I'm a big fan of fantasy and science fiction short stories, picking up various "Best of" anthologies every year. In those anthologies, it always tells where each story came from, so I was always aware of the various magazines that are around. I never really went looking for them, however. Then, one day I was at my local science fiction book store and saw the magazine shelf and decided I should check one out. Being more of a fantasy fan then a science fiction fan, I decided to try out Fantasy & Science Fiction. Am I ever glad I did. Ever since that fateful day in January, I have been buying it every month.
NOTE: I buy it at the store rather then getting a subscription because I not only want to support the magazine, but I also want to support my local store. Being in Canada, there isn't a lot of savings with the subscription, though there is some. I would definitely suggest getting a subscription unless you are in similar circumstances.
Fantasy & Science Fiction has been publishing continually since 1949. Each issue is full of stories and interesting columns from some of the big names in the genre today. Recent stories by Joe Haldeman, Peter S. Beagle and David Gerrold were all excellent, and even the stories by less experienced writers are usually quite good. As with any anthology or other group of stories, there may be the occasional clunker in there. Overall, though, the hit rate is very high. There do seem to be some almost regular contributors, such as Matt Hughes and Ray Vukcevich, but thankfully their work is usually good. There are always a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and each sub-genre is represented pretty well too. There's urban fantasy, some high fantasy (though usually nothing like Lord of the Rings), modern science-fiction, far future, and many more. Stories vary from novellas to short stories, and everything in between. There are usually 7-10 stories per issue.
There are sometimes theme issues as well, such as the July, 2004 issue that was the "All American issue." Each story took place in the United States, but even within that theme, the stories were quite varied. "The Battle of York" was an example of how history can be perverted when records are fragmented. It's a story being told in the 29th century that takes bits and pieces of American history and twists them into a myth of George Washington, George Custer, Dwight Eisenhower, and the giant turned to stone that became the Statue of Liberty. It also contains a civil war tale and a modern-day story of science and terror.
Each issue also has some departments. There is "Books to Look For" by Charles de Lint, where he gives you the scoop on some books that you may have missed. There's also another column on books from various authors who muse either on books they want to suggest or just about books in general. There's also a films column by either Lucius Shepard or Kathi Maio. Usually these columns give interesting analyses of current genre films, sometimes commenting on the state of the industry today. They are always well-written, even when they are talking about something you may not be interested in.
The layout of the magazine is great. It's bound rather then stapled, so it fits nicely on your bookshelf. Unfortunately, that means that it won't lay flat like other magazines, so you'll have to hold it. The stories and columns are spread around, interrupted with the occasional cartoon or other artwork. Each story is introduced by the editor, Gordon Van Gelder, giving a little bit of information about the author usually including when the last story by that author had been published in the magazine. He also occasionally writes an editorial that kicks off the issue.
The benefit of short fiction is that it doesn't take very long to read, even if it's something that's not grabbing you. I have not skipped anything in any of the issues that I've read, and I've always been at least mildly entertained by even the lesser stories. It's definitely a way to stay on top of current trends in the genre. If you like short fiction, you owe it to yourself to check this magazine out.
What sets F&SF Mag apart from the other digest-sized magazines that deliver speculative fiction is that F&SF chooses, almost every month, to transcend the genres it represents instead of remaining within the definitions and boxes that limit the other magazines. There don't seem to be any hard and fast rules concerning the stories that appear in this magazine except that they be really well written, and compellingly readable. The stories run all over the fertile woodland of Fantasy and Science Fiction and every month hold many surprises. There really hasn't been a magazine this satisfying since the old Twilight Zone magazine. In the end, it isn't about hard science or speculation about what might happen (in a scientific way). This is a magazine about stories for people who love to read them.
Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine is full of imaginative stories every month; I have never been disappointed. The stories range in length from blasters to novellas, so no matter how much or little time one has, there is a story that will fit in. The authors are professionals who deliver well polished prose time after time. There are rarely stories at the extremes of the fantasy or sci-fi genres. I have never read about elves and dragons or about the workings of a space ship in any issue. The stories are about people, relationships, and all the strangeness we call life, as is the case with all good writing, not dazzling displays of scientific blather.
F&SF has always been the best science fiction magazine out there. Others have been more popular, but F&SF is always the most consistently readable. The stories range from science fiction to magical realism.
I have been a subscriber to F&SF for many years now - even in the tough economic times when I had to let all of the non-necessities go, I managed to keep getting this magazine. They publish what I consider to be the best short works in the genre - there is always at least one story that sticks with me for a period of time (often years), and the articles are helpful and informative... or just thought-provoking. There is a good balance between hard-core sci-fi and fantasy. Highly recommended to any sci-fi and/or fantasy fan.
As an aspiring science fiction short story writer, I have been avidly reading Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov's and Analog. I like these magazines immensely. Fantasy and Science Fiction is simply excellent. I enjoy the writing and recommend it highly for all fantasy and science fiction fans. As I work long hours and want to spend quality time with my family (I have a wife, two young boys, an old dog, a puppy, two frogs, and a big goldfish), I now opt for reading a short story before bedtime (to my sons if it's age appropriate) rather than reading a few chapters of a novel (I do that too, but if it's really good, I'm up really late).
Fantasy and Science Fiction is terrific. Well worth the lolly!
F&SF, published on its own rather than as part of a larger stable of magazines, isn't easily pigeonholed. As its title describes itself, it's a magazine of Fantasty and Science Fiction. The fantasy is usually quite good, tending more toward humorous light fantasy than heroic sword-and-sorcery but some of the latter also shows up. Straight science fiction more suited to Analog can also find its way to F&SF, as will social SF or literary attempts that one might expect from Asimov's.
Some pieces are harder to categorize. There is usually one horror piece per issue, and why this is still the case is beyond me. The editors have done several surveys of the subscriber base and every result has loudly complained about "the horror! the horror!" yet still it slouches on. Mainstream authors are more likely to appear in F&SF than the other SF digests; Joyce Carol Oates is a regular contributor. Some of these mainstream pieces have little fantasy or SF element to them, which is what makes people call F&SF "quirky."
One nice thing about F&SF was that they used to sell lifetime subscriptions. I don't know if they'll still do it, but the cost used to be ten times the annual rate. I've been reading F&SF for almost 20 years, and the format hasn't changed much, despite the new editor and publisher taking over from the Furmans. If you used to read it, you won't be surprised if you come back to it.
Once upon a time this little magazine serialized The Gunslinger. I cannot give it any higher personal praise than that. But if you still need some convincing...
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the gold standard in its genres (which are broader than the title might initially seem to suggest--there are all kinds of Fantasy and Science Fiction--and this magazine also features some horror from time to time). What Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine are to mystery, F&SF is to, well, F&SF.
I have met some of my favorite authors in the pages of this magazine. Most recently, I read a great short story, "Finding Beauty," by Lisa Goldstein. I intend to read some of her novels as soon as I can get my hands on them.
The excellent review by David Roy below covers the nuts and bolts description of this magazine pretty well, so I won't repeat what he has so concisely said already.
I will however, make a nod to Charles de Lint's excellent column. If you are a voracious reader like me, you will find it of great worth and use.
I encourage you to not only check out, but support Fantasy and Science Fiction. This great publication is a jewel and well worth the money and time spent reading.
Fantasy and Science Fiction gets my full recommendation.
With its cheap pricetag and thick size, Fantasy & Science Fiction is definately one of the best. It splits it pages into fantasy & science fiction stories and novellas with a few common columns between (book reviews and strange facts). If you write fantasy or science fiction, pick magazine up.