James Patrick Kelly’s Strangeways Magazine, #3 September 2011

Jim Kelly has been pushing at, and peering beyond, the boundaries of publishing for some time now. He’s a regular columnist on internet issues in Asimov’s, and this is the third issue of his own e-zine, available on Kindle and Nook.

My interest in using technology goes similarly some way back – back in the early to mid-1990s I was scanning in government publications and putting them on a dial-up bulletin board. Anybody under 30 is probably going to struggle to understand that last sentence, and I put that in partly to complement Kelly’s mentioning of 45rpm records in his introduction. My collection of 45s, 12inch singles, and LPs from the punk/new wave late 70s era is nestling about four inches away from my foot under the table at which I’m sitting. If the house is on fire, they’re first out of the house alongside the photograph albums.

Less accessible are my copies of Asimovs, Analog and F&SF from 2000-2010, which are now stored (hopefully) safely in the attic. And I mention that as I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that now is time (even for this librarian) to mostly eschew the deadtree in favour of the electronic. It’s been some time coming, as about 10 years ago I was experimenting with the likes of Peanut Press on some form of Cassiopeia PDA, and experiment with Palm PDAs, a Zodiac PDA, an eBookman reader, and various PC-based formats.

None of those worked – too much effort to plug in and synchronise, and download content from websites etc. I did try the iTouch a couple of years back, but the screen was too small (I hadn’t at that point realised my eyesight was succumbing to age). So what has been the reason for my eventual embracing of the digital? In short, the iPad with the Kindle app, and the easy (oh so easy!) means of finding content (Kelly’s tweet about this issue) and quickly buying it (Amazon’s one-click order button) and delivery mechanism (wifi). So I can sit in a comfy armchair in the front room is the bosom of my family – admittedly with a pair of headphones on with some music on in the background so that I’m not distracted by the TV whilst I’m reading. And the reading experience of a screen the size of an iPad, is far better than thumbing the pages of a digest-sized magazine like Asimovs.

And that brings me, finally!, to the content of this e-zine. There are a couple of stories in it. ‘Edge of Nowhere’ appeared in Asimovs back in 2005. When I reviewed it at the time I called it ‘an intriguing and inventive story’ – you can read the fuller review here. “Barry Westphall Crashes the Singularity” appeared online in ‘The Infinite Matrix’ in 2002, and it’s a neat little story. I won’t say much more, as that would spoil it for you (you are going to buy the e-zine, aren’t you?)

There is also an essay on The Singularity from back in 2001. (It appears to be the case that we’re now a decade past a year that I still clearly remember being impossibly far distant, when watching the film of the same name back in the mid 1970s. How the fuck did that happen??)

So, this small e-zine doesn’t cost much. By my beer-reckoner, I can buy four month’s worth of the magazine for the price of a pint of decent English beer. Should Jim ever be in my part of England I would of course insist on buying him several pints of English beer (this is one of my other areas in which I flatter to think I have more degree of expertise than the average Joe) by waying of saying thanks for many year’s enjoyment supplied by his stories. But until that happens, paying a small monthly sub for the e-zine will have to do.

You can buy this issue for the Kindle here : amazon.com or amazon.co.uk

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