Review: Asimov’s SF, V32 #2, February 2008

Asimov’s Science Fiction, V32 #2, February 2008

Overall a good issue for Asimov’s. I think the quality of stories is improving and while I am not entirely happy with all of the selections, it is nice to see a good diversity of interesting story telling styles.

Stories

  • (short story) From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled…Michael Swanwick
    There are times when I marvel at the imagination of some authors. Mr. Swanwick is one of those. I admit there are times when I weary of some of his work, but, realistically that is true of just about every author I have read. This story I enjoyed. The point of view bothered me at first, but once the story hit its stride it really flowed. The work he has done to attempt to depict communication attempts from an alien mind intrigued me. {ss4}
  • (short story) Sex and ViolenceNancy Kress
    This is a very interesting short. I especially like the humor associated with the study for the [hopelessly untranslatable term] being conducted by the antagonists. A very fun read! {ss6}
  • (novelette) The Ray Gun: A Love StoryJames Alan Gardner
    I was enamored with this story. As a lonely kid growing up on family farm there were many times that I’d pick up a stick and pretend that it was a ray gun. This story explores the situation where the stick really was a ray gun. It is well told and the main character seems so utterly realistic that I ended up feeling a kinship with him. The omniscient point of view was perfect for the tale as well. {nt7}
  • (novelette) The Egg ManMary Rosenblum
    This story is part of Mary Rosenblum’s Drylands series. I am a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, and this series fits. The thing that intrigues me is that in this future world mankind sat idle and let it happen. Apathy wins. Welcome to the Drylands. In this particular story we catch a glimpse of what it really means to be living on the fringe of society, and the risks and dangers inherent therein. This is a powerful story, and is my favorite of the issue. {nt8}
  • (short story) Inside The BoxEdward M. Lerner
    Time travel, Schroedinger’s Cat and a university lecture hall give us plenty of food for thought. Mr. Lerner’s tale gives us a bit of pragmatism and shows us how indeed those faced with unsettling events can choose to deal with them. The final line of this story is fantastic. I wish I could share, but that would be spoiling it for all of you.{ss5}
  • (short story) The Last AmericanJohn Kessel
    This is a subtly dark tale. I found it interesting in the way it was presented. Mr. Kessel uses descriptive media clips of varying kinds to paint the picture of a person that twists the truth. I found this story was too close to reality at certian points to be able to get lost in the tale. If this was Mr. Kessel’s intention, then job well done.{ss4}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 4 of 4)Allen M. Steele
    The Great Beyond – I decided to wait until the serial ran its course before reviewing this novel. Now that it is concluded, I will be reviewing the novel in a new post and will provide backtrack links for it within the reviews for the four issues of Asimov’s SF it was in.

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

  • (cover art) (no title)- Bob Eggleton
    This month’s cover is not directly related to any story. It is a very vivid cover of what I think is perhaps a cosmic event involving a neutron star. I lament that Asimov’s does not let us know the name that the artist calls their artwork. [Note: after a little digging on Mr. Eggleton’s website, I find that the piece is called “Cosmic Hunger” and is his interpretation of a black hole. I was close!] {a4}
  • (poetry) Where Seelie ShopGreg Beatty
    I liked this poem. It has many fantasy elements, but I grant it slipstream status. I like the idea of fairy folk visiting the local big box mart in the twilight hours. {p4}
  • (poetry) The Mirror SpeaksJessy Randall
    I laughed out loud at this one. I think that says everything I would want to say. {p5}
  • (Cartoon) Trends for the 21st Century (so far)Steven Utley
    I am not going to review cartoons. I am pleased to see their return to the pages of Asimov’s SF. I do want to provide a link to the creator when possible. {c 5}

Departments:

  • (editorial) My Rowboat by Sheila Williams
    I caught the SF bug early in life. I credit my mother reading “A Wrinkle in Time” to me as a small child. It is interesting to listen or read about how other people became science fiction or fantasy fans. In this month’s installment we find out how editor Sheila Williams caught the SF bug.
  • (column) Reflections: Toilet Nirvana by Robert Silverberg
    Okay. If you think the title to this month’s column is a little weird, just wait until you read it. Mr. Silverberg discusses his trepidations about attending the World SF Convention in Japan (an event in the past upon the publication of the column, but in the future when it was written). One of his concerns is with the possibility of encountering a toilet more sophisticated than is the norm in the USA. He shouldn’t worry, he did extensive research on high tech toilets, and should be ready in any contingency. I feel prepared just having read what he wrote. Shame that I wasn’t able to afford to go to Japan. I wonder when WorldCon will be within driving distance for me?
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6 Responses

  1. “I wonder when Worldcon will be within driving distance for me?”

