Robert Silverberg. The End of the Line.
Another in the long-running Majipoor tales. This time, however, Silverberg produces a prequel to the events that took place prior to ‘The End of the Line’, a story which appeared all they way back in 1982!
Clearly the story will offer more to someone who is more familiar with the story arc than I am, and it frequently refers to events prior to those in the narrative, so perhaps this story fits in between an even earlier story? For the reader unfamiliar with the story from 1982, as I, the story in hand features Stiamot, a nobleman in the court of the Coronal Lord Strelkimar, visiting a far flung town to prepare for the imminent visit of the lord. Stiamot has come with a secondary agenda, to find out more about the indigineous species, the ‘Shapeshifters’, whom the human settlers had displaced millenia ago when arriving from Earth.
To aid him in his fact-finding, there is Mundiveen, an awkard customer, whose broken body and similarly twisted personality hint at dark deeds in his past. When the Coronal arrives, he is also harbouring hidden issues. We find out exactly what in the dramatic denouement.
As to the story’s value as an addition to a body of work in the Majipoor series, I can’t really comment. As a singleton, it didn’t grab me anywhere near as much as ‘The Way They Wove The Spells in Sippulgar’, from F&SF Oct/Nov 2009, the only other story on Best SF in which the term Majipoor appears.
Melanie Tem. Corn Teeth.
A touching story about inter-species adoption that will strikes chords with any social worker who has been through Interracial Adoption 101. If you’ve aren’t familiar with the issues around interracial adoption (I’ve been in social work 30 years now..) then it will be particularly affecting, as a young human girl looks forward to her adoption by aliens.
Philip Brewer. Watch Bees.
Near-future post-Event Illinois, where farming has become very hi-tech, whilst also becoming hand-to-mouth. A young man stops off at a farm, ostensibly seeking work. However, he is after knowledge, and after – a beehive. For in the continuing attempt to look after properly and livelihood, the humble bee has an important role to play.
The story notches up the tension, exploring the difficulties individuals, families and communities would have to face in a world not that different to ours.
Michael Swanwick. For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again.
Clever story of alien oppression and response to it, cunningly done by setting the story in Ireland, a place with a long history of having to deal with forces of occupation and oppression. An American who is on the emerald isle as the last leg of a world tour prior to taking the opportunity to leave the planet, finds that his is a journey that has been done before, as there is a diaspora of those who have left, never to to return. It looks at the emotional impact of dealing with/living with the alien, whereas most SF of this type will deal with violent revolt and overthrow.
Will Ludwigsen. We Were Wonder Scouts.
A man looks back on this youth, a difficult time, with a father who had not time for imagination, and how his own yearning for finding out about that which is just out of touch to us became a major part of his life through meeting others who joined a group of boys led by a man keen to support the development of their need to wonder about those things.
The well told story ratchets up nicely to a satisfying end.
Zachary Jernigan. Pairs.
A first appearance in Asimovs for Jernigan, and it’s a good one. Not an uplifting story by any means, as it follows the remnants of humanity, our homeworld and race all but annhilated by an alien race. Arihant, or what is left of him, is an ethereal creature, in servitude on a spaceship which travels between the many inhabitated planets out there, selling similarly disembodied fellow human survivors as souls in projection cubes, to entertain those who buy them. The story addresses his response to his situation, his relationship with a fellow human, and his aggressive owner. It’s well-written, and assured.
Lisa Goldstein. Paradise is a Walled Garden.
Alternate history in Elizabeth England, with steam-driven automatons, Arab scholars, and a young girl masquerading as a boy working in a factory.
A good range of stories in a reasonably strong issue.