era.
  5. [ss] Selina Rosen's "Salvager's Gold" (B); download: Colorful but mundane story of a human Salvager - kind of street sweeper - aboard a space habitat called "Gamma Station" that also is home to aliens, & in whose dock spaceships from all over are seen. But the dream of every Salvager is to locate "The Big Trash" - an abandoned alien habitat at an unknown location in space awaiting looting of its valuable booty. After a murder, chase, & escape, our hero is on his way to claim the loot.
  6. [ss] Vaughan Stanger's "Family Tree" (B); download: A retired school teacher finds a new career in teaching - by founding the first school in the budding colony on moon. Story contains much distraction in the form of a very complicated device called "memory garden" - something that looks like a pot of indoor plants; you rub a leaf & inhale the resulting aroma to trigger specific old memories; but you need to teach this machine your memories first.
  7. [ss] Charlie Anders' "Suicide Drive" (C); download: Some people believe that environmental problems threaten humanity, & they must find a new home among the stars. A European ends up becoming the effective dictator of the world, & forces funding the development of a star drive, diverting funds from other programs. Star ship is gone with some crew, dictator became so unpopular that he will likely be lynched, ... Now his son is hiding in a bunker somewhere on earth, fearing mobs because rest of earth is in a mess & also because he is son of this dictator. Story is told via interactions of this son with a journalist.
  8. [ss] Adam-Troy Castro's "Night of the Living POTUS" (C); download; fantasy, humor: If you are from US, you might see the humor & enjoy it more - it has some jokes related to recent & past US Presidents. Didn't work for me.
Legend: ss = short story.

Update, 17 January 2007.

  1. Looks like my conclusions about the Helix's inclinations towards science fiction are wrong - the mix in this issue is just one off. Editor, William Sanders, clarifies it here. There is more in his post regarding my remarks, & even more in the entire thread linked from there.
  2. A note for Mr Adam-Troy Castro (he initiated the thread containing Mr Sanders' remarks): I suppose it was thoughtless of me using strong language against your story; I've dropped the opening remark (my readers should still get the sentiment right). If it might repair some of the anguish I might have caused, I actually did like your earlier "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie & Earl's" (except for ending - sorry, I am a bit tough to please customer). And there is a brighter side - how many bloggers put your stories in the same list that also includes Henry Kuttner, Eric Frank Russell, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, H Beam Piper, Jules Verne, ...? Sunday Night currently ranks among the top 40% in my all time list (& would have been in top 20% but for ending). It's admittedly not a huge list still, but growing everyday.
  3. A clarification in case someone is brooding conspiracy theories regarding this post & another recent one that seems to have caused some consternation: I am just a reader of fiction. I am not a writer, agent, script writer, publisher, retailer, or in anyway associated with the act of entertaining.


Krishnan said...

Hi I stumbled on your blog while googling for SF. Great blog. I have made it a point to visit and read your posts daily.

Tinkoo said...

Thanks Krishnan.

Are you from India? I got a private message (via Contact Me link) from someone in Madras a few days back, without a return address - would that be you?