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Ed. Bruce Gillespie, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller

December 2001

(can be found at

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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Edited by Bruce Gillespie and Jan Stinson

March 2010

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

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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