All the Wonder that Would Be

Book cover - All the Wonder that Would Be

I’ve been interested in science fiction (SF) since I was a boy. It was SF in general, and Isaac Asimov in particular, that got me into science.

The book is a meditation on all the SF I devoured as a child — the works of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke et al, and films such as Forbidden Planet, Blade Runner and The Thing.

The blog posts, however, cover recent SF too.

Review of Asimov’s Nov/Dec 2017

Cover of the Nov/Dec 2017 double issue

The Asimov’s anniversary year ended on a high: this was my favourite issue of 2017.

For a start, the cover story a novella from Connie Willis. Who doesn’t enjoy a Connie Willis story at Christmas? (“I met a traveller in an antique land” wasn’t one of her Christmas stories for Asimov’s, but it was one of those urban fantasies that she does so well. This one had lots of atmosphere, lots of poignant references to lost literary works – the sort of story that would have had a natural home in Unknown magazine.)

In addition to the Willis novella this issue contained a number of thoughtful, well-written stories. “The nanny bubble” by Norman Spinrad was a story all parents should read in our over-protective world. “Confessions of a con girl” by Nick Wolven was the moving tale of how a young girl accumulated enough “unlike” votes to be removed from college. “The discrete charm of the Turing machine” by Greg Egan was a touching description of the relationship between a man and his wife in a world in which automation is taking jobs. “Operators” by Joel Richards was a classic, near-future SF story – the tale of a man who has to investigate the hijacking of self-driving trucks.

I’ve picked out five stories here, but there wasn’t a weak story in the entire issue.

I hope I’m around to read the next 40 years of Asimov’s (gulp).

Review of Asimov’s Sept/Oct 2017

Cover of the Sept/Oct 2017 double issue

As this 40th anniversary year continues, it seems as if the bi-monthly issues are of two types. One type contains mainly longer works, and consequently fewer of them. The other type contains mainly shorter works, and consequently more of them. (The page count is constant.)

In general I prefer SF stories at the longer length, so I should prefer those issues of Asimov’s that contain fewer but longer stories. But so far this year I have a clear preference for the issues that have contained a broad spread of short stories.

Fortunately, the Sept/Oct issue contains no fewer than 10 short stories along with 4 novelettes. And it’s fun. Tim McDaniel’s “Squamous and Eldritch Get a Yard Sale Bargain” is as comic as its title suggests. “Zigeuner” is one of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history stories, and it’s a good one (although I did guess the twist before it was revealed). Allen Steele’s “An Incident in the Literary Life of Nathan Arkwright” is a solid addition to that series, and Michael Swanwick’s “Universe Box” is typically wild.

Another solid issue.

Review of Asimov’s July/August 2017

Cover of the July/August double issue

A couple of interesting short stories in this issue. I like any stories that try to explore some of the weirdness in quantum mechanics, and “Other Worlds and This One” by Cadwell Turnbull looks at the many-worlds interpretation. Hugh Everett III, who developed the interpretation, plays a starring role in the story.

David Gerrold is, of course, a seasoned SF writer. His short story “The Patient Dragon” does not disappoint. (As with seemingly all the stories being published in this 40th anniversary year, a short aside allows the author chance to reminisce about the magazine. Gerrold’s contribution here is particularly touching.)

Review of Asimov’s May/June 2017

Cover of the May/June 2017 double issue

One of the advantages put forward in favour of the bi-monthly double-issue format was that it would permit the publication of much longer stories. Problem is: if those longer stories aren’t to a reader’s taste then (for that particular reader) it’s a large fraction of the magazine wasted.

For the first time, Asimov’s has published an entire novel in a single issue: “The Runabout” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the story. So that’s a fair chunk of the May/June issue that I didn’t enjoy. And James Gunn’s “The Escape of the Adastra: Asha’s story”, although a standalone tale, is nevertheless part of a series. It belongs to the world he created for his novel Transcendental. It felt like retreading old ground.

Compared to the March/April issue, this one felt stale.

Review of Asimov’s March/April 2017

Cover of the March/April 2017 double issue

This is one of the most enjoyable issues of Asimov’s in quite a while. There’s something here for everyone. Bill Johnson and Gregory Frost’s story “Three Can Keep a Secret…” is a novelette in the vein of Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat. Dale Bailey’s short story “Invasion of the Saucer Men” plays with themes from those cheesy-but-fun 1950s SF/horror films. Terry Bisson’s “We Regret the Error” is short, but funny and thought-provoking. Damien Broderick’s “Tao Zero” (what a terrific title! wish I’d thought of it!) is a mind-bending exploration of the possibilities of AI. Ian Creasey’s “After the Atrocity” is a terrific demonstration of how SF can examine issues of current concern through the lens of possibility.

An excellent issue!

Review of Asimov’s Jan/Feb 2017

Cover of the Jan/Feb 2017 double issue

This is the first issue of the new format for Asimov’s: six double-issue bi-monthly publications. I’ve been buying Asimov’s since the very first issue, so I remember when the magazine was published a bi-monthly. But that was when the magazine was ramping up to monthly publication from quarterly publication. I can’t help wondering whether the move to bi-monthly is the first step on the road to closure (of the print version, at least). I hope not.

The Jan/Feb issue itself has “40th Anniversary Year!” plastered over the cover. I can’t believe that it is 40 years since I saw the Good Doctor’s face staring out at me from the magazine rack in WH Smith’s. Neither, it seems, can many of the contributors to this issue: each of the authors gives a few lines of reminiscence, which appear as asides to the stories.

The stand-out story here for me is Stephen Baxter’s short story The Starphone. Perhaps I’m biased — the story addresses the Fermi Paradox, which of course I’m interested in — but Baxter never fails to write clear, idea-based thought-provoking SF (the sort of stuff I enjoy).