Ken Liu and Mike Resnick. The Plantimal.
A story that perhaps teeters a little over the dividing line between touching and sentimentality.
Living in retirement on a space station orbiting an alien planet, and elderly couple find a xeno-plant that appears to be more animal than plant that evokes some strong, buried memories and issues from sixty years in the past. The plant takes on a more human form, with direct relevance to them, enabling long-bottled-up issues to be uncorked and resolved. For me it’s just a little to neat, and the hidden secret that turns out not to be a secret does seem unlikely to have been unbroached during sixty years of married life, with the wife seemingly having been quite will to accept six decades of grumpiness from her husband rather than broach the unbroachable
Peter Wood. Drink in a Small Town.
A guy goes into a bar in a small town, bemoaning his luck, and has a drink with a barkeep who seems to know quite a bit about the Mars landing, and other matters…
It’s only an itty bitty little story so there isn’t much else to say without giving everything away!
Sean Monaghan. Walking Gear.
A first story in Asimov’s from Monaghan.
A scientist working with some very leading-edge alien medical tech uses his contacts to get his sister’s leg replaced, and to get her off drugs. We are introduced to her as a ‘low-rent hooker’ in the opening sentence. He has issues of his own, and between them, and their estranged father, there’s a lot of history and a lot of distance.
The story focusses on the relationship between the siblings, and how the treatment does/does not help matters. The alien tech is fairly marginal, although the ease at which a replacement leg is grown and grafted onto her stump is ridiculously quick. And humorous, in terms of having all this alien hi-tech but also having a nurse ”..draw lines on Jenni’s stump, marking out where the new leg would be fitted..’ which gave me the mental image of two big arrows in felt-tip pen pointing to the stump with ‘FIX NEW LEG HERE’ in big letters.
Anyhoo, the story addresses their relationship, their shortcomings individually, and there’s a girlfriend thrown into the equation, and (spoiler alert) it all ends quite upbeat, having been leading towards a less positive ending until the last half-page. So props to Monaghan for investigating the human side and not the technology side of things.
Genevieve Williams. The Redemption of Kip Banjeree.
A ‘fast-paced first story’ from Williams in Asimovs, and it is truly so. It doesn’t waste any time setting up the story, and by golly it certainly gets to the end breathlessly quickly, which is by way of a minor criticism as the setting of the story could have done with a longer story to do it justice.
Kip Banjeree is a ‘free runner’ some years hence, even more hi-tech and in an even more socmed-obsessed society. Having been given entry to ‘The Garage’ she is given a small package, an address to deliver it to, and a bonus for doing it on the nonce. (BTW Williams doesn’t use the word ‘nonce’ I just feel in the mood for using the word..)
And with a hop, skip and a jump (or two, or three) Kip is off, a youngster with her name to make, who suddenly finds herself up against someone whose name is indeed legend, and it’s a pell-mell chase. Will Kip deliver the goods? Or not?
Perhaps a follow-up story would be in order, to learn more about Kip and the world in which she lives…
Cat Rambo. All the Pretty Little Mermaids.
A clever, layered story from Rambo. The mermaids of the title are something new to market – aimed at children, they are genetically modified little aquatic creatures that can be bred rapidly, cute things that look very like little mermaid princesses (all female mind you!) not like the Sea Monkey marine shrimps of 50s/60s/70s advertising.
A starter set is given to Petra by her estranged husband, who has developed them, as a gift to their daughter. They are not long broken-up, and she, an artist, is finding her feet, both emotionally and professionally. We follow her through the next few days as she sets up her breeding colony. She is intrigued by them, the roles that each has been bred to fulfill.
And there is her professional life to address, in a slight slump, with a show at a gallery cancelled at short notice. Petra meets with a couple of friends over coffee, but there’s a sting in the tail of female solidarity at the end.
So altogether a very assured and believable story about people, relationships, and gender.
Dominica Phetteplace. Through Portal.
A neat story in I-IIIIIIIIIIII sections, starting off with every parents’ nightmare – a child wandering off and getting lost. Except it’s Omega-Alpha-III, and the young daughter has gone into The Portal, and is very, very lost. In both time, and space, and self.
The parents are grief-stricken, and the child is… well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out what happens to the daughter herself.
James Patrick Kelly. Declaration.
A group of teens are doing home work – rewriting the American Declaration of Independence, as they are in the mood for revolution. Being SF, and being James Patrick Kelly, the teens are doing this in virtual mode, leaving meatspace behind to represent themselves through their digital avatars.
And in the case of the brother and sister team, one is quite, quite different in ‘real’ life. Up against school, their parents, and restrictions on just how much time they can be in virtual space. The brother has a particularly good reason to eschew his physical form for the one his avatar provides, and there are decisions to be made, and trust to be put in place, to move forward
Click here for reviews of Asimovs going back to 2000