    That depends. Where do you live, and how far away are you willing to drive? Also, by “driving distance” do you mean “convenient for me to drive to and then stay at the convention,” or “convenient for me to commute to each day, then drive home and sleep in my own bed.”?

  2. LOL! It was a rhetorical question, but since you ask…
    I live in southern Ohio, USA, and am willing to drive about five hours. This puts Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Louisville within range. Here in Ohio, Columbus or Cincinnati would be fantastic, as would Huntington, WV. For WorldCon, I’d stay at or near the convention, but my own bed would be comfy!
    Denver is tempting… I have relatives in that area of the country.

  3. It may have been rhetorical to you, but it’s the kind of question that causes Worldcon organizers to lose sleep. There are generally three groups of Worldcon attendees: Those who will go wherever the convention is held (sometimes they’re only willing to do so if it’s in the USA); some who will attend anything within one day’s driving distance (this distance is cultural, and is usually longer the further west you are in the USA); finally, those who will only attend if they can commute to the convention.

    As you may know, the site selection process for Worldcon is as open and transparent as the Hugo Awards, in that every member of Worldcon is eligible to vote on where the Worldcon two years later will be held. Unfortunately for you, the members of Worldcon have rejected bids from within the range you’ve stated was acceptable. Denver defeated bids from Chicago and Columbus to host this year’s Worldcon. Louisville bid for 1994, but lost to Winnipeg.

    At this time, there are no groups of fans in your acceptable radius who are putting in the fairly substantial effort it takes to bid for a Worldcon. Sorry about that! The closest active bid to you is Chicago for 2012.

  4. Good information about the con! Thanks.

    I was sad to see Columbus lose. That city has supported 12000+ attendees for the Origins Gaming convention for the past 4+ years. Denvention3 is predicting an attendance of some where between 4500 and 7000 (I think I got that right, please correct me if I am wrong). I think there is a bigger F&SF base in the Ohio than most people realize. I understand the need to award a site based on the “bids”, but frankly I do not see it as being the best thing financially for the WSFS. But if it were only about profit, it would always be in a mega-city. I think the main problem for Columbus losing was that there has not been a WorldCon “close by” for a very long time. I sure was not going to shell out $50 just to vote.
    The Denver area was perhaps more isolated than Columbus, so, I guess it is a good thing for it to be there this year.

    At some point I am just going to have to decide to attend and deal with all the additional costs.

  5. You’re right about the projected attendance for Denvention 3, and I would anticipate attendance will be on the lower end of that range for various reasons. 4000-7000 is the attendance range of most recent North American Worldcons. A Columbus Worldcon would possibly have been a little larger, but not likely Origins sized — people would balk at the membership cost, I think. However, as you note, if the membership was only interested in Big Big Big, we wouldn’t have voted for Yokohama, and instead we’d anchor the con down in one place — probably Anaheim — and have the same organization run it every year, and watch it grow.

    Regarding “best thing financially for the WSFS” — There is no WSFS to be concerned financially. There’s no WSFS, Inc. that organizes the event and takes in the money. Each Worldcon is a completely stand-alone, financially and legally independent organization. Therefore, there’s no WSFS Board of Directors saying “we want the convention here so we can make lots of money for our head office.”

    (By the way, that’s one of the reasons Worldcon is so expensive. Imagine that you’re starting an SF convention with a projected attendance of 5500 +/- 1500 people. You’ve never held an event of this type and scale here before. You’re not going to hold one next year. You have exactly one chance to get it right, and if you fail, nobody is going to back you up, and you’re the one who’ll be holding the $1 million bag. It’s no wonder Worldcons are very conservative on their finances.)

    The members decide where to hold their own convention, picking from among those groups that have said, “We’re interested in hosting it,” and that means that the people who tend to join and vote every year have a disproportionate influence on the results. That’s not a bad thing, in my opinion. It means the people most likely to be affected by the decision personally (because they attend most Worldcons) are the ones making the decision.

    Now, if you’re actually interested in the Hugo Awards, I’d suggest you get into the habit of voting in site selection every year. Not only do you get to influence the site (and you could have voted for Columbus two years ago), but it comes with the rights to nominate and vote on the Hugo Awards. Think of it as your annual membership dues to the World Science Fiction Society. And if you do that every year, you’re only paying one set of dues annually, instead of two, which is how it appears when you first get involved. (One set to join the hosting Worldcon; another to vote on the two-years-hence site.)

  6. Thanks for sharing the membership information. It is a little confusing. I may decide in the future that paying for the privilege of voting for the Hugo Awards is something that I want to do, but not this year.
    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts about WorldCon. Please feel free to jump in on any of the other posts that show up here.

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