Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine November/December 2018
We’ve stuffed our November/December 2018 issue with R. Garcia y Robertson’s giant novella about “The Girl with the Curl.” Plucky Amanda James, commander of the Space Viking battle cruiser Valkyrie, continues to fight off space slavers as she attempts to secure freedom for the Jupiter System.Nick Woven also visits the Jovan System to immerse us in the terrifying realm of the “Stormdiver”; new author David Ebenbach voyages to Mars for ”Pregnancy as a Location in Space-Time”; Kristine Kathryn Rusch brings us a riveting novella about teens out on a catastrophic “Joyride”; new to Asimov’s William Ledbetter poignantly reveals “What I Am”; Ray Nayler offers an eerie explanation for the unsettling “Incident at San Juan Bautista”; and on a human habitat orbiting a distant G-class star, Derek Künsken discloses the hard truth about “Water and Diamond.” Much can be learned from Tom Purdom’s study of “Parallel Military Cultural Evolution in Non-Human Society”; in Julie Novakova’s latest tale, we discover the heart-breaking double edge of “The Gift”; and the secret to a risky escape from a dangerous land may be found in Linda Nagata’s “Theories of Flight.”Robert Silverberg’s Reflections asks “Do Robots Dream of Electric Cats?”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net claims “We Are the Cat People”; Allen M. Steele’s Thought Experiment considers “The History of Science Fiction, and Why it Matters”; Peter Heck’s On Books reviews Charles Stross, Carrie Vaughn, and others; plus we’ll have an array of poetry and other features you’re sure to enjoy.

Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine November/December 2018 Details

TitleAsimov’s Science Fiction Magazine November/December 2018
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 1st, 2018
PublisherDell Magazines
Rating
GenreScience Fiction

Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine November/December 2018 Review

