Superlatives are hard to apply in a market as fractured as science fiction. Is "Hard" SF better than "Soft"? What about "Space Opera"? And what importance is placed on exacting scientific accuracy? Therefore, it's impossible to pin down a single magazine as the "best" in the field.
However, for fans of character-driven and sociological science fiction, "Asimov's" must surely be the top of the line. Through the years it has enjoyed a number of skillful and discriminating editors, and has fostered the editorial careers of professionals who now edit other genre magazines. This title has been lavished with awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula, for both its content and its management. It has the longest unbroken publishing history of any SF magazine currently in print. And its subscription numbers have been traditionally the strongest in the genre market.
That said, in the soft SF market of the last decade, the magazine has suffered. As advertising revenues have dropped off and subscriptions have flagged, the number of pages has gotten smaller through the years, and there are fewer stories as a result. The magazine has changed hands twice in recent years. And, without Asimov himself at the symbolic helm, there has been a slight drift in theme.
In spite of all this, "Asimov's" is easily the best buy in SF mags today. With stories excellently chosen by Gardner Dozois that at least stick comfortably within the genre, entertaining and illuminating essays by enduring author Robert Silverberg, and informative, concise book reviews, this magazine covers the gamut of science fiction.
Though SF has suffered in recent years, this magazine remains one of the strongest purchases available to fans and neophytes of the genre. Enjoy with all compliments, and remember, there's another one coming next month.
Regular readers of my reviews are probably getting sick of me mentioning Kage Baker, but I have to credit her for getting me to try a lot of things that I wouldn't normally try if she hadn't been a part of them. Asimov's Science Fiction magazine is another time where this is the case. While I have bought Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine every month for a while now, I would also check Asimov's to see if it had a Baker story. If it did, I would buy it. What I have found, however, is that I have enjoyed most of the other stories in the issues I have bought as well. Thus, from now on I will be buying it every month too.
Much like Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's contains mostly science fiction stories of various lengths (short story, novelette, novella) along with a couple of columns and some cartoons. The difference between the two is that Asimov's contains no fantasy (though some of Mike Resnick's stories have a fantasy feel to them). However, the magazine likes to concentrate on character-based science fiction, so you won't see a lot of "technology first, character second" stories in the magazine. Personally, I think that's a good thing as hard science fiction turns me off. If you're more into the hard sciences, you may find stuff in here to interest you, but there's a good chance that you won't.
Occasionally, there will be guest editorials (they printed George R.R. Martin's Guest of Honor speech from Worldcon in the October/November issue). There's always an "On Books" column, sometimes written by Paul Di Filippo, sometimes by Peter Heck. The authors use this column to recommend books that you may not have come across. Robert Silverberg opens each issue with a "Reflections" column that can cover everything from space exploration to ideas on story-writing. James Patrick Kelly occasionally is featured with an "On the Net" column, examining various science fiction web sites and other online activities. Unlike Fantasy & Science Fiction, there is often some poetry included as well. Finally, there is a calendar of upcoming conventions that covers the world so you can always find someplace to go if you need to get together with a group of fans.
The bread and butter of the magazine, though, are the stories. Each story has an introduction from the editor (currently Gardner Dozois, though that will change to Sheila Williams with the January issue), which may explain the genesis of the story, or just tell us how long it's been since that author has appeared in Asimov's. One of the things about Asimov's that is different is that it often serializes stories that will eventually appear in book form. Allen M. Steele's Coyote series has been serialized over the last couple of years with all of them being collected in two books (Coyote from a couple of years ago, and the upcoming Coyote Rising). Also, Charles Stross' Accelerando has been featured in recent issues. The one drawback to this is for readers who only pick up the occasional issue. For instance, "Survivor" in the October/November issue didn't really mean a lot because I've missed everything that came before it. It does reward regular readers, though.
Asimov's has many writers who write almost exclusively for that magazine, or at the very least the authors submit their stories to this magazine for first refusal. My favourite, Kage Baker, only seems to appear here, with only one story that I know of appearing in Realms of Fantasy. Allen M. Steele is another. Robert Reed seems to be featured everywhere (I swear that guy is churning them out like he's a machine) but he is featured a lot in Asimov's.
The magazine is bound just like Fantasy & Science Fiction, however the cover is thin paper rather than thicker stock, so it will tear a bit easier. This does have the advantage that you can sometimes leave it lying open for reading (though this only works if you're toward the middle of it). It also means it can be rolled up if necessary.
