Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sci Phi Journal

If you are unfamiliar with Sci Phi Journal, that is only because of your inadequacy.

My perusals of Sci Fi Journal have consistently been a delight (though I'm behind by several issues, because I don't do well with regularly appointed things like magazine issues, or blogging).

The brainchild of one Jason Rennie, Sci Phi Journal is a magazine that aims to showcase stories built around philosophical concepts, so each story comes with a short discussion section, a sort of artist's statement to elaborate on the philosophical ideas therein.  The magazine also features book reviews and essays on philosophy, written on the popular level, that use science fiction stories, usually well-known ones (Star Trek episodes seem to come up a lot) as illustrations or as a jumping-off point.

Reading this rag gives me a giddy feeling, somewhat like what I imagine it might have been like to read the pulps back in Ye Goode Olde Dayes, though this is primarily an e-magazine (though it now has a print version as well).  As in a pulp, the quality varies considerably.  One moment you might be reading dreck from a newbie, and the next moment you might be reading a polished work from a veteran.

One story, thanks to the efforts of the Sad Puppies to make the Hugo Awards not suck, Lou Antonelli's story "On a Spiritual Plain" was nominated for a Hugo, and like most of the other Puppies nominees, earned it.  It's a fine story, reminiscent of Michael F. Flynn's excellent if cumbersomely titled "Mammy Morgan Played the Organ, Her Daddy Beat the Drum."  Both stories build on the premise that ghosts are electromagnetic phenomena.  Antonelli's "On a Spiritual Plain" is set on a planet with a particularly strong magnetic field, one side effect of which is that encounters with ghosts are a common, even mundane, occurrence.  The story's narrator is a chaplain at the planet's lonely human outpost, who maintains an amiable rapport with a native priest.

Also of note are appearances by John C. Wright.  His story "The Ideal Machine" in the magazine's debut issue features an alien machine that operates on Aristotelian hylomorphic dualism and can inform matter according to the wishes of its user, though not without consequences.

Ben Zwycky has a serial novel, called Beyond the Mist, set to conclude soon with the release of the seventh issue, which has an odd premise and a mystery element.  I've only just started it, but in its beginnings, at least, it reads like a science fictional Pilgrim's Progress.  Though containing a few heavy-handed moments, it's polished, and it's intriguing.

Many, but not all, of the stories contain some Christian element, and Rennie is himself an unapologetic Christian.  I felt a certain desire to shake that up, so I recently decided to submit "Deus ex Magical Girl," a novelette set in my Rag & Muffin universe.  We'll see how that goes.  The story is Hindu, more or less, and monistic in its metaphysics, being cribbed from inspired by Shankara's Viveka-Chudamani.

Whether Rag & Muffin itself is monistic I honestly can't say.  The editing of it is coming along nicely but slowly, and after I sign off here, I'm going to go back to watching Jerry Miculek give advice on pistol shooting and use that as a reference while I rewrite the bar fight.  But as I've been going back over the book, I've come to the conclusion that this novel is, if anything, utterly godless.  It appears to take place in a universe where hell is definitely real, but heaven might not be.  The world is grim enough that I have a beta reader who mistook it for a post-apocalyptic story, though it's actually just supposed to be something like the worst parts of Detroit crossed with Mumbai, except with magical girls and dungeonpunk robots.
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