It’s been too long since the last issue. How ya been?
January was interrupted, pleasantly, by a long vacation—ten whole days!, the longest I’ve taken since joining the workforce 30+ years ago. We attended ConFusion, a Detroit suburban regional convention, which was extremely pleasant. The high point, of course, was Bernadette’s sixtieth birthday party, a full-on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic extravaganza. We then spent several days with family in Ann Arbor. So that was good. I came home fired up with enthusiasm for the field and for the magazine ... wait, what’s that ominous music?
San Francisco: Tachyon Publications; $15.95 tpb/$9.99 ebook; 285 pages
Michael Swanwick has been around a while now, and has racked up his share of major awards. It seems to go without saying that he’s a pretty good writer. So I’ll go a little further: on the basis of this collection, he is a short story writer on the order of Theodore Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, and Roger Zelazny. Not that he’s much like any of them, but he’s become that good.
Chicago: Chicago Review, 2016; $15.99 tpb; 207 pages
There’s always been something enigmatic about Roger Zelazny and his writing.
Even though Roger was always pleasant, he still somehow radiated a sense of cool distance, emotional reserve. If you check out the obituary essays in Locus, you’ll note how many people responded to his exciting fiction but how relatively little they had to say about Roger as a person. At the last ICFA he attended, Roger invited several people to a special dinner at the conference hotel’s gourmet restaurant. I accepted it simply as an exceptionally nice, friendly gesture; however, my wife, a sharply observant social worker, told me later, “Joe, I think Roger’s dying.” She was right. After his death, one of Roger’s oldest friends was hurt about how he’d been deceived: Roger had assured him that everything was fine, that he was cured of cancer. Evidently he found it easier to die than to be known as Dying Roger Zelazny.
The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.