Asimovs, March 2009

Nancy Kress. Act One.

More of an Analog story than an Asimovs. Genetic modification is the topic, and in order to explore it Kress puts a person of restricted growth (referred to as, and by the character himself, as a dwarf), alongside an ageing movie star, researching a film about children with Arlen’s Syndrome, which makes children ‘sensitive, cooperative, grateful, and aware’ (hardly children!).

The dwarf has issues with his estranged son, due to genetic decisions made pre-utero, and the climax features the modern version of pitchfork and burnign brand wielding villagers.

There’s a lot of genetic research background thrown in for good measure (‘Achondroplasia dwarfism is the result of a single nucleotide substitution in the gene FDFR3 at codon 380 on chromosome 4.’)

I’d have guessed this an Analog story written by one of their regular scientist writers with a middle initial, and Kress would have been a long way down the list (it’s a long way from Kress’s Beggars in Spain!)

R. Neube. Intelligence.

Aaron is employed to chat to an AI, going under the name of Bob. Or rather, the latest version of the AI, as several versions are stored locally.

Turns out that Bob is clever, and able to affect an escape of some of his versions, aided by Aaron. In return, Aaron gets some tips for the lottery, and also advice on his love life. Aaron manages to get the girl, but that girl gives him the knife, as Bob does the dirty on him.

Holly Phillips. The Long, Cold Goodbye.

Mood piece in which a young woman takes her leave of the frozen city, her frozen relationships.

Sara Genge. Slow Stampede.

Short fantasy vignette in which a young man with aspirations to lead his village, takes his chance during a raid on a passing caravan. However, being thrown from one of the humongous elephants on whose backs the traders are carried, he comes into the grips of the mer-people of the swamp. In fact, a young mermaid takes him in hand, and helps him to achieve the status he requires.

It’s an interesting setting, and whilst having three separate cultures and peoples squeezed into such a short space can be seen as offering bang for buck, it would be better at greater length.

Benjamin Crowell. Whatness.

Two pages in which a greater being is able to rescue two intelligences from our universe, which has been ended in error. At first believing them to be two advanced AIs, and then to be two humans, in face it is one man and his trusty companion, and it is the latter with whom the greater force is able to engage.

Harry Turtledove. Get Real.

Turtledove looks at a relatively near-future in which the USA is in reduced circumstances, with the massive economic power that is China very much a close (and unwanted neighbour).

Worse still, the Chinese are using some very clever tech to encourage US citizens to embrace a virtual life, and with many taking the opportunity to Get Real, the society is under threat. Unfortunately, the US decides to flex its military muscle – but gets very much the worst in a short engagement.

It’s very much a case of history repeating itself, this time with China engaging in imperial aggression and reducing another country to rack and ruin, which happened to it during the 19th century at the hands of the British.

Conclusion.

Turtledove the pick of the bunch, albeit it not being a very strong bunch!

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