Year’s Best SF 11 – David G Hartwell (Ed) & Kathryn Cramer (Ed) (2006)
It could be argued that ‘Nature’ is helping to keep that odd phenomenon, the short short story, alive. The SSS – not to be confused with the Drabble, which is a microstory of one hundred words – presumably due to the space constraints for fiction within the magazine, runs to no more than four pages.
Thus SF has found an evolutionary niche in a non-fiction periodical, much as happened back in the Sixties and Seventies with Playboy, which regularly had its published stories reprinted in ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies.
Several SSS’s feature in this volume and very good they are too. The longer pieces are also excellent, although in many I am seeing very good writing but little innovation.
There are two so far that I find both innovative and exciting, Rudy Rucker’s ‘Guadalupe and Hieronymus Bosch’ and Daryl Gregory’s ‘Second Person, Present Tense’.
David Langford – New Hope for the Dead (Nature 2005)
Hannu Rajaniemi – Deus Ex Homine (Nova Scotia 2005)
Gardner R Dozois – When the Great Days Came (F&SF 2005)
Daryl Gregory – Second Person, Present Tense (Asimov’s 2005)
Justina Robson – Dreadnought (Nature 2005)
Ken Macleod – A Case of Consilience (Nova Scotia 2005)
Tobias S Bucknell – Toy Planes (Nature 2005)
Neal Asher – Mason’s Rats (Asimov’s 2005)
Vonda N McIntyre – A Modest Proposal (Nature 2005)
Rudy Rucker – Guadalupe and Hieronymus Bosch (Interzone 2005)
Peter F Hamilton – The Forever Kitten (Nature 2005)
Matthew Jarpe – City of Reason (Asimov’s 2005)
Bruce Sterling – Ivory Tower (Nature 2005)
Lauren McLaughlin – Sheila (Interzone 2005)
Paul McAuley – Rats of The System (Constellations 2005)
Larissa Lai – I Love Liver: A Romance (Nature 2005)
James Patrick Kelly – The Edge of Nowhere (Asimov’s 2005)
Ted Chiang – What’s Expected of Us (Nature 2005)
Michael Swanwick – Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play (Asimov’s Aug 2005)
Stephen Baxter – Lakes of Light (Constellations 2005)
Oliver Morton – The Albian Message (Nature 2005)
Bud Sparhawk – Bright Red Star (Asimov’s 2005)
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Third Day Lights (Interzone 200 2005)
Greg Bear – Ram Shift Phase 2 (Nature 2005)
Gregory Benford – On the Brane (Gateways 2005)
R Garcia y Robertson – Oxygen Rising (2005)
Adam Roberts – And Future King… (Nature 2005)
Alastair Reynolds – Beyond the Aquila Rift (Constellations 2005)
Joe Haldeman – Angel of Light (Cosmos #6 – Dec 2005)
Liz Williams – Ikiryoh (Asimovs, Dec 2005)
Cory Doctorow – I, Robot (Infinite Matrix – Dec 2005)
David Langford – New Hope for the Dead
A satirical tale in which the digitally preserved dead are recruited to police e-mail during a credit crunch.
Hannu Rajaniemi – Deus Ex Homine
A very well-written story involving man’s fight against a virus which transforms humans into godlike AIs.
Gardner R Dozois – When the Great Days Came
The first of the stories in this volume featuring rats (either literally or symbolically). A rat witnesses the meteor strike which initiates the human extinction event.
Daryl Gregory – Second Person, Present Tense
One of the best stories in this volume, Gregory tells the story of Therese, whose personality was wiped by a new illegal drug. Having had her personality and memories reassembled, Terry has trouble convincing her family and therapists and maybe herself that she is not the Therese who took the drug in the first place. Gripping and thought-provoking.
Justina Robson – Dreadnought
A grim slice of dark space opera where dead soldiers, mounted on the flanks of a damaged military space vehicle are employed to host a damaged AI.
Ken Macleod – A Case of Consilience
An update on James Blish’s seminal novel ‘A Case of Conscience’ in which a priest seeks to communicate with seemingly intelligent networks of fungus.
Tobias S Bucknell – Toy Planes
An interesting little piece which relates the West Indies entry into the space race, from the viewpoint of a young pilot.
Neal Asher – Mason’s Rats
The rats in this story have mutated into a tool-bearing species which are raiding the grain from an automated factory. The question is, who are the true rats when one examines the bigger picture.