  • Gary
    January 1, 1970
    “Joyride”, The new Diving/Fleet novella from Kristine Kathryn Rusch diverges from the main storyline to tell the story of Fleet cadet Nadim Crowe, who goads his rival classmate Tessa into joining him in a bit of extracurricular malfeasance. Crowe and Tessa scheme to “borrow” obsolete shuttles and race them to the Scrapheap, a floating junkyard for old Fleet ships. Crowe has the superior plan to win the race, until Tessa activates her shuttle’s anacapa drive. Regular readers of Rusch’s Diving nov “Joyride”, The new Diving/Fleet novella from Kristine Kathryn Rusch diverges from the main storyline to tell the story of Fleet cadet Nadim Crowe, who goads his rival classmate Tessa into joining him in a bit of extracurricular malfeasance. Crowe and Tessa scheme to “borrow” obsolete shuttles and race them to the Scrapheap, a floating junkyard for old Fleet ships. Crowe has the superior plan to win the race, until Tessa activates her shuttle’s anacapa drive. Regular readers of Rusch’s Diving novels and stories will know right away that things are going to go sideways as soon as the anacapa is mentioned; otherwise, new readers should have no problem picking up the context clues. I am impressed by Rusch’s ability to keep things fresh and exciting for the stories set in this universe nearly 14 years after the “Diving into the Wreck” first appeared in Asimov’s. Like her other excellent Diving story from this year, “Lieutenant Tightass”, the long denouement probably works better in the context of the novel it will soon be incorporated into.The intro for Derek Künsken’s new story “Water and Diamond” claims it takes place in the same universe as his terrific novel The Quantum Magician. While this may have been the author’s intent, nothing in the story correlates to any of the events, characters or settings in the novel so the inference is somewhat disappointing. What we do get has a bit of an Alastair Reynolds/Revelation Space feel to it. Ling Hui is an investigator for the orbiting habitats of the G-class star Sh ngǔ. There is little crime to police in this post-scarcity society. Employment isn’t even a necessary part of life; Hui’s job is little more than a paid hobby. She spends the bulk of her time investigating financial cybercrimes, and her interest is peaked when she comes across a series of suspicious micro-transactions that turn out to be out to be something else altogether. Künsken’s talent for generating offbeat science-fictional concepts is on full display, though the plot is too light on tension to captivate, especially at novelette length. The story’s main conflict involves Hui’s relationship with her husband, whose life and interests are moving in a different direction. The relationship drama ties in nicely with the story’s central dramatic theme.Even not knowing a great deal about the atmosphere on Jupiter (note to self), the premise of Nick Wolven’s “Stormdivers” stretches the bounds of believability. Science fiction is no stranger to outrageous premises (in fact, the genre was built on them) so dubiousness is sometimes a forgivable sin. Writing shallow, irritating characters is not. The story follows the brother-sister team of Ju and Priya as they pilot specially designed space craft into the volatile Jovian atmosphere, even though all their unmanned probes had been destroyed making the same attempt. The reason given for any entity, public or private, bankrolling this reckless endeavor that would most certainly result in the expensive loss of equipment and manpower, is that the siblings are not just scientists but celebrity thrill-seekers whose filmed exploits rake in the dough. This story reminded me of the little-seen film “Europa Report”, in which a collection of unlikeable characters also took unnecessary risks in the name of science. Like that film, the ends are depicted as justifying the means, though only because the ends offer more than any of the characters had bargained for.Linda Nagata revisits the artificial world of her 2003 novel Memory in “Theories of Flight”. The world is ruled by an AI “Goddess”, and its code-built inhabitants – called “players” – live multiple lives, remembering the skills they honed from past lives as they grow to adulthood. Since childhood, Yaphet has been obsessed with creating flying machines, which are outlawed. As a child, he secretly makes one, but the disaster that ensues traumatizes his cousin Mishon. Years later, he builds an aircraft capable of bearing his weight in the air, but the long-estranged Mishon follows him to his secret lair to sniff out his plans. “Theories of Flight” could pass for high fantasy if not for its Hard SF casing. The culture the players inhabit is based on myth and folklore, not science, and the Icarus-inspired plot is a classic “hero’s journey” archetype. Yet the players are aware of theirs and their world’s existence as artificial constructs, and the enigmatic Goddess almost dares her creations to break the rules designed to hold them back. Yaphet and Mishon are wonderfully drawn characters with a complex relationship that pushes the narrative in surprising directions. A captivating story from beginning to end.It’s always a pleasure to see Tom Purdom in the Asimov’s TOC. If his new novelette “Parallel Military Cultural Evolution in a Non-Human Society” sounds like a research paper from the future, that’s because it basically is. Ulman is one of 47 scientists in a research station on the planet Sagittarius One, where a civilization akin to pre-human society on earth is evolving. His specialty is military culture, a.k.a. violence, which weirds out the other scientists enough that it’s difficult for him to get funds and resources diverted his way. The similarities and differences between “sagi” culture and pre-human culture make for an engrossing read, and the low-key, almost documentary-like feel of the goings on in the research station lend it credibility. That’s also part of the problem; the story is long and very dry, and light on conflict and suspense. It’s a satisfying read for fans of grown-up sci-fi, I just wish it had found a way to up the ante.The remaining stories are of adequate quality. R. Garcia y Robertson continues his action-packed Family saga in “Girl with a Curl”, which starts with a helpful recap of the first two stories in case the reader missed them. Ray Nayler’s sci-fi western “Incident at San Juan Bautista” has some eerie, weird-western imagery to accompany its clever time travel plot. William Ledbetter’s “What I Am” is a short, sweet little yarn about a “smart sweater” and its boy. “The Gift” is a messy but tense revenge thriller about a woman who travels a long way to hunt down a terrorist responsible for a long-ago bombing.
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  • Jo (Mixed Book Bag)
    January 1, 1970
    As usual this is a good mix of stories. I purchased it because Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a story set in the diving universe. It a side story that is not set anywhere near the main story line. It is an interesting look at how cadets were trained for life in the Fleet. There is also a story by Linda Nagata another author I follow. I also enjoyed Pregnancy as a Location in Space-Time. This is not something I read cover to cover immediately so I will read others later. I have found that I enjoy hav As usual this is a good mix of stories. I purchased it because Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a story set in the diving universe. It a side story that is not set anywhere near the main story line. It is an interesting look at how cadets were trained for life in the Fleet. There is also a story by Linda Nagata another author I follow. I also enjoyed Pregnancy as a Location in Space-Time. This is not something I read cover to cover immediately so I will read others later. I have found that I enjoy having a issue around. It gives me shorter stories to read when I need a break from full length books.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    My least favorite issue of the year. I did not care for any of the four novelettes. I slogged through them all, but none of them engaged me. I did like both novellas and all the short stories. It's always great to read anything by Linda Nagata and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and the two-page short short by William Ledbetter was excellent. It was also good to revisit the precocious heroines in R. Garcia y Robertson's series.
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  • Darrell
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Lena
    January 1, 1970
    Stormdiver by Nick Wolven ★★★★★ “There’s something down there, Brother...Something hiding under that storm.” Old school adventure SciFi!A brother sister team of space explorers dives deep into the Jovian atmosphere to find out what has been destroying their probes.I haven’t enjoyed a theory like this since Arthur C. Clarke postulated in 2061: Odyssey Three that the heart of Jupiter was a diamond.Joyride by Kristine Katherine Rusch ★★★★★ “Run. Because this was an unmitigated disaster.Run. Becaus Stormdiver by Nick Wolven ★★★★★ “There’s something down there, Brother...Something hiding under that storm.” Old school adventure SciFi!A brother sister team of space explorers dives deep into the Jovian atmosphere to find out what has been destroying their probes.I haven’t enjoyed a theory like this since Arthur C. Clarke postulated in 2061: Odyssey Three that the heart of Jupiter was a diamond.Joyride by Kristine Katherine Rusch ★★★★★ “Run. Because this was an unmitigated disaster.Run. Because his life was over even if he went back to the Brazza Two.Run - and never find out what caused this.Run - and lose the only home he had ever known.” The smartest kids in the galaxy go to boarding school on a space station: Brazza Two. Things start off as a basic teen drama of would-be lovers challenging each other to a feat of intellectual cunning and bravery.So basic I dropped off twice of boredom. It felt like an afterschool episode of light, low consequence sci-fi.Then things went wrong.Then things got good. Page turning drama that leaves childhood in the dust. This felt inspired by The First Duty episode of Star Trek: TNG but much better.The Gift by Julie Novakova ★★★★½ In a world where a small percentage have been given immortality, how will the course of humanity be altered? What is worth dedicating lifetimes to achieve?Will the years see you bloom or be crushed by your sins?Great questions are tightly explored through three different immortal experiences. Enjoyable!Theories of Flight by Linda Nagata ★★★★☆ Strong offering of high fantasy steampunk. The world building of past lives, lost civilization, deadly silver mist, and goddess culture leaves me wanting more!Incident at San Juan Bautista by Ray Nayler ★★★★☆ “This world is the best of the bad worlds. The very best. And that’s why I come here often. Very often.” Weird Western! When done well these are the best. Admittedly, there wasn’t much to this story. But it was an entertaining flash of an alien presence enjoying themselves on Earth.What I Am by William Ledbetter ★★★½☆ Heartwarming shorty about a boy who reconstructs his smart sweater into an octopus to find a cherished keepsake he threw into the ocean.Pregnancy as a Location in Space-Time by David Ebenbach ★★★☆☆ Diary