Saturday, August 25, 2007
Subterranean Magazine #4 is the Sci-Fi cliche issue and was guest edited by John Scalzi. All of the stories in this collection deal with pretty much every cliche the genre has, but puts a new and fresh feeling twist on them. Last Man on Earth? Check. Sentient Computers? Check. The End of Existence? Check. Some of them even cover multiple cliches. As a concept for a themed issue the cliche is a great idea.
But, how was the execution? Overall, the stories were solid and worth the time spend reading. Issue #4 features debut stories by Rachel Swirsky and David Klecha as well as entries from more established authors. While stories like "The Last Science Fiction Writer" and "The NOMAD Gambit" entertained, and "Tees and Sympathy" was clever, only once did I feel that sense of excitement about reading something extra special and that was Chris Roberson's "Last" (the last man on earth story). Roberson's take on the cliche, with the last man returning from a space mission to find everybody dead and dealing with the empty environment and a futile search for a survivor while touching on the clicheness of what is happening really worked and resonated. I think I’m a sucker for Last Man stories, though. What with Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and all. The one story which I struggled through was "Hesperia and Glory". I only read a page or two of that one before I had to skip ahead.
Also featured in the issue were two articles, one by John Joseph Adams and the other by Teresa Nielson Hayden, and some book reviews (including A Feast for Crows and Cell)
Scenes from a Dystopia, by Rachel Swirsky
The Third Brain, by Charles Coleman Finley and James Allison
A Finite Number Typewriters, by Stuart MacBride
Horrible Historians, by Gillian Polack
Hesperia and Glory, by Ann Leckie
What a Piece of Work, by Jo Walton
The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Alan M. Steele
Shoah Sry, by Tobias S. Buckell and Ilsa J. Bick
Labyrinth’s Heart, by Bruce Arthurs
The NOMAD Gambit, by Dean Cochrane
In Search of Ellen Siriosa, by Ron Hogan
Tees and Sympathy, by Nick Sagan
Last, by Chris Roberson
Refuge, by David Klecha
The Infinite Heat Death of the Universe, by Elizabeth Bear
Subterranean #4 is available free online, but it is fun to own a copy of the magazine for the bookshelf.
This was a solid issue and one which did not disappoint, but knowing the overall quality of what I get from Subterranean Online with some of their novellas I had hoped for something extra special in the print edition.