Vonda N McIntyre – A Modest Proposal
Like Macleod’s story, this is also a response to an earlier piece, in this case Swift’s (?) ‘A Modest Proposal to Improve on Nature’.
Rudy Rucker – Guadalupe and Hieronymus Bosch
As befits the artist, this is a surreal and colourful piece in which an alien takes a woman back in time to kidnap her hero, Hieronymus Bosch. The alien appears to be planning some kind of art installation of his own, featuring the relationship between the two, but things do not go to plan
Peter F Hamilton – The Forever Kitten
A short and fairly standard piece from Hamilton, which again looks at one of his favourite themes, that of longevity. It has a shock ending, which is unexpected, despite the brevity of the tale.
Matthew Jarpe – City of Reason
Asteroid dwellers, in a universe where disaffected radicals can set up their own communities in the asteroid belt. A one-man ship intercepts another ship hidden inside an asteroid containing a young couple. The girl, however is not what she seems and they are carrying a nuclear weapon, to destroy the City of Reason. A tale of advanced human augmentation.
Bruce Sterling – Ivory Tower
A very brief tale about physicists setting up their own university on the internet
Lauren McLaughlin – Sheila
A beautifully atmospheric and engaging story about AIs, humans and religion. AI worship also features in the following story by Paul McAuley
Paul McAuley – Rats of The System
When transcendent AIs abandon Earth, fundamentalist sects proclaim them as gods and set about destroying anyone who dares to believe differently. A scientist and a pilot are attacked by the Fanatics while studying one such AI, who is dismantling a binary star system. The Rats here are metaphorical.
Larissa Lai – I Love Liver: A Romance
Just as the title says, a researcher falls in love with the liver he has designed.
James Patrick Kelly – The Edge of Nowhere
One of my favourite stories in this volume, this is set in a virtual world atop a plateau, where the residents can order anything they wish to be constructed. One of them, however, is trying to write The Great American Novel, and this original work provokes the interest of three intelligent dogs who suddenly appear, enquiring about the book.
Ted Chiang – What’s Expected of Us
Another excellent short piece from nature examining the concept of free will and determinism.
Michael Swanwick – Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play
A story which takes place in Arcadia, replete with artificially created gods such as Dionysus, satyrs, nymphs, and the author’s regular characters – Darger and Surplus. see also ‘The Dog said Bow-Wow’
Stephen Baxter – Lakes of Light
Part of Stephen Baxter’s ‘Xeelee Sequence’, this features a contact unit who find human colonies living under domes on a Xeelee constructed shell around a sun.
Oliver Morton – The Albian Message
Aliens have apparently left messages encoded in human DNA which points to a location at the Trojan asteroids.
Bud Sparhawk – Bright Red Star
A grim militaristic tale highlighting the realities of war and desensitisation.
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Third Day Lights
‘a strange creature living within a bizarre ‘body’ with a two-dimensional friend, is visited by a human. He is able to respond to the challenges which she sets him, and reveals that humanity is in the process of retrieving all humans who may or may not have ever lived, before using the energy from all universes, no matter how strange.’ from bestsf.net
Greg Bear – Ram Shift Phase 2
Another short short story from Nature
Gregory Benford – On the Brane
Humans visit a parallel Earth in a universe which is dying far faster than ours, where the laws of physics are very different and intelligent life of a very odd sort has evolved on Earth.
R Garcia y Robertson – Oxygen Rising
A human negotiator is involved in a war between humans and various bioengineered human decendants
Adam Roberts – And Future King…
King Arthur is recreated and decides to run for government. Another very short piece from ‘Nature’
Alastair Reynolds – Beyond the Aquila Rift
Reynolds is expert at the incredibly dense universe he creates. Here, we find a ship which has taken the wrong turn somehow through a wormhole and ended up somewhere else, but exactly how far have they travelled, and for how long?
Joe Haldeman – Angel of Light
In the future Ahmad Abd al-kareem, an adherent of Chrislam finds a preserved copy of the Summer 1944 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories belonging to an ancestor. After much soul-searching he takes it to the bazaar and barters it to an alien for an eternal light.
Liz Williams – Ikiryoh
A fascinating story about Japanese society and a woman who is asked to look after a child which has been given the bad spirit of the ruler, an Ikiryoh. While the bad spirit is trapped in the child, the ruler will be kind and beneficent.
Cory Doctorow – I, Robot
One of the best stories in this collection, it follows a man whose brilliant wife defected to the East where technological controls are less severe, and he suspects she is responsible for the recent terrorist software attacks on the West.