Things Beyond: November 2022

(Cover by Fred Gambino. Asimov’s, August 1996.)

Now we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming! Only not quite, but I’ll save that for the end. We’ve come back to our novella and serial reviews, which I’m thankful for; as fitting as it is to focus only on short stories and novelettes for a month of horror, I found it weirdly draining to review all those short stories back to back. With serials and novellas we’ll have more variety, never mind the lack of a horror theme.

I must’ve gone back and forth on this schedule too many times to count, frankly. The thing is that I like having a schedule for my reviews, as I think it allows me to plan some silly stuff in advance, like the fact that I’ll be tackling Joanna Russ and Poul Anderson stories back-to-back (for those of you who don’t know, I recommend looking up a certain exchange those two reportedly had), not to mention stuff like last month’s review slate. But I’m not here to waste your time, let’s get to the meat of the matter!

For the serials:

  1. We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ. Published in Galaxy Science Fiction, January to February 1976. Russ was a divisive figure in the field and We Who Are About To… in particular was not received well. Even so, it has its defenders, perhaps the biggest of them being Samuel R. Delany (who I always trust), and it also received a glowing review from Joachim Boaz over on his site. I have to admit my experiences with Russ have not been great up to this point, having found her Hugo-winning novella “Souls” underwhelming, but this could be a change of pace!
  2. We Have Fed Our Sea by Poul Anderson. Published in Astounding Science Fiction, August to September 1958. It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novel, and was published in book form as The Enemy Stars. Anderson was apparently a beloved figure when he was alive, but since his death his star power has faded somewhat, perhaps due to the scattered vairety of his fiction. He was a reliable and insanely prolific writer, and I often like (but rarely love) his work. We Have Fed Our Sea was one of THREE Anderson serials running in Astounding in 1958.

For the novellas:

  1. “Another Orphan” by John Kessel. Published in the September 1982 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Kessel can be thought of as adjacent to the cyberpunk movement of the ’80s, though it would be a mistake to consider Kessel himself one of the cyberpunks. Renowned for both his fiction and genre criticism, he’s also edited several anthologies, often in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly. “Another Orphan,” which won the Nebula for Best Novella, is apparently a riff on a classic work of American fiction…
  2. “The Kragen” by Jack Vance. Published in the July 1964 issue of Fantastic. Like with Poul Anderson, Vance is a writer I often like but rarely find myself strongly attached to. Also like with Anderson, Vance represents to some extent SF writing typical of the pre-New Wave ’60s (i.e., relatively conservative), focusing less on literary experimentation and more on The Big Picture™. “The Kragen” may strike some readers as familiar because they had read it in a different form: it would be expanded into the novel The Blue World two years later.

For the short stories:

  1. “Don’t Look Now” by Henry Kuttner. Published in the March 1948 issue of Startling Stories. You didn’t think I’d forget about Kuttner, right? Making his professional debut in 1936, Kuttner was not the instant success like hie future wife, C. L. Moore, was; actually he had a reputation as a hack writer for a while, and to this day his immense talent tends to be undervalued. Alongside Moore Kuttner would write some of the most beloved SFF of the ’40s, but he also remaimed prolific more or less on his own, “Don’t Look Now” being an example.
  2. “Mountain Ways” by Ursula K. Le Guin. Published in the August 1996 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. Le Guin is one of those grandmasters of the field who really needs no introduction. She only appeared sporadically in the magazines from the ’60s to the ’80s, but the ’90s saw a major resurgance for Le Guin as a magazine presence, with her Hainish cycle especially getting more attention. “Mountain Ways” is a standalone Hainish story, and it won the James Triptree Jr. (now regrettably called the Otherwise) Award for gender-bending SF.

If you’re reading this post and it’s the first day of November then you’ll notice there are two new departments for my blog: one of them is simply a quality-of-life improvement while the other is more of a “I’m doing this for funzies” thing. Firstly we have an author index now! Reviews are organized by authors’ last names, and while this page may be small now, there will come a point when it will be massive, and since I don’t rate my reviews, this is probably the best way to help readers find what they’re looking for. The second is The Observatory, which like Things Beyond is an editorial department, but whereas Things Beyond is meant for forecasting reviews, The Observatory will be more like a conventional magazine editorial where I’ll spend a thousand words on whatever subject I feel like writing about—although, of course, it will be SFF-related.

Since Things Beyond happens at the beginning of every month, it seems only natural to have an Observatory editorial posted on the 15th of every month, so that it’ll never be skipped and it’ll fall exactly between two of my regular review posts. With these changes I feel like I’m one step closer to making my blog a “professional” (by that I really mean well-rounded) review site for magazine SFF.

Won’t you read with me?


3 responses to “Things Beyond: November 2022”

  1. Well, I’ve read all those stories, though I confess I don’t really remember “Don’t Look Now”. Joachim is right about “We Who Are About To”, which is great partly by being unexpected. (And it was published by Jim Baen, politically about as opposite to Russ as you might imagine, but actually a great supporter of her work.” “We Have Fed Our Sea” (a great title, from Kipling, much better than THE ENEMY STARS) is also very good Anderson.

    “Another Orphan” is spectacular — it’s the story that told me that this John Kessel guy was a great writer, and so I’ve stuck with him over the years — and been rewarded. As for “The Kragen”, I confess I’ve only read the novel version, THE BLUE WORLD. I remember liking it but it’s not Vance at his very best.

    “Mountain Ways” is good — it could hardly be otherwise, it’s Le Guin! But the great Le Guin story set on O is, well, another story — in fact, it’s “Another Story; or, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea”; first published in Algis Budrys’ magazine tomorrow. That story is brilliant.


    • Almost done with “Another Orphan” as I’m writing this, and spoilers, I also think it’s quite the read. I had read a bit of Kessel before, and especially liked his story “Buffalo,” but this almost feels like it’s on another level.


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