Of all the Year’s Best S.F. collection’s by Gardner Dozois, this one might be my favorite so far. There weren’t any stories that just blew me away, but there were only a couple I hated and I quite liked quite a bit. Best stories:
Bears Discover Fire,
Tower of Babylon, and
Learning to Be Me. And now thoughts on the stories…
Mr. Boy, James Patrick Kelly
- There’s nothing in this story about genetic manipulation/body modification that I haven’t read before. But it’s still really really good.
Mr. Boyis the assumed named of Peter Cage, a 25 year old boy. He’s been genetically modified to stay the age of 13, and acts that age. His mom is a ¾ scale statue of liberty. Being rich, they can do all this. And then he meets Treemonisha Joplin, whose family isn’t rich. She wants in, and Mr. Boy increasingly wants out. It was really easy to get in to the character of Mr. Boy, despite the strangeness.
The Shobies’ Story, Ursula K. Le Guin
- Uh. Okay. I think this is about some sort of new instantaneous space travel that ends up requiring those who do the traveling to believe in it. Or something.
The Caress, Greg Egan
- Performance art gone bad. Evil genius genetically creates human/animal hybrids to mimic paintings he’s seen. And more. Very twisted. Pretty good. I especially liked the ending, where the victim doesn’t feel anger.
A Braver Thing, Charles Sheffield
- Good story about a physicist who wins the Nobel Prize. This is his first-person account of how he made the discovery. Only tangentially science fiction. The meat of the story could take place at any time.
We See Things Differently, Bruce Sterling
- Since this story first saw publication, not a whole lot has changed. In fact the story seems even more relevant, even if the time line in the story places the plot nearly a decade ago. U.S. and Russia in decline. The Arab world ascendant. It’s been unified into a caliphate, and although it’s clearly won the cultural battle there’s still resentment against the U.S. An Arab journalist travels to the U.S. to cover a patriotic rock singer who is galvanizing the populace. I saw the ending coming a mile away, so it is kind of predictable. Well written though.
And The Angels Sing, Kate Wilhelm
- Kind of a first contact story. Small town newspaperman comes on a being stumbling around town. At first he takes it for one of the local girls, but when he gets her inside he realizes she isn’t a she. The story could be his ticket out. Very well written. I liked it.
Past Magic, Ian R. MacLeod
- This story didn’t resonate with me. In a somewhat dystopian future, a rich person tries to hold on to her memories by re-creating her daughter. Told from the viewpoint of the ex-husband father. Not bad, but seemed old hat and I couldn’t get into the characters.
Bears Discover Fire, Terry Bisson
- Just an awesome story. One day, bears do what man did tens of thousands of years ago. The bears discover fire. I love the mixture of the practical and absurd. This is begging to be made into a short film.
The All-Consuming, Lucius Shepard and Robert Frazier
- Lucius Shepard seems to write stories that I either love or that just bore me. This is one of the boring ones. I can see where some folks will like this one, but the style just doesn’t suit my tastes. In this fantasy story, a rich person decides to grok the world by eating it. Our protagonist is a jungle guide type person who provides the rich guy with meals from a magical jungle, and they all begin to notice a change.
Personal Silence, Molly Gloss
- This is one type of science fiction I really like, where the science fiction is integral to the story, but it’s presence is not overwhelming. A protester walks around the world engaging in a
personal silence(i.e., not talking) to try to end an endless world war of some type. On the Olympic peninsula he runs into a young pre-teen who dreams a little precognitively. Really liked this one.
Invaders, John Kessel
- So if you’ve read this blog for the last few months or some of my comments on other folks blogs, you’ve read me saying that I think the meaning of a story isn’t really up to the author. By that I meant that once released, the author gives up exclusive control over the interpretation. If he/she later says something about that book, I feel that readers may at that point decide for themselves whether to accept the additional input or not. Sometimes authors have changes of heart. Sometimes they were just chicken-shit when they wrote their book and didn’t want to say something. After a story has been released, the owner is the reader. The author only owns it until it’s released. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. One way though for an author to have a lasting say is to do what John Kessel did in this story, and that I’ve never seen done elsewhere. He inserted little mini-essay like pieces on his literary intentions about
Invadersinto the text of the story itself. He broke the 4th wall, so to speak. Anyway, I kind of like it. And I really like that the aliens are just here for our cocaine.
