Asimovs August 2014

asimovs august 2014

Nick Wolven. Placebo.

The editorial intro tips the reader off to the theme of the story : “(Wolven) favors the Asimovian vision of technology as a moral tool, not an amoral juggernaut, and this particular story is a meditation on that theme.”

And the story feels like something Asimov could have written 50 years – and not in a good way, as it spells everything out for the reader. Maybe if you haven’t brought up children in the last 20 years, and survived Pokemon cards and Yu-gi-Oh cards, and purchased a series of games consoles, or gone through the tamigochi craze, then perhaps some of the themes might be fresh to you. But just recently BoingBoing have highlighted Disney’s latest attempt to prize money from parents for upgrades to their latest games, and if you’re a regular reader of that, or other tech blogs, nothing in the story will come as a surprise.

Jeremiah Tolbert. Wet Fur.

I have pondered over the years when reading the editorial intros to SF stories, at the clearly disproportionate number of SF writers who have a number of cats. Haven’t come to any conclusions though.

Mind you I became a dog owner for the first time a year ago – and Ringo says hello. ringo Which -is- pertinent to this review, as I read the short story with the little bugger asleep next to me in the armchair in his ‘on my back, legs in the air’ repose position, which of course made me probably more attenuated to a story about cats and dogs – or, rather, about those companions who have ‘passed’.

Whilst we’ve had more than enough stories about humans cheating death through uploads, this is the first I can recall where our feline and canine housemates have lived on post-life, as the story briefly looks at the unintended side effect of the process that enables this to happen – clouds of AI nanites (or somesuch) that somewhat give the willies to people when the could arrives. For whom does the bell toll? And for the woman who set this all off, life is rough, rough.

Nancy Kress. Writer’s Block.

Neat story that starts with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, as a writer struggles with his writer’s block. It turns out that he’s got much more to worry about than getting words on paper, and he has to call on his imagination, and a little external help….

Doug C. Souza. Mountain Screamers.

Fairly routine story about a young boy and his grandma coming up against an, ahem, Bad Dude who would have got away with it if it wasn’t for the pesky did. Mountain Screamers being cougars (of the mountain lion variety, not the MILF variety).

If I’d read this blindfold I’d a) have struggled on account of the blindfold b) put this down as an Analog story

Sarah Pinsker. The Low Hum of Her.

An excellent story that packs a lot into four pages. A young girl and her father have to flee their country, with the jackboot of oppression poised above them, and her father replaces her recently departed grandmother with a passable clay, metal and electric version. The young girl does not take to her, but in the short four pages, a journey is undertaken, both for the girl and for the reader.

Jay O’Connell. Of All Possible Worlds.

A really strong story from O’Connell that will appear in some Year’s Best volumes next year, and which I’m putting into the pot for consideration for the Best SF Short Story Award 2014.

A young couple find the old man the apartment below a bit of a nuisance, and when the fire alarms go off due to his leaving a pan on the stove, it looks like social services will need to be called in.

However, the young man gets to know The Old Man, who achieves capitalisation status in the story. There’s much, much more going on downstairs than you might think. (Spoilers ahead!). Clearly the guy is a senior figure in a crazy Alternate History Society, as he’s got reams of high quality facsimiles of newspapers each describing a cataclysmic end of the world due to either asteroid impact, or nuclear war, or similar. What could the alternative be?

Returning to his flat upstairs, the young man comes face to face with the alternative, and we follow him as he works closely with The Old Man, facing some major challenges, to edit out those endings from Earth’s timeline(s). There are prices to be paid – what price a happy ending(s)?

It’s a complex, detailed story with lots of layers and depth, and I’ll be looking out for O’Connell’s next stories.


Pinsker and O’Connell leave the best of the issue to last.

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