Review: Asimov’s SF, V31 #12, December 2007

Asimov’s SF, V31 #12, December 2007

Overall this a better than average issue of Asimov’s SF. The cover arrived undamaged, which is a cause for celebration. I can not recall the last issue I received where the cover was still in pristine condition. This issue concludes the 30th Anniversary celebration, and I personally hope that printed short science fiction stories survive another 3o years.

Stories

  • (novella) All Seated on the Ground– Connie Willis
    Ms. Willis has given us a tale with a Christmas flavor for many years now. Many of these rank among my favorite of her stories for Asimov’s SF. This year’s offering fits into that categorization very well. The image of aliens with the demeanor of a condescending aunt had me chuckling throughout the story. I also liked the puzzle aspect of the story, and was pleased that I did not figure it out until late in the story. {na6}
  • (short story) The Lonesome Planet Travelers’ Advisory– Tim McDaniel
    This story took me off guard. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting based on the title, but I was pleasantly surprised. I have to admit that I have not read any non-weather specific travelers’ advisories, but if I were, I would hope that they would be as informative, and as humorous, as this one is.{ss6}
  • (short story) Strangers on a Bus– Jack Skillingstead
    This story does show the vast difference between what Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine was at the onset, and what it has evolved into. If any story in recent issues of Asimov’s deserves the categorization of speculative fiction instead of science fiction, this one does. It is a good story, and I did enjoy it, but I have to admit that the story could just as well have been sold to a mainstream literary short story publication. It is complete speculation that anything at all really happens in this story other than boy meets girl. Like I said, I did like the story, but I was glad that there was some good old standard spaceship, colony world, interesting aliens, style science fiction to balance it out. Like most of the poetry we are seeing in Asimov’s SF, I just felt that this story really did not belong.{ss4}
  • (short story) The Rules– Nancy Kress
    Despite the title, this story is more about not following any rules, and perhaps that is a subtle point the author was making that I missed. The story did resonate with me as its environmental theme is something that I fear. Ms. Kress comes close at outright political commentary but does not fall into that trap. It is nice to see important issues of today played out in stories in a way that can only be classified as a cautionary tale. I am afraid that there are real people that the main characters could be mirror images of. I like stories that get my mind engaged and thinking of possibilities and solutions. This is that kind of story.{ss6}
  • (short story) do(this)– Stephen Graham Jones
    As a computer programmer by profession, I tend to be overly critical of any gaffs in stories that include or are about computers or computer programming. No gaffs here. And I really, really think that this is the best story title that I have encountered in a long time. Mr. Jones gives us a character that seems shallow and judgmental, but in reality is just the typical human struggling to understand what it all means. I did not see where this story was going, and enjoyed it emensely. It is my favorite story of this issue.{ss7}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 2 of 4)– Allen M. Steele
    The Pride of Cucamonga – I have decided to wait until the serial has run its course before reviewing this novel. This second installment was a little slow, but given that it is a middle part of a novel, I guess that is to be expected. I continue to not be disappointed.

The Arts: (disclaimer: I don’t “get” most art or poetry, but I know what I like)

  • (cover art) All Seated on the Ground– Michael Carrol
    Another cover specific to a story, yeah! I have to give Michael Carrol a lot of credit because the aliens on the cover are glaring out at us. When I saw the cover I wondered what they wanted. Which, given the story the cover is for is a perfect fit. {a7}
  • (poetry) Classics of Fantasy: “A Christmas Carol”– Jack O’Brien
    This one I liked. It is an alternate history poem. What if Scrooge were an author who was frugal with words instead of money? I am confident that E. Scrooge would be a “literati” and not a mere entertainer. {p6}
  • (poetry) Future Toast– Bruce Boston
    I liked this one as well. I had a good feeling after I read this poem. After all, no matter how different we are from one another, we are all intelligent, rational, beings at heart. And hopefully our hearts will prevail. {p5}
  • (poetry) The Void Where Our Hearts Used to Be – Robert Frazier
    I had a little difficultly with the flow of this poem, but I managed. For some reason this poem unsettled me. Perhaps it is a longing for the safe past where things remain as we remember them. If this was Mr. Frazier’s intent, then he really nailed it. {p5}

Departments:

  • (editorial) Revisiting Apollo 8 by Sheila Williams
    Sheila discusses the impact of alternate history stories that use, as characters or topic, people that are still alive. Is it disrespectful? Will it give people the wrong idea about the people? Will readers get history confused? I think all of the previous questions can be answered “yes”; they can also be answered “no”. It really depends on the story. The same is true if the real people depicted in an alternate history story happen to be dead. I think the story about Apollo 8 that prompted this editorial was handled well. I am a big fan of alternate history stories, but I have to admit that close to “now” stories make me wonder if enough time has passed for the weight of history to settle into a general agreement about a particular person or event. As an example, an alternate history in which Al Gore wins Florida in the 2000 USA Presidential election could today still be misconstrued as political propaganda and not just merely a comment on the real results’ impact on our nation. I had a lot of fun pondering this issue.
  • (column) Reflections: Rereading Heinlein by Robert Silverberg
    Mr. Silverberg gives another slice of his introduction to the works of an historically prominent science fiction author. His words about Robert A. Heinlein are somewhat parallel to my own experience. Heinlein had a depth to his work that could draw in the juvenile reader and the hardened adult. As a young teenager I read “The Rolling Stones” followed by a “Stranger in a Strange Land”. The gap between the themes, the tone and story telling of these two books is vast. I liked them both, and have been a Heinlein fan ever since. Silverberg reminds me that there is much of Heinlein’s work that I have yet to read. I will be correcting this in the near future. I hope that this homage to fellow authors is something that Silverberg plans on continuing in his column.
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