Asimov's Science Fiction

June 2006

Cover image

Editor: Sheila Williams
Issue: Volume 30, No. 6
ISSN: 1065-2698
Pages: 144

This was a remarkably good issue. If it had a theme, I'd say it was stories featuring unusual viewpoints, either through unusual protagonists or points of view or through explorations of the corners of the world and different ways of looking at it. In terms of writing quality and originality of concept, It's probably the best issue of Asimov's since June 2005. Maybe there's something about June.

Silverberg also has a quite amusing column on the naming of popes, James Patrick Kelly's essay on podcasting was interesting, and Peter Heck, if still praising everything, touches on some interesting books.

"The Leila Torn Show" by James Patrick Kelly: The chosen viewpoint of and protagonist of this story is simply brilliant; it wouldn't surprise me if it was nominated for several awards just for that. This is the story of a comedy show, told from the perspective of the show itself. The show still has writers and actors, but is a self-conscious entity talking about its own future and direction and in danger of losing all direction after killing off its title character. The plot itself isn't much, featuring a plot with the devil and a typical outcome, but the viewpoint is unique enough to carry the whole story. I particularly liked how it's left unclear just what sort of life the cast members have outside of the show, making the reader conscious of how the perspective of the show may be skewed. (8)

"Life on the Preservation" by Jack Skillingstead: This is the story of a visitor who flies into a bubble of frozen time from a future of a mostly destroyed America. It follows her single day in a memory caught in a loop, with the bittersweetness you'd expect mixed with a bit of culture clash and some romance. Fairly predictable, but still a sweet story. (6)

"The Tiger in the Garden" by Scott Willian Carter: This was the miss of the issue for me. It's not a bad story, but the morality was far too straightforward. An Agent arrives on a backwater world to take a former terrorist into custody, and the local representative has to choose between his career and taking action against injustice. The injustice is so obvious and clear, though, that there's no moral ambiguity in this story at all; even the hideous appearance of the alien fits with his role in the story. It's kind of sad when the morality is less subtle than E.E. "Doc" Smith. Not badly told, but very pointless. (5)

"Eight Episodes" by Robert Reed: Here's another intriguing story of a television series, this time one told from an omniscient viewpoint as one would do in a documentary. The series turns out to be about science and about alien first contact, but told in a deliberately anti-popular way. This story is both short and strange and doesn't quite feature a traditional plot, but I was surprisingly engrossed. Despite the weak ending, I think this is one of Reed's better stories. (7)

"The Ninth Part of Desire" by Matthew Johnson: This is a creepy and rather moving story about a future in which people have started synthesizing emotions. The protagonist is a chemist who works on the synthesis. His wife is a tester who helps companies refine their emotion products — or at least was, until she succumbs to a resulting disorder that makes her unable to feel any emotions at all. This is, in some sense, another Alzheimer's story, but the SFnal premise is sufficiently different to keep me interested and the heartstring-tugging is less blatant than some other entries. (6)

"The Edge of the Map" by Ian Creasey: The world is being covered in robotic cameras, bringing the entire planet under the eye of non-stop surveillance. The protagonist is an old-school foreign correspondant who's job is disappearing now that people can comment on the news from anywhere and no one has to go to events to film them. Her guide has his own reasons for seeking out the last spot on Earth not covered in cameras, a lake in the top of an extinct volcano in Africa. I liked the premise quite a bit and wish Creasey would have done more with it. Still, though, worth reading. (6)

"Chu and the Nants" by Rudy Rucker: I'm sorry, I'm just not a Rucker fan. None of his characters feel real to me. He always seems so busy undermining, subverting, and parodying that he subverts his own story and writes characters who never achieve enough of their own coherence to be a good parody. His style, as before, annoyed me through the whole story. Still, I have to give him points for a rather amusing spin on the old saw of fighting subsuming machine intelligence with a virus. The story seems quite simple but plays with questions of existence, being, and computation on several levels in a way that's quite clever. I just wish it were populated by anyone recognizably human. (6)

"A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange" by Beth Bernobich: This is an affecting story of a college student and his insane sister mixed in with a murder mystery that turns into a truly strange (and at times quite confusing) alternate world story. It's built around the concept of inherent properties of numbers, numbers with scientific characteristics and an ability to change the world. I'm not that happy with the ending and I wish Bernobich had doven into the concept a bit more in places, but the story certainly had me turning pages. (6)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-09-21

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