Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 2001 (Peanut Press edition).

The Chief Designer. Andy Duncan.

The US space program has been the focus of a number of short stories of late, a number of which have been alternate histories (Stephen Baxter’s ‘Moon Six’ being worth hunting down IMHO – except that you don’t have to hunt it down, it’s online at the excellent InfinityPlus).

Doubtless this retrospective approach is due to a sense of frustration at the lost opportunity and momentum : One Small Step for Man was a hesitant step, which has not been followed up. We are no futher forward, and are far short of Arthur C Clarke’s then-reasonable projection for 2001, taking pride in having a Very Big Telescope, and just how sad is that? Where is our collective sense of wonder?

Andy Duncan looks at the Russian space program, and the driving force behind it: Sergei Korolev. Rescued from the gulag, Korolev and his team at Baikonur struggle to achieve their dreams. Duncan’s story has echoes of Arthur C Clarke’s best work in the sixties/seventies in the way he uses human emotion and commitment alongside the technical and political. Top Notch.

And No Such Things Grow Here. Nancy Kress.

Ecological problems caused by GM food and Global Warming have given rise to a most uncomfortable environment, few cars, and a groundswell against GM and related matters.

So when her sister Perri is arrested on a GM felony and banged up in Riker’s island, Dee has to use her police training to find the Mr Big whom is the real guilty party. Joining an eco-terrorist group gives Dee some insight into the GM dabate, but it is not as clear cut as she thought.

One quibble: the attempt on her life is laughable!

Undone. James Patrick Kelly.

Kelly volunteers that for this story he is standing on the shoulders of the giants Cordwainer Smith and Alfred Bester.

The story starts far, far future, with a seriously post-modern genmod human called Mada, fleeing across multi-dimensional multi-chronological space. The ship’s AI (actually a DI – Dependent Intelligence) is a bit of a wuss, panicking because the chasing Utopians have put an identity mine five minutes downwhen of them. Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and Mada’s evasive action is quite dramatic : jumping to the even further far future (two 10th of a galactic spin).

Mada makes her way to humanity’s homeworld, and finds it a strange, sparsely populated place. The contrast in this second half of the story to the first is sharp. The story slips close (albeit with the rider about Kelly doffing his virtual plume-ed cap to Cordwainer Smith/Alfred Bester) to a faux-Medieval cod-pastoral idyll.

She decides to re-populate the planet (and *that* genmod transformation is a real treat) and re-start humanity on its way to the stars. In the climax Mada makes a major personal choice.

An enjoyable story, well-written and inventive. In previous reviews I have bemoaned the Eleanor Arnason ‘Lydia Duluth’ stories for lack of invention – I would use this story to exemplify what I think good SF is about : more ideas in a couple of pages than a tranche of Lydia Duluth stories.

Monster Story. Kage Baker.

I approached this story with a bit of apprehension, fearing another ‘Company’ story – not that I have anything against them, some of them are quite good, but I feel that the basic premise has been stretched thinner than lycra across a cyclists groin (leaves nothing to the imagination!).

So the good news is that it isn’t a Company story. It is an interesting story, in which young children at age 10 undergo a vocational appraisal, ensuring their future career and life path. Satirising the current educational system, and parental aspirations, and the class system, I would suggest this has more invention than the last few Company stories I have read.

More of the non-Company stories please Kage (and Gardner).

Lobsters. Charles Stross.

Another treat for me! If you don’t read the UK magazines Interzone and Spectrum SF (and if not, why not?) you may not be aware of Charles Stross. I like his work, and so does Gardner Dozois, who is putting two of his recent stories in his forthcoming Annual Collection.

Here we have a high-tech near future story. Not unlike, in some respects, Nancy Kress’s Steamship Soldier on the Information Front, but IMHO much better. It features lots of techie stuff which I like (others won’t), and also features two of my own favourite drinking places in Amsterdam, and kinky sex in which the female takes the lead.

The story shows you can have technology in stories without having to forego characterisation, wit and invention. Did someone mention Analog?

Paper Mates. Leslie What.

The sated reader can finally relax with a gossamer-fine piece of whimsy about office sex.


Has there been a better issue of Asimovs in recent years?

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