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Last Wave [magazine]

Entry updated 17 January 2013. Tagged: Publication.

US Semiprozine published and edited by Scott Edelman, New York; five issues, October 1983 to Winter 1986, first four issues quarterly, letter-size, slim (32 pages). The final issue switched to Digest format, 96 pages. Edelman was inspired to start The Last Wave from a comment he read in an article by Gardner Dozois who said that there were stories going unpublished because they were too bizarre for genre conventions. Edelman bemoaned the retrenching of the market after the New Wave of the late sixties and seventies with New Worlds, Orbit, QUARK/ and Dangerous Visions, and whilst he welcomed the British Interzone did not feel that was sufficient. The Last Wave looked as though it was modelled on Interzone. The same size, quality coated stock, no illustrations and a simple cover design, to which was added the strap line "The Last Best Hope of Speculative Fiction". The content was more Slipstream and postmodern than formal science fiction, which was what Edelman was trying to achieve. It contained fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Avram Davidson, Thomas M Disch and John Sladek, and a poem by Philip K Dick, "My Life in Stillness: White as Day" (October 1983). Edelman proclaimed the issue was "one of the best single issues of any science fiction magazine published in the last few years"; a bold statement and difficult to prove, though had he restricted it to Small Press magazines he might have come closer.

Edelman remained determined to publish cutting-edge and otherwise stranded material. The key item in the second issue was Thomas M Disch's libretto to "Frankenstein: The Opera" (Winter 1984) alongside stories by Ian Watson and Rachel Pollack. The highlight of the third issue, for collectors, may well be another poem by Philip K Dick, "On a Cat Which Fell Three Stories and Survived" (Summer 1984), accompanied by an essay by K W Jeter on the incident that inspired the poem. Also in that issue is a genuine exchange of letters between Edelman and Barry N Malzberg, "Even Malzberg Gets the Blues" (Summer 1984), plotting Malzberg's attempts to place a story with the magazine. The piece highlights on the one hand Edelman's ingenuity but on another his desperation for material, because there was no other contribution by Malzberg. Also in that third issue was Jessica Amanda Salmonson's "Time-Slit Through a Rice Paper Window" (Summer 1984) which Edelman later claimed was the "finest story" he had published but which had been "rejected by a dozen major markets". He argued that he "shouldn't have to publish Last Wave" but that the world of mainstream sf had become too commercial. The small press had become the last bastion of hope for creative writers. The magazine's remaining two issues contained items by Michael Bishop, David R Bunch, Ian Watson and an unusual piece of early Steampunk, "The Nineteenth Century Spaceship" (Autumn 1984) by Richard Wilson.

Edelman believed that the lessons of the 1960s in rejuvenating science fiction had been forgotten. The Last Wave ceased in the end partly because of funding and partly through lack of support. The magazine was both too late for the New Wave revolution, by which token the title was very apt, but too early for the explosion in Speculative Fiction that would occur in the 1990s. [MA]


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