Indrapramit Das. Weep for Day.
Das is a new author to me, and this story is an impressive introduction. He posits a world that has one hemisphere permanently turned to face the sun, one turned away. I’m sure the more scientifically minded would post huge objections as to why this would be impossible for intelligent life to develop, but as a social scientist I’m more interested in the society he portrays.
The society is in effect that of Victorian England, with a steampunky vibe about it. The narrator is a woman looking back on a childhood train journey that she took when she was eight. The journey was with her older brother and parents – her father a captain of industry and very much a Knight of the Realm, in that in this society, as a young men he was part of forays into the inhospitable night-side of the planet, where he slew one of the ‘Nightmares’ that live there, and threaten them.
Or, rather, one of the creatures that live in the night-side and whom they feel threatened by, as the story looks at how the society chooses to destroy that which it does not understand and thus fears. It’s a nicely different conceit, and handled well.
Jason Sanford. Heaven’s Touch.
Attempting a mission to save humanity from destruction from a comet on a collision course with Earth, Dusty finds the mission, his own future, and that of Earth, compromised by his erstwhile fellow astronaut. Really compromised. With his co-pilot having crashed their ship in the comet, preventing them subtly nudging it off onto another route, things are bleak, with only the proxy AI of his religiously motivated ex-colleague to keep him company in his final days. It’s an enjoyable page-turner.
Theodora Goss. Beautiful Boys.
Charming short in which a scientist reflects on her personal experience of a scientific study into an alien invasion of a very subtle, and intimate nature.
Ian Creasey. Joining the High Flyers.
A sequel to ‘The Prize Beyond Gold’ from Asimovs December 2010, which I was singularly unmoved by : “Fairly leaden rumination on issues around sporting achievement in the future” I noted.
This time around Creasey looks at extreme body modification which enables humans to fly.
So, does this story soar higher than the previous story, like an eagle effortlessly gliding on an updraft? Nah. Truth be told it’s more of a turkey, equally cumbersome as the earlier story, in terms of being quite prosaic and spelling out the issues for the reader every step (or wingbeat) of the way.
Ted Reynolds. View through the Window.
Reynolds is welcomed back to Asimovs after a gap of some 31 years. I had to admit a slight frisson of apprehension when I read this in the story introduction, as that often does not augur well. And, indeed, the story reads like one written some 50 years ago. The protagonist had good reason to swear, having had three of her four limbs squished in an accident in space, but her oaths – ‘..the dratted spin..’ and ‘..the blessed window..’ and ‘..the damned arm..’ do jar as being quite outdated.
The story itself has a touch of Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, but whereas that conceit worked with a wheelchair bound man in a house, an astronaut in space would have any number of ways to communicate with others. There’s a twist in the tale, but the last sentence left me nonplussed as the perspective suddenly swings entirely round with a character who has just appeared expresses her feelings about how the protagonist, whom she has just met, will cope with her crisis, which just comes across as a non-sequiter.
Aliette de Bodard. Starsong.
Part of AdB’s ongoing ‘Xuya’ sequence (a chronology of which is on her website here), in which we take a peek into the mind of a ship, as echoes and dreams from the past show us steps made on its journey in a previous life. Nicely structured and handled.
Bruce McAllister. Stamps.
An Arcturian living amongst us finds a passion for philately, as his kind help the human race from destroying itself, and in the simple act of writing letters to seek used postage stamps, a lot about humanity can be learnt.
Gord Sellar. The Bernoulli War.
Far future warfare carried out by post-human entities, in a clever, complex SF short story like Charles Stross used to write.
Here’s the opening sentence : “As the Bernouilliae troop carrier detached from the kilotransport, stuffed full of death to be rained down on the newly established Devaka hivespire, !pHEnteRMinE3H4n%jmAGic lurched forward a few microns – that was all there was room for, in the gunning tube where ve waited”.
Wowza. A non-gender specific uploaded post-human instance, created for a single task, with multiple regression/self-replications/instantiations (think ‘Source Code’). It took me two goes to get into the story. The first time I was put off by the long character name, which played havoc with the line formatting on my iPad! The story has nods to human backhistory and politics, the Bernoulli scientist/mathematician family.
I’m sure a lot of readers will be put off, never to return. Here’s a corker of a sentence, that you will have engage with to get through to the end : “Number of the sort evident in the subscripts was of course overtly hierarchic and thus permitted only for temporary, sandboxed instantiations of oneself until such point as they developed sufficient divergence in identity and motivation to relabel themselves with a new secondary provisional forkmaker”.
Some strong stories in the issue, some good ones, and a couple of weaker ones.