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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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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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