Asimov’s Science Fiction – April/May 2012 – review

I have been very lax with my short fiction reading of late, and Asimov’s has suffered accordingly. I finally got back to reading this month, and the April/May 2012 edition was next on my catchup list. The editorial (by Sheila Williams) discussed reader reaction to the digital reading experience and Robert Silverberg’s Reflections talks about the interesting case of a music concert that is not expected to end until 2640. Intrigued? You’ll have to have a read to find out more.

The Last Judgement by James Patrick Kelly is a very interesting novella based on the premise that aliens have removed all men from the planet, leaving only the women. This allows the author to undertake a very interesting exploration of gender, amid a detective noir style setting. I enjoyed the story, it was very readable.

The other novella in this edition was Living in the Eighties by David Ira Cleary which had a different take on time travel. There were the usual paradox hijinks that you’d expect from a time travel story, but the method of travel was somewhat different and it referenced a lot of 80s music etc which I found amusing.

Being a double issue, this edition also contained a novelette Something Real by Rick Wilber. I liked the premise and the characters in this story, set in a series of parallel worlds. The author does a good job creating a character that is very sympathetic and I liked the sense of disorientation around the descriptions of worlds that weren’t quite like ours.

Bonding with Morry by Tom Purdom was a good short piece. I especially liked the protagonist’s reaction to the world around him. The story is a little sentimental in parts (and the author clearly likes engineers, but then who doesn’t?) but hey, I can handle a little sentiment now and then.

Riding Red Ted and Breathing Fire by Carol Emshwiller is a very entertaining story about a man learning about his newly assigned dragon. The voice in this story is excellent, I’d love to try something like it myself. Very amusing but evocative at the same time. Easily my favourite story of the issue.

Also in this issue:

As usual, Asimov’s also contains some poetry including:

  • Book Wyrm by Robert Borski
  • The Music of Particle Physics by Bruce Boston
  • Tachyons by Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Apocalyptic Love Song by Megan Arkenberg

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Asimov’s Science Fiction – March 2012 – review

Asimov’s has been quite enjoyable lately, and the March 2012 issue was no exception. The editorial (by Sheila Williams) contained an interesting discussion on the concept of SF “canon” in the short story category and Robert Silverberg was as engrossing as always in his discussion of the possible facts behind the Atlantis myths.

The Way of the Needle by Derek Künsken was a superb rendition of a completely alien culture with humanity nowhere to be seen. The beings described are made up of metal spike and spines that absorb energy from a nearby pulsar. The society that was sketched through the novelette was original and the development of the main character, Mok, was well handled. There was even alien martial arts – an excellent story all round.

Golva’s Ascent by Tom Purdom was another story told from an alien perspective, albeit this one with human involvement. The exploration of a different evolutionary stream was interesting – intelligence evolving without tool making capacity. There was enough action and adventure to keep the plot moving along and the main character, Golva, was sympathetically sketched. Another good story.

The Pass by Benjamin Crowell explores the somewhat primitive remains of a society where most people upload themselves into “the Cloud”. The idea behind this story was very engaging and it was an interesting exploration of the limitations of a virtual existence when viewed from the outside.

Nanny’s Day by Leah Cypess was another interesting premise – where society has reached the point where “parenthood” was defined as the person with the strongest emotional connection with a child rather than a biological connection. It was a very well written story, but I had trouble drawing a line between our current society and this potential society of the future and my inability to willingly suspend disbelief kept pulling me out of the story.

Also in this issue:

  • Mrs Hatcher’s Evaluation by James Van Pelt
  • Patagonia by Joel Richards

As usual, Asimov’s also contains some poetry including:

  • A Change in Gravity by G. O. Clark
  • Discoveries in the Annals of Poetry by C. W. Johnson
  • Sonet I  by A. Walker Scott

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Asimov’s Science Fiction – February 2012 – review

Murder Born by Robert Reed was the novella length story in this month’s edition. It had an interesting premise – someone invents a device that instantaneously executes a condemned murderer by completely erasing them at the subatomic level. As an unanticipated side effect, when the device is used the victims of the executionee instantaneously come back to life.

At first I didn’t think I was going to like this story (from the introduction I thought it was going to be a bit preachy), but then suddenly I found myself still awake at 1:00 in the morning desperately ignoring the part of my brain telling me I was going to pay at work the next day, just so I could finish it off. I liked the writing style, and the plot really held me through to the end.

The Voodoo Project by Kristine Kathryn Rusch was another story I quite enjoyed in this issue. I thought Ms Rusch did a great job of sketching out the shadowy world of Rebekah, an operative for some kind of clandestine organisation who has the ability to see the future and the past, as well as the present. Sufficient detail was provided to give a good sense of ambience for such a short story. I also thought the character’s voice was strong and consistent.

I also enjoyed The People of Pele by Ken Liu, which described the reality for interstellar colonists isolated from Earth by relativity and the inability to travel faster than the speed of light. Strong writing and a hopeful message.

This month also had stories by:

  • Hive Mind Man by Rudy Rucker & Eileen Gunn
  • Observations on a Clock by D. Thomas Minton
  • Going Home by Bruce McAllister & Barry Malzberg

And poetry by:

  • Submicro-Text Message 3V45129XZ: To My A.I. Valentine by Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska
  • future history by Joe Haldeman
  • The Atom’s Lattice Could Such Beauty Yield by William John Watkins

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Asimov’s Science Fiction – January 2012 – review

The novella in this month’s edition, In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns by Elizabeth Bear is a police procedural at its core, with Police Sub-Inspector Ferron investigating a baffling murder in India. Ms Bear describes an interesting future world where ubiquitous high speed connectiveness has lead to a very distributed workforce, where people in certain types of jobs (like police detectives) don’t gather in a physical location but connect to their workplace entirely virtually. It is a world of environmental damage and power shortages which make physical travel more difficult, but enhanced communications technology and wearable computing makes the virtual world much richer.

I admired the skill with which this (slightly concerning) world was brought to life. The main character, Ferron, was very relatable. The main plot device was serviceable and held the story together well.

I thought the concept of a “socweb score” (where you can see how effective in social situations everyone around you is) was an interesting part of Friendlessness by Eric Del Carlo. Perhaps something like that is the natural end point with the modern obsession with social media. Professional friends for the rich was an interesting consequence for such a trend. The ability to “see” these scores in real time was interesting given the recent news of Google’s upcoming Google Goggles – perhaps people knowing electronically how anti-social I am is closer than I think…

Also in this month’s edition was:

  • Bruce Springsteen by Paul McAuley
  • Recyclable Material by Katherine Marzinsky
  • Maiden Voyage by Jack McDevitt
  • The War is Over and Everyone Wins by Zachary Jernigan
  • The Burst by C. W. Johnson
  • Train Delays on the South Central Line by Fiona Moore
  • Seeing Oneself by Robert Frazier

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Asimov’s Science Fiction – December 2011 – review

The novella All About Emily by Connie Willis is a well written piece about the introduction of artificial life into a near future world. The themes were well trodden (humans fearing the new lifeforms they have created, artificial life yearning for a more human existence) but the quality of the prose was excellent, with an interesting point of view through which the story was told.

I also enjoyed the novelette Surf by Suzanne Palmer, which started off feeling like a “scientific research gone wrong” style of story, but quickly turned into a fun adventure where I was happy to go along for the ride.

“Run,” Bakri Says by Ferrett Steinmetz had an interesting premise, of a woman trying to rescue her brother from prison with the aid of a “save point” – a device that let her consciousness slide back in time whenever her heart stopped to a pre-determined save point. Obviously very influenced by modern gaming, but I thought the idea of what that kind of bloody repetition would do to a person’s sanity was very interesting.

Also in this month’s edition was:

  • Strawberry Birdies by Pamela Sargent
  • Ephemera by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • The List by Tim McDaniel
  • The Countable by Ken Liu (warning: lots of maths, but I enjoyed the point of view character)
  • Variety of editorials and reviews

Asimov’s Science Fiction – October/November 2011 – review

Stealth by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – an interesting novella exploring the rediscovery of dangerous stealth technology in the future. It is set in a universe created by Rusch in earlier works (which I’ve not read). Rusch is an award winning author, and it shows in the quality of the writing. I enjoyed the story, which jumped around in different time periods to show some of the backstory.

The Man Who Bridged the Mist by Kij Johnson – the second novella in this edition, more of a fantasy story but without heavy fantastical themes. I found myself really drawn in by the writing – this isn’t an action story by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it quite compelling.

Free Dog by Jack Skillingstead is an interesting short story that postulates an extension of the internet to include the ability to create 3D copies of things.

For a light hearted piece, I wouldn’t go past To Live and Die in Gibbontown by Derek Kunsken. Set in some alternative timeline where sentient apes/chimpanzees rule the world, it tells of an attempt by a macaque businessman who provides surprise euthanasia services to the elderly. Amusingly written – I liked the premise and the voice of Reggie the protagonist. Probably my favourite story in the magazine.

Other stories included in this edition were:

  • The Outside Event by Kit Read
  • My Husband Steinn by Eleanor Arnason
  • The Cult of Whale Worship by Dominica Phetteplace
  • This Petty Pace by Jason K. Chapman
  • The Pastry Chef, the Nanotechnologist, the Aerobics Instructor and the Plumber by Eugene Mirabelli
  • A Hundred Hundred Daisies by Nancy Kress

There are also several poems:

  • Being One With Your Broom by Ruth Berman
  • Extended Family by Bruce Boston
  • The Music of Werewolves by Bruce Boston
  • Galileo’s Ink Spots Fade Into Twilight by Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Vampire Politics by Ruth Berman

As always there was also various articles, including the editorial by Sheila Williams, the Reflections article by Robert Silverberg and a discussion of Steampunk by James Patrick Kelly.

Norman Spinrad reviews Anathem by Neal Stephenson, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtenygart – with a theme running through the reviews of “when are books that are not SF actually SF”. He sounds quite cranky about it.

Asimov’s Science Fiction September 2011 – review

The Observation Post by Allen M. Steele – Cuban Missile Crisis with a twist. Interesting description of the military grade blimps used by the US air force post WWII.

Shadow Angel by Erick Melton – one of those stories where you are thrust into the confusing middle. Careful reading to work out what is going on. Some interesting ideas on space travel and manipulation of the future.

Burning Bibles by Alan Wall – interesting protagonist Tom – deaf and dumb but with an interesting version of telepathy. Only the powers of Tom are speculative, the rest is a a fairly straight forward mystery.

Grandma Said by R. Neube – describes the world of an apprentice plague cleaner on a frontier world in the future. I enjoyed reading this one, I tend to like reading about the kind of challenges humanity might face while colonising other worlds. Nicely self contained short story.

I liked the concept behind Stalker by Robert Reed and thought it was told from an interesting perspective. If only Dexter had lived in this future…

Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column contains a very interesting article discussing the practice of retired Emperors in Japan in the time period 1000 – 1200 AD. The ceremonial burden of being Emperor had got so over the top, that Emperors retired but maintained political power, leaving the ceremonial duties to their young successor (often under 5 years old at the time of transfer!). Very interesting comparisons with his own stories based in the world of Majipoor – although he didn’t know anything about the Japanese practice when he first started writing the stories.

Also included:

  • D.O.C.S. by Neal Barrett Jr (short)
  • Danilo by Carol Emshwiller (short)
  • The Odor of Sanctity by Ian Creasey (short)
  • Harold Gets Off on the Doppler Effect by James Kamlet (poem)
  • I Have a Remote in Each Hand by Jessy Randall (poem)
  • Elven Alvin by P M F Johnson (poem)
  • Stone Roach by Fiona Moore (poem)
  • The Music of Robots by Bruce Boston (poem)
  • Science Fiction Haiku by Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska-Merkel (poem)