Asimovs, July 2015.


Mary Robinette Kowal. Like Native Things.

Fairly routine, albeit past-paced science thriller. Lead scientist on a project that has humans hooking up to ‘ride’ animals by mind control, finds out that the handsome male assistant some years her junior, has ulterior motives for bedding her. Then it’s a battle of wits as she has to find a way to tackle her erstwhile employee, using her native cunning, and that of the animals under her control/guidance.

Nothing out of the ordinary – the assistant is a German called Jurgen (could have been worse, could have been Hermann the German) – but a story more suited to Analog, the home of scientist fiction stories.

David Gerrold. The Great Pan American Airship Mystery, or, Why I Murdered Robert Benchley.

Another story in short order from Gerrold, after his excellent ‘Entanglements‘ in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

As with that story, he’s a bit reflective her, but in the guise of an Alternate History, set on a the flagship helium-powered airship Liberty. The Alternate History elements are a means to an end, which is to get a whole bunch of characters together for the protagonist, a crew member, to engage with.

Some of the characters deployed by Benchley I am more than aware of, but Benchley and the ‘Algonquin Round Table’ meant nothing to me, so I may have missed some of the nuances of the story, which revolves around said protagonist, a tyro writer, observing the rich and famous and being unimpressed at their dilettante and inebriated behaviour, and Gerrold reflects on the nature of the muse.

Will Ludwigsen. Acres of Perhaps.

Ludwigsen’s story about a genre writer follows hot on the heels of the previous story in the issue – David Gerrold’s story featuring an SF writer in an alternate history which followed hot on the heels (in terms of my reading) of Gerrold’s story from F&SF featuring a semi-autobiographical story about an SF writer.

Ludwigsen has his writer looking back on the halcyon days of his time writing for a ‘Twilight Zone’ TV series in the sixties, and there’s some neat stuff about the writing process and the writers he wrote with, including one who may well have lured him into his very own twilight zone/alternate world. Stories within stories within issues within different magazines….

It’s all very confusing, and I’m worried about conflating the stories! Oh how I worry about conflation…

Rudy Rucker. Petroglyph Man.

Not quite as gonzo as Rucker often is. He has a young couple struggling with their relationship taking a holiday, a second honeymoon kind of trip, to rekindle and save their relationship.

Rucker portrays the couple warts and all, and it’s a bit difficult to feel much sympathy for them. The guy is a software developer, and he brings along a new app, a very new, and very clever photo app that uses ‘quantum technology’ to tweak the photographs, based on the brainwaves it picks up from the subject/photographer.

And it turns out that the app has quite a major impact on the course of their holiday in Hawai’i. Julio gets well and truly freaked out when he uses the app where he shouldn’t really, but it turns out that rather than being Really Bad Shit that he has invoked, it’s Happier Ever After. Personally, I’d have preferred the Really Bad Shit option, as the couple didn’t really do enough to justify Happier Ever After. Just saying

Derek Kunsken. Pollen from a Future Harvest

Kunsken has a string of strong stories in which he has been willing to get into some very alien mindsets, and follows suit with this, the longest story in the issue, which closes the printed version.

He manages to blend a lot : ‘time travel’, bereavement, betrayal, a vegetable-based life form, a mystery, a black female lead, and much more. He evens manages to get some poetry in. And politics. And a non-standard non-binary marriage. And auditors. Crikey, he even fits the French in – how audacious is that!

There’s a tiny bit of info-dumping, and you have to pay close attention to some of the science, but these are minor quibbles. Recently bereaved, Major Chenesai Okonkwo has to carry out an audit of the scientific base where her husband died. Or was perhaps murdered. She comes with the ‘junior’ husband from the previously troilistic marriage, and comes up against….

Well, no spoilers from me. Except the story to show up in a Year’s Best anthology or two. Because Kunsken fits in just so much ‘extra’ into the story, when a more bog standard approach would have been a simple ‘scientist solves riddle’ story, I’m going to put it forward for the Best SF Short Story Award 2015.


A strong issue.

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