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Edited by Bruce Gillespie

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This edition of SET came out in January 2005. It can be found electronically here.

There are two editorials to this issue of SET. In the first, Bruce Gillespie explains that this is essentially a resurrection of the zine, thanks to the interest of Janine Stinson in doing just that, following the loss of Paul Kincaid and Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gillespie’s co-editors. In his second editorial, Gillespie discusses The Best Australian Science Fiction Writing, edited by Rob Gerrand, and how this reflects Gillespie’s own experience of reading in that period. It certainly sounds like an interesting snapshot of the era.

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Edited by Bruce Gillespie

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

brg is a fanzine compiled by Bruce Gillespie, a longstanding member of the Australian, and specifically Victorian, fan community. It can be found here.

Gillespie is a big fan of Lists, and Best Ofs. This issue of brg reflects that, and I cannot comment on the first half (it’s only 16 pages), because it deals with his favourite popular and classical CDs either bought or heard for the first time in 2011 – and most of them I haven’t heard of, let alone actually heard (I am pretty excited to find out about the Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones collaboration celebrating Ray Charles, though…). The second half looks at Gillespie’s favourite novels and books first read in 2011, and films likewise. The novels and books are separated out because the latter includes a couple of short story collections, and some non-fiction and poetry as well. They’re an eclectic bunch of books: some speculative, some not; some recent (from 2011 – The Islanders, by Christopher Priest, and Mistification, by Kaaron Warren), others not (The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens, 1839).

Edited by Bruce Gillespie 

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

The 40th Anniversary Edition of SF Commentary appeared in three parts. This is a review of parts 2 and 3.

Part 2

This issue’s cover is, as usual for a Gillespie production, a picture from Dick ‘Ditmar’ Jenssen, and the zine proper opens with Jenssen musing on the story implied by it – a tale of binary stars and exploration – and some recommended reading for the astronomically inclined. This is followed by Gillespie’s editorial, which is mostly an introduction to Coline Steele, a reviewer for the Canberra Times; which is apt, because pages 7-64 are taken up by Steele’s words. Some of this is reprints of Steele’s earlier work, although the opening, extended essay appears to be new and focuses on Terry Pratchett.

Steele provides an overview of Pratchett’s life and work, including a reflection on Pratchett’s appearance at the Sydney Opera House. He also reviews several of Pratchett’s recent Discworld outings, including Making Money and I Shall Wear Midnight. The rest of Steele’s contribution, as mentioned, is made up of reviews. There is discussion of reference and non-fiction works possible of interest to speculative fiction readers, such as The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made and The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time. His science fiction reviews are varied, from The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi) to Lavinia (Ursula le Guin; I would argue this ought to have appeared in Fantasy), to Yellow Blue Tibia (Adam Roberts) and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Sean Williams). There are also sections looking at horror, dark fantasy and gothic (from Terry Dowling’s Clowns and Midnight to Kaaron Warren’s Dead Sea Fruit); fantasy (from Diana Wynne Jones’ Enchanted Glass to Margo Lanagan’s Yellowcake, and Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains); ghost stories (The Battle of the Sun, Jeanette Winsterson; Susan Hill’s The Small Hand); and alternative history (David Kowalski’s The Company of the Dead; Stephen Baxter’s Time’s Tapestry novels). It doesn’t claim to be discussing the best of the field, but giving an overview of it, and I think it achieves its goal. It certainly appeals to a wide range of tastes, and gives a sense of how eclectic the field has been over the last decade or so.

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Ed. Bruce Gillespie, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller

December 2001

(can be found at http://efanzines.com/SFC/)

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

It is somewhat amusing to go back through old fanzines (especially to realise that this one is nine years old now!). The wonder is partly that the authors were concerned about that, back then, but also that we’re still concerned about that! And so this issue of SET opens with Paul Kincaid musing about the year 2002, and how it has no SF-related connotations (unlike 1999, 2000, and 2001) – which hadn’t occurred to me then and doesn’t concern me now – and then leaps into a debate between Gregory Benford and Russell Blackford about whether SF is waiting for its Shakespeare.

This debate, which I am sure is one we could still have, is nonetheless one I’ve never considered or been concerned by. Partly this may be because I am an iconoclast when it comes to Shakespeare, having some knowledge of how Shakespeare has been produced as a figure over the past two centuries. But even if I wasn’t, I don’t really see why it matters whether SF has one seminal figure to point at or not (and I’ll just mention briefly my scowl at Benford’s suggestion that our Shakespeare could be a “her?!”). Anyway, Benford goes picking through SF history, suggesting and then rejecting Verne, Wells, le Guin, Wolfe, Simmons, Clarke, Bradbury, and others, before eventually suggesting that SF is more like jazz anyway, and thus not in need of a Bard. For his part, Blackford (could they not have picked authors with more different names?) likes Benford’s jazz analogy, and makes some interesting suggestions about SF television and movies. However, his article for the most part reads like someone having a good old whinge about the state of the genre today. Although he names numerous people whose writing he respects, he still ends by suggesting that the genre has become popular by “giving up its heart”. This strikes me as ludicrous, and as falling into the trap of reading the genre solely through nostalgic eyes. Or perhaps not reading widely enough.

