Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December 2018


So I’ve got a subscription to Asimov’s Science Fiction now. I generally consume most of my short fiction in podcast form, but I apparently can’t say no to door-to-door salesmen, so here we are.  But you know what? For once I’m glad I gave in to the salesman’s pitch, because this is really good stuff.

I’ve gotten bored with the whole post-apocalyptic, dystopian thing of late, so I’m happy to report most of the stories in this issue are optimistic. They’re also hard sci-fi for the most part. There was also a lot of diversity in terms of the nationality of the characters. Aliens, when they exist, are usually off screen, which serves to make them more mysterious and awe inspiring.

“Water and Diamond” by Derek Künsken takes place in a post-scarcity world in which most people just play video games all day. The police mainly exist just to make sure the gambling that takes place inside the games follow all the rules. Just because it’s optimistic about the future doesn’t mean the characters have perfect lives, however. There’s still conflict and a mystery to uncover.

“Stormdiver” by Nick Wolven is another optimistic hard sci-fi story about astronauts exploring Jupiter. When they dive beneath the surface into the storm, they discover something mysterious. There were some good lines in this one. For example, one character who seeks fame is described as the “second biggest star in the Solar System”. Another good line: “Death isn’t the only thing that happens once in a lifetime.”

“The Gift” by Julie Novakova is another optimistic story in which humans are given life extension by aliens. They use their long lives to explore the cosmos and make scientific discoveries. The biggest challenge they have to face seems to be dealing with boredom. But where did the aliens go?

“Incident at San Juan Bautista” by Ray Nayler is a western featuring an alien. It was more surreal than the rest of the stories in this issue.

“Joyride” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a kids in space story. I generally don’t care for YA, but I was surprised to find myself invested in the characters and really liking it by the end.

“Pregnancy as a Location in Space-time” by David Ebenbach is about the first pregnancy on Mars. It’s written in columns, comparing pregnancy on earth with pregnancy on mars side by side.

“Theories of Flight” by Linda Nagata is about a young man who wants to fly in a world which has atmospheric conditions that prevent flying too high. This one is more on the fantasy side of the spectrum. It’s a great story, but I felt like it should have been longer.

“Parallel Military Cultural Evolution in a Non-human Society” by Tom Purdom is another optimistic story about a researcher who studies violence in a primitive alien culture after violence has become a thing of the past for humans. I felt like it went on a bit too long. As its title suggests, it gets a bit boring in places, but it’s interesting for the most part.

“What I Am” by William Ledbetter is a delightful flash fiction piece told from the point of view of a sweater. To say anymore would ruin it.

“Girl with a Curl” by R. Garcia y Robertson is part of a series, but does stand on its own. It’s a kids in space story, however unlike most of the stories in this issue, it’s pessimistic about human nature with an entire group of people known as Slavers being irredeemably evil and deserving of death. It’s a long story, but felt rushed in places. There were a lot of characters who lacked depth, but perhaps that’s because I missed something by not reading the earlier stories in this series.

Overall, each story in this issue was delightful at least in part, and in most cases, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories from start to finish. I highly recommend everyone get a subscription to Asimov’s. You won’t regret it.

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