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.