Magazine: Sci Phi Journal Nov 2015

Sci PhiSci Phi Journal #8

The orderly hands me a paper cup holding a pill — the pill that will make me forget about Talking Chicken. It’s one of those long, capsule-style horse pills. The doctors didn’t take the time to read my medical history; I have a narrow esophagus. I rotate the pill with my tongue, so it goes down sideways, then show the orderly that my mouth is empty. If I don’t drink any water, the pill won’t dissolve for 15 or 20 minutes, giving me plenty of time to hack it up. I’ll take my meds every day, I won’t say a word about talking chickens, and I’ll be out on the street, and then back on the force, in no time.

Short Stories

reBirth by Katharine Gripp. At first, it seemed like this story might have an interesting plot about over-reliance on virtual reality. Then, it got silly as the main character’s consciousness was hijacked and placed into the body of a crippled homeless man.

The Pondering Pacifist by John Kaniecki. There was barely a story to this. It was more of a lecture than entertainment.

Walk by Gunnar De Winter. A creature overcomes its instincts, possibly a first step in the creation of a new species.

They Shall Be As Gods by John Rovito. Thousands of brilliant people use technology to link their brains together, in an attempt to create an intelligence capable of communicating with God. Result = Tower of Babel, the sequel.


Places Where the Roads Don’t Go by Michael Flynn. A ponderous first chapter about development of an AI, and some personal-life details about characters I had no reason to care about.

Beyond the Mist by Ben Zwycky. A man, who doesn’t know why his memories were wiped, begins to regain some of them. This wasn’t as slow-paced as the other serial, but its ending wasn’t enough of a cliff-hanger to make me want the next chapter.

Leave me a comment if you’ve read a good serial lately. Is it a dead art form? There are a lot of “how to write” books that tell authors they have a single paragraph (or even a single sentence, which I think is extreme) to hook their reader, whether that reader’s an editor at a publishing house or a consumer of self-published e-books. If this is true, why am I getting serials that can’t hook me after an entire chapter?

This was apparently the last issue of Sci Phi Journal in magazine format. New stories will be published on their site,, with a mix of free and subscriber-only content.

In other news, the line between fiction and non-fiction may be fading. After writing this post’s lead-in story, I ended up in the ER with an esophagus problem. Maybe I should keep an eye out for talking chickens…


  1. I find serials maddening. I have a difficult time even reading those my blog friends put out. I usually discover one in the third or fourth chapter, don’t know what’s going on, and give up. Either that, or I miss a chapter and refuse to go on. My wife even does that with television. She misses an episode and stops watching the program forever. I think they are designed to get folks to renew subscriptions.

    1. I’ve fortunately landed on episode one of a lot of serials during my magazine quest, but haven’t been motivated to continue any of them. I’ve always assumed their purpose was to keep readers buying the magazine, but to do that, they’ve got to both get the reader interested in the first place, and leave some question the reader wants an answer to at the end of each episode. It would be a tough job for an author, but from some of the serials I’ve read, it seems the authors have the opposite view: that they have a captive audience, and they can drag out their story at whatever pace they want.

      1. That’s an interesting observation, and I think you’re right.

    2. I definitely agree. One of the things that bugs me when trying to buy up old pulps (and one of the reasons why I just started passing on a lot of the old Astounding/Analogs once they’d gone to digest size) is when I’ll find a part 2 or 3 of some some 3 part serial that takes up 1/3 of the magazine and I just KNOW I’ll never find the other parts.

      At least one letter writer to Astounding in a 1930 something issue I have complained about the exact same thing. It was even worse for soldiers, who were a primary audience of SF magazines during the 40s. According to Fritz Leiber, his novel Destiny Times Three ended up being pared down significantly because of soldiers complaining that they could almost never come by all parts of serials, especially if there were 3 or more.

      Personally, I prefer stories written with the potential for being worked into a fix-up than true serials.

      1. I have to start at the beginning and read to the end. I’ll quit altogether if I miss a section.

  2. I assume the magazine editors are hardup for good serials these days. Why publish something as a serial when book format is so readily available? And the fine art of serial writing has probably been lost. There aren’t a lot of good options to learn from.

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