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Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: F&SF 1991/08: Three "eh"s for the stories in this issue. Almost all of them were decent, but nothing stood out. The best stories were the last two, "A Long Time Dying" by Geoffrey A. Landis and "The Woman, the Pilot, the Raven" by Dean Whitlock. Proving how subjective this stuff is, there's an editorial at the beginning (not seen all that often in F&SF) where Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about what a tough room she is.

The big unspoken theme this issue is the collapse of the Soviet Union. Specifically, not seeing it coming. The cover date is August 1991, the month of the hardline anti-Gorbechev coup that IMO was the point at which the USSR started seriously falling apart. But the magazine was surely in stores the previous month and had been put to bed months earlier. With that in mind, here's the intro to a Bruce Sterling story:

National news commentators looked tired by the middle of 1990. The Cold War had eased, the Soviet Block had released restrictions on its satellites and the world seemed a little warmer. Sometimes it seemed as if we had stepped into an alternate universe . . . at least until Iraq invaded Kuwait. Bruce Sterling's story, "The Unthinkable," returns to that place where the Cold War appears to have lost a bit of its edge -- in a true alternate universe, filled with its own demons and nightmares.

"The Unthinkable" is kind of a Lovecraft take on the nuclear arms race. No, not quite like "A Colder War." Although it's a pretty accurate prediction of 1992, modulo the magic, the story's introduction apologizes that it's not more topical!

Similarly, August 1991 was not a good time for Norman Spinrad to publish a novel called Russian Spring that projects the space race into the future. From Amazon reviews it seems his biggest predictive blunder was saying "Soviet Union" instead of "Russian Federation", but it's a little sad to read Orson Scott Card saying that Russian Spring is "almost certain to be the book of the year" given that the book looked obsolete before the year was out. Here's the F&SF review from Orson Scott Card's website site if you want to read it. I'll just quote the most poignant part of the review:

Current events will catch up with him, but not as quickly as you might expect: For instance, there's no mention of the Gulf War in Russian Spring, and indeed, the novel might have been written entirely before that war took place -- and yet the Gulf War is exactly the kind of thing that Spinrad's future America could do, and if we let our euphoria at victory lead us to become global bullies, his vision of a morally and economically bankrupt America may be far more accurate than any of us would wish.

There are a couple more minor things I could mention but I'll close by highlighting an ad from the classifieds:

ALIENS PROGRAM IBM PC Games. Nifty demo disk [5.25 or 3.5] $2.00. Tommy's Toys, Box 11261, Denver, CO 80211.

I vaguely remember this from BBS days; this guy had a shareware company and his schtick was that he was so prolific because he was a space alien. In actuality, as he now admits on his website, he was just using QuickBasic to make cheap games. Now he's a novelist, with such titles under his belt as "Baby Boomer Morticians", "Space Reachers 2999", and "Salvation Day: The Immortality Device." Not an Unwinder's Tall Comics character, folks, a real person.

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