Paul Di Filippo (pgdf) wrote in theinferior4,
Paul Di Filippo

Science Fiction Eye

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the first issue of SCIENCE FICTION EYE.

Huh? SCIENCE FICTION WHOSIS? What the heck is an SF EYE?

I don't admonish your bafflement, young one. The digital record of the existence of SFE is sparse. History accumulates so swiftly these days, that anything left unattended upon its death is swiftly buried beneath a tide of newness. So please listen to the ancient recollections of a Master, and be enlightened.

SFE was born in the heady cyberpunk years, in the wake of the folding of Bruce Sterling's CHEAP TRUTH, when he bade his disciples to go forth and found a million zines to carry on the good and noble fight for better speculative fiction. SFE was the ideological and graphical brainchild of the multi-talented and passionate Steve Brown (or as the masthead invariably listed him, "Stephen P. Brown"). It was not a unique kind of forum, following in the footsteps of many earlier "sercon" zines such as RIVERSIDE QUARTERLY, QUANTUM/THRUST, SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW, ALIEN CRITIC, et al. But it certainly captured the zeitgeist. Here's what Mark Frauenfelder had to say about it in an issue of WIRED:

"Science fiction fans consist mainly of hobbit-huggers, calculator-wielders, tree nymphs, and trekkies. Each group has its own sci-fi subgenre 'zine to read while waiting for the next WorldCon costume contest, but what about the tiny gang of folks that view science fiction as a supercharged way to think about the present? That gang reads (and writes) SCIENCE FICTION EYE, a fat nonfiction quarterly with great graphics and regular columns by Bruce Sterling, Paul DiFilippo, and Richard Kadrey. It's like going to a party where all your favorite writers are discussing the real-life issues that inspire their fiction - morphogenic field theory, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the history of Bohemianism. These and a dozen other subjects are dished out with passion every issue. The best part of SF EYE is the letters column, where everybody pulls off their gloves and goes at each other on issues ranging from abortion to the possibilities of cloning a cow from a packet of Jell-O. If science fiction means more to you than zapgun-blasting elves astride cyborg unicorns, you'll like EYE."

A very nice encapsulation of SFE's attractions, from one who, as founder of BOING-BOING, was part and parcel of the whole scene at the time.

The final issue of SFE, near as I can ascertain from surveying my own collection, though memory may be betraying me, was Number 15, Fall 1997. A glorious ten-year existence, then, all funded magnanimously out of Steve's own pockets.

I would venture to assert that there is nothing like SFE currently in existence--a venue where the important controversies of the day can be thrashed out, where writers can pursue their entertaining crotchets--and that the field is poorer for such a lack.

But wait! Perhaps there are bits and pieces of 21st-century versions of SFE still cohering.

Such as this very blog!

All four of us wrote for SCIENCE FICTION EYE! This is a reunion! Hoist the brave standard high!

Perhaps the "+1" member here is really Stephen P. Brown!
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