The Cairene Purse, Michael Moorcock
- Long and slow story about an engineer who travels to Egypt looking for his sister, who he has reason to believe has run into some trouble. It’s a degraded earth by the time of the story. And locals think the sister is into witchcraft or in league with aliens. I just didn’t care about the character. And the drawn out storytelling really put me off.
The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, A Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk, Dafydd ab Hugh
- Sometimes I think speculative fiction appears on a grand scale too much. Nation against nation, species against species, fighting for the survival of all that is known to man or alien. Dafydd ab Hugh’s story is small scale. After a genetic accident elevates animals, three of them set off on a quest to bring Progrets and Democrazy to one of man’s redoubts. Kind of hard to get in to the story, but it had a spark that I don’t often see in S.F.
Tower of Babylon, Ted Chiang
small scalefantasy story. Ted Chiang imagines the tower of Babel fable from the perspective of a miner digging through the vault of heaven after the tower’s been built to reach that high. I believe this won the Nebula, and for good reason.
The Death Artist, Alexander Jablokov
- I only read seven or eight pages of this and moved on. One of those stories that jumps around and changes settings and doesn’t really tell you what’s going on. I don’t like being in a maze of mirrors.
The First Since Ancient Persia, John Brunner
- Scientists conduct experiments on unsuspecting local population. New person stumbles on it all. Trouble follows. Not original. Not awful, but I felt like I could have missed this one and not really missed anything.
Inertia, Nancy Kress
- Previous story was about biological manipulation. So’s this one, with a much more interesting idea behind it. Some sort of disease strikes humanity, disfiguring the infected with rope-like blemishes. It’s communicable, though it doesn’t seem to have any other apparent effects. Nevertheless, no one wants to catch it so those who have it are banished to internment camps, which become permanent. There’s a little of the Inside/Outside type of theme common to internment camp stories, but there’s also a lot more levels to this than there is in many short stories.
Learning to Be Me, Greg Egan
- Damn fine story. The only story I’ve ever seen that tackles head on one of the implications of uploading oneself into a computer. What happens to the old copy? There’s a bit of David Marusek’s
Wedding Albumin this, as well as one I can’t remember the title of, where transporting one’s self across the universe instantaneously resulted in a very bad side effect of two copies of one’s self. The story fuses it all together in a fairly horrifying way. It’s also pretty clever too.
- Didn’t like this one. A descendant of El Turco, a Native American guide for Coronado who led the Spanish explorer on a wild goose chase for Cibola, leads a Denver newspaper reporter on a wild goose chase for Cibola. Connie Willis led me on a wild goose chase for Cibola.
Walking the Moons, Jonathan Lethem
- Virtual reality is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Rainmaker Cometh, Ian McDonald
- I didn’t get this and I didn’t finish it.
Hot Sky, Robert Silverberg
- Really liked this story about a future after global warming. Small scale story of a boat capturing an iceberg in the Pacific to tow it to San Francisco which like all cities in the story needs fresh water. The plot is fairly conventional. Another boat is in distress, forcing the captain to choose between helping the other boat and bringing fresh water to a city. I liked it because Silverberg put a lot of effort into the details of the story, which all fit together well.
White City, Lewis Shiner
- I usually like Shiner stories (the couple that I’ve read). But this one was pretty emotionless. Although the story is supposedly about an emotionless man, I just don’t think that worked.
Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates, Pat Murphy
- In a nominally post-apocalypse story, one of the last (dying) people alive is a robotics person. She creates a couple of robots to live on after her, with pseudo-sexual organs. It’s less prurient than the description makes it seem. Kind of on the weird side really. I didn’t get in to it, but I thought it was an interesting story nonetheless.
The Hemingway Hoax, Joe Haldeman
- Huh. I must be missing something big here. I really liked this story up until the ending, and then I just got lost. Someday perhaps I’ll re-read it and I’ll get the ending and like it. The story has that sort of feel to it. Like pasta. Better after re-heating.
Cibola, Connie Willis
Title: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eighth Annual Collection
Editor: Gardner Dozois
Cover creator: Michael Whelan (artist)
Series: The Year’s Best Science Fiction; 8
Imprint / publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Length: xxxii, 624 p.
Publication date: 1991