Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Of philosophy and planetaria

I was recently invited to review an issue of Sci Phi Journal, the new periodical that approaches science fiction from a philosophical perspective. I finished the magazine a few nights ago (full disclosure: I received the March 2015 issue as a free ebook, not that getting it for free will affect my comments) and I'm going to share my thoughts.

First: it's always great to see a new genre publication. Sci Phi Journal is professionally assembled, with a mix of familiar authors and others new to me. Like Analog, the genre magazine in which my own short works most often appear, Sci Phi Journal offers both fiction and essays (and in this issue, as it happens, a story and an article by two Analog regulars who aren't me). The artwork throughout is nicely done.

Where Analog tends toward stories of an adventure- or problem-solving nature, Sci Phi Journal leans (as the name suggests) toward philosophical themes. Most stories conclude with something of a discussion guide -- for a tête-à-tête between you and the author -- about the issues raised by that story. Most of the fiction in this issue was science-oriented, but one, "Bunny Rabbit" (E. J. Shumak), was of the fantasy persuasion.

All the stories were -- for my taste -- well worth reading, and I found these especially thought-provoking:
  • "An Iron Shell of Ritual" (Jeff Racho): about war, captivity, and whether robots (and the people who send robots into battle?) have souls.
  • "Icarus Falls" (Alex Shvartsman): about memory, duty, and loss.
  • "Take Up Your Cross" (Anthony Marchetta): about spirituality and causality (with a hat tip toward time-traveling Deloreans). 
  • "The Wallet" (Paul Levinson): a nifty time loop/paradox story. 
Among the nonfiction pieces, I especially enjoyed "Better Man, Better Genes?" An Analysis of Genetic Modification in Gattaca" (Cheryl Frazier). I didn't attempt the serial installment, which was already up to chapter 6 (a brief synopsis for new readers would have been nice), or the book reviews.

Bottom line: I liked what I saw. If you're looking for a new source of SF, especially one with a fresh slant, you might want to check out Sci Phi Journal.

Arlington (VA) Planetarium
That's philosophy. The planetarium aspect of today's subject line came about because, two days ago, I was on a panel, "Putting the Science into Science Fiction" at a fund-raiser by Friends of the Arlington Planetarium. A good discussion, a friendly crowd, and a very worthy cause.

Here's a snapshot (taken and tweeted by audience member and Analog regular Jamie Todd Rubin) of the illustrious panel. From left to right:

Tom Shaad, moderator. Tom is one of the interviewers on the long-running SF-themed community TV series Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction.

(Full disclosure: I've been interviewed on Fast Forward, but not [yet, anyway] by Tom, whom I had just met. If you're curious about my 2012 interview, check out (on YouTube) Keeping the Science in Science Fiction. I suspect we know why I was invited to this panel :-) )

Catherine Asaro (from this angle, the one hiding), author of the wildly popular Skolian Empire series of hard SF space operas.

Alan Smale, whose alternate-history novel Clash of Eagles was just released on March 17.

Your Humble Blogger. Since I'm mentioning everyone else's books, I'll admit that when the opportunity arose, I made mention on the panel of my forthcoming novel. InterstellarNet: Enigma will be book three in my InterstellarNet series.

Tom Doyle, author of, among others, American Craftsman. Black ops, magic, and Poe all in one story ....

(And at the far right, Spock and Kirk. They didn't say much.)


Todd said...

I think http://www.edwardmlerner.com/ has been hacked --- all your links look something like:


now. (at least I hope it isn't my computer doing that!)

Currently, the x.vindicosuite.com url just spins wheels without going anywhere.

Edward M. Lerner said...


Thanks for your note. When one of my sites goes bad -- as sometimes happens -- I want to know.

This morning I checked www.edwardmlerner.com and blog.edwardmlerner.com, in three browswers: Firefox, Chrome, and IE. In all cases, they seem fine. One link on this post *is* of the format you reported, but for me that link resolves to

https://twitter.com/jamietr/status/579708242961547264/photo/1 (and that works just fine).

i don't recall how I got the indirect link to that image, but I'll replace it with the final link.

If you have further information about my site(s) acting up, can you email me with the details? I'd appreciate it. You can write to:


- Ed

Anonymous said...

Mr. Marchetta here. You are my VERY FIRST positive review!

Sound the trumpets!

And thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Mr. Marchetta,

This may have been the first, but I expect this won't be the last favorable review you get.

- Ed

Anonymous said...

May I tempt you to take a look at the serial by sending you the first 5 chapters?

Edward M. Lerner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward M. Lerner said...


The penny just dropped! You're referring to the serial that's currently running in Sci Phi Journal.

Thanks for the offer of the earlier chapters. I appreciate the offer, but I'm going to decline. Things are crazy busy right now (in a good way, but still).

- Ed