The only other fault I have with it, and this is strictly a personal thing, is that the stories don't always grab me as much as they do in Fantasy & Science Fiction. This is mainly because I'm more into fantasy than science fiction, so this certainly wouldn't be the case for everyone. While the hit and miss ratio varies from issue to issue, I can say that I have never skipped a story in the magazine. Again, that's a benefit of short fiction. You're not going to waste a lot of time on them.
If I had to choose between the two magazines, I would definitely choose Fantasy & Science Fiction. However, Asimov's is certainly good enough that it's easy to make room for both of them. Plus, by picking them both up, I feel like I'm doing my part in keeping short fiction alive. It's only a small part, but every little bit helps.
This is the magazine for the best stories on the market today. A typical Hugo or Nebula awards list usually has several items from Asimov's (although not this year, they're all from sister publication Analog!) Asimov's tends toward "softer" SF than Analog and some stories are more literary or experimental. But I say this in praise, as most of these stories are well worth the effort. Some really do take you to alien places or senses with their language and structure as well as plot (I'm thinking of some of Charles Stross' new entries).
Asimov's is less predictable than Analog as well; other than editor Robert Silverberg's editorial, there are few recurring features, and serialzed novels are rare. So you may get two short stories or five, the rest made up of novella and novellettes. But they will always be well-done, and you'll find yourself looking for those authors' long works after enjoying them in Asimov's.
One change in publication not mentioned here: both magazines have gone to 10 issues a year from 11, with 2 "double issues" instead of one per year. The double issue is always a treat but then one must wait 2 months for the next regular issue!
Asimov's Science Fiction is currently the best SF magazine out there. You just need to look at the authors that appear there, or if the names mean nothing to you, find out how many of the nominees for the Hugos and Nebulas in the last few years were originally published here. Gardner Dozois, the editor keeps getting the award for best editor year after year. Or, if awards don't convince you, just grab an issue for the best short fiction. You can sample the stories (...) Enjoy!
Once upon a time in the SF world there were only novels. Then came Editor John Campbell and did he manage a field of great authors! Asimov, Heinlien, Clarke, and many others grew up under him.
In our modern era, science fiction has once again fallen prey to 10 novel fantasy series and the (...) EMPIRE of Star Wars and Star Trek books (I hesitate to call them novels).
Asimov's Science Fiction is the bright shining light where fabulous SF is being written by writers that haven't sold out to the Motion Picture megabucks. Not that these stories wouldn't make great movies, many would, but editor Gardner Dozois demands excellence and gets it.
The writers in ASF write SF the way it should be, with the science of today extrapolated into the future.
Way to go and suscribe to this magazine
I've been subscribed to 'Asimov's' for a few years now, and have rarely been dissapointed.
I only have a few complaints, all of which I will list here.
First of all, I am an international subscriber, and although my issues always eventually arrive, sometimes they are months late.
Second of all, the magazine often contains stories which I would catagorize as being 'Fantasy', and not 'Science Fiction'. Don't get me wrong, the stories are usually of high quality, but when I first subscribed, I expected serious SF only.
Other than those two complaints, I enjoy this magazine thouroughly and look forward to it's arrival always.
I have subscribed to Asimov's for 15 years. It is the very best Sci Fi Magazine out there. All the best authors that you have heard of and many that are undiscovered treasures. If you are a fan of short Science Fiction then you will not be disappointed!
This magazine is simply the best SF out there! Every issue goes well over 100 pages and it's a monthly! The June Issue has some great storys in it, so go pick it up at your local convience store, now! This magazine is awesome!
Asimov's science fiction magazine is one of the premier sources of new short story and novella length science fiction. It also has the occasional serialized novel. Having been introduced to science fiction through Isaac Asimov's own short story anthologies back in the 70's I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the return to the short story format after many years of "blockbuster novels". The magazine consistently showcases the best new talent. It also has a stable of veteran, commercially successful, writers that use the magazine as a vehicle to return to their roots. Notables such as Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly, Kage Baker, and Tom Purdom to name a few. Asimov's seems to always have nominees in the yearly Nebula and Hugo awards for science fiction.
Most stories are "Social Science Fiction" in which a loose future backdrop is used to tell a character based story with an eventual universal truism revealed. It is rare to find a "Hard Science Fiction" story in which the extrapolation of known science into a future setting plays a critical role in the climax and conclusion of the story. Stories from the early writings of Larry Niven are good examples of such stories. This is a forgivable lapse as most editors would tell you that they would love to see more hard science submissions.
The magazine also boasts one of the best editorial sections penned by acclaimed author Robert Silverberg. He covers topics ranging from strict science to historical recollections of the science fiction genre. He has also reintroduced many readers to lost stories and authors such as Cordwainer Smith with great biographical pieces.
They also have Poems; no offense Mr. Haldeman.