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Reviewed by Guy Salvidge, Syndicated September 2010

Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary is one of the longest running science fiction fanzines in existence. Issue 80, the 40th anniversary issue, is somewhat overdue – so far overdue in fact that it might more accurately be termed the 41 ½ anniversary edition. Gillespie had so much material that he wanted to published in this anniversary edition that it will spread to three volumes, including SF Commentary 81 and 82, both of which are forthcoming. As if that wasn’t enough, Gillespie has still more material that can’t fit into the three volumes, so he’s released a supplementary edition, 80A, as a digital download only. This, and the rest of Gillespie’s fanzines (including the excellent Steam Engine Time) can be freely downloaded at efanzines.com. Basically, this 40th anniversary edition is the culmination of more than forty years of hard work Gillespie has undertaken for the love of science fiction. As these pages show, Gillespie has had a whole lot of love to give.

In his editorial, Gillespie discusses Damien Broderick’s suggestion that the anniversary edition be “filled entirely by contributors who were featured in No 1, January 1969.” Unfortunately, only Broderick and Gillespie of those contributors remain in the land of the living, so a few latecomers have managed to find their way into these pages. SF Commentary 80 features guest editorials by Stephen Campbell and Damien Broderick. Both Campbell and Broderick reminisce about the great authors that piqued their own interest in the field of science fiction. Campbell has a special place in his heart for Cordwainer Smith (and amen to that), while Broderick charts the history of the New Wave from 1960-1980.

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Edited by Bruce Gillespie and Jan Stinson

March 2010

http://efanzines.com/SFC/SteamEngineTime/SET12.pdf

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce, July 2010

Zines are, to some extent, a self-indulgence. They are a way for fans, frequently not professional writers, to indulge in writing about their passions, just as authors themselves get to do. And because they are generally aimed at a community who are already in tune with the focus of the zine, they can afford that self-indulgence, knowing that their readers will appreciate what might otherwise be termed vanity.

All of this is by way of expressing my amusement that the first 16 pages of this issue of SET is an editorial from Bruce Gillespie, entitled “2009 the year – 2000-09 the decade.” It begins with Gillespie discussing the troubles he had writing a paper, and reflecting on Christopher Priest’s The Magic. He then moves into a more personal discussion of his own life in 2009, the issues he had with various fanzine projects, and some medical issues. As I have stated in previous reviews of SET, reading the zine never fails to amaze me because of its very personal nature. Gillespie is clearing writing as if for friends, a community who knows him and wants to know these sorts of details. It really is like a paper-based blog in many ways. From this introduction, Gillespie moves into “Favourites lists”. He cheats a little, to my mind, by listing his favourite books read for the first time in 2009, a list which ranges from Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake, 1950) to Barley Patch (Gerald Murnane, 2009), and which he reminisces over for a few pages. He proceeds then to favourite films seen for the first time in 2009, and then favourite CDs as well. He follows up these annual list with one looking at the preceding decade, inspired by Jonathan Strahan doing a similar thing. He list his best SF novels, fantasy/horror/slipstream, crime/mystery/suspense/spy novels, favourite films, and four lists of favourite CDs. This is, indeed, self-indulgent. However, it’s also a way of flagging great works to an audience who, especially in this case, are already likely to share your tastes. And, frankly, it’s also a lot of fun, so there’s no way I’m going to diss Gillespie for undertaking the task.

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Edited by Bruce Gillespie and Jan Stinson

February 2010

http://efanzines.com/SFC/SteamEngineTime/SET11.pdf

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce, June 2010

I love the idea of Steam Engine Time. I love that Gillespie obviously has a long-standing history with chunks of the science fiction community, and they write articles for him and they write letters to him and, through his zine, to each other. I also love that, while I read a bit of fan stuff online, this is something different. It’s less immediate, so people often put more thought into their articles and letters than they do online; and the actual production of the zine takes more effort, too, demonstrating a love of the community and the genre. All of this makes browsing the zine an instance of remarkable connection to the history of science fiction. Or maybe that’s just me.

There are three editorials to this issue. The first, from Gillespie, looks over the magazine, as well as noting many of the female authors who inspired the theme for the issue – “Today’s women of wonder”. The second editorial, from Stinson, is a very personal discussion of the last few years, including a reflection on the effects of depression for her. She backs this up with another editorial, more a short article really, “Urban fantasy on the rise”. In it, she briefly discusses what urban fantasy is – a definition I wouldn’t attempt with body armour on – and then lists a number of the, primarily female, proponents of the genre, including C.E. Murphy and Justina Robson. Just what I needed; more names on the to-read list.

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