Asimov’s Science Fiction: December Issue
It has come to my attention that many of the authors that are published in SF magazines have a tendancy to google themselves in the search for reviews of their work. I’m not criticizing this, it’s no different to a bloggers endless quest for hits and comments. It has, however, given me pause recently to think about whether I am occasionally too harsh on what are usually part-time authors in my reviews. Having thought long and hard about this issue, I decided that a) these authors must have pretty thick skins anyway, considering the mound of rejection letters any given author tends to collect, and that b) I can’t just give good reviews. It’s the bad ones that make the good ones stand out more, and I must be honest otherwise I am doing myself and my (very few) readers a disservice.
So, with apologies to those I am about to mercilessly criticize (which is actually not that many this time as overall this is a really good issue of Asimov’s), we finally get to the reviews…
All About Emily, Connie Willis
After reviewing Blackout last week and giving it a somewhat less than stellar write-up, I am extremely glad that the lead piece in this month’s Asimov’s is this story by Connie Willis. No time travel here, but instead a novella about an android whose existence is a PR exercise intended to help other androids succesfully integrate into human society, who befriends a middle-aged Broadway actress. The knowledge of the history of New York theatre and early Hollywood movies would be impressive if it was based upon research alone, but it is clearly a subject with which Willis is intimately familiar, as the conclusion of the story rests upon an epiphany about a subtext in a film called ‘All About Eve’ first released in 1950. A well written, uplifting piece, with so much enthusiasm shown for its subject matter that one can’t help but be charmed.
Surf, Suzanne Palmer
A starship is en-route to rendezvous with a herd of giant space dwelling creatures with the intention of studying their language which consist’s of flashing various coloured lights at one another. This story is constantly developing, action-filled, and engagingly written with a brilliant finish. Damn near textbook SF, in my opinion.
Strawberry Birdies, Pamela Sargent
A very domestic story, in which an au-pair turns out to be a kind of time traveller. Much of the larger plot is only hinted at in an intriguing way, and this eventually lends a certain vastness to a story that could have become a little claustrophobic through its domesticity, but I felt that some of the characters could have been better developed. For instance what is the source of Cyril’s ‘condition’, if indeed it is such, and the transformation of the mother at the end doesn’t have a great deal of impact as she was never really built up in the first place. A good story with some really good individual moments, but not quite there for me.
Ephemera, Steve Rasnic Tem
A data analyst from a hyper-hygienic future and his son get to know an antique book dealer, who turns out to be a collector himself, as many book dealers are. This story mainly deals with the change from physical objects to digital records, and the ways in which they are used and percieved. An interesting story to read on an e-book reader, and one that betrays a deep understanding of the compulsions behind bibliophilia and collecting. An excellent transposition into narrative of a current cultural conversation.
The List, Tim McDaniel
A very short noir’ish tale with a twist at the end. A bit silly but made me smile
The Countable, Ken Liu
A story about a boy who suffers from a lack of empathy, but finds a solace in mathematics. There is a lot of hard maths in this (the maths is hard for an English major like me, at any rate) which seems to be tied to the events in the framing story through the use of rationality and irrationality and the respective types of numbers. Interesting story, but I think I would have got more out of it I knew anything at all about mathematics. There does seem to be some kind of attempt to hand hold the readers way through this, but it still assumes a basic knowledge that is, I am ashamed to say, beyond me.
‘Run,’ Bakri Says, Ferret Steinmetz
Based on the concept of a save point in computer games, and the idea that you respawn in the same time and place every time you die, this story is like a short lived, uber-violent groundhog day. The variations in iterations and the framing narrative prevent the story from becoming repetitive. Interesting concept for a story, and a little bit political too, surprisingly taking on the point of view of the other in the usually American imperialist inflected computer game. Conjures it’s sources and influences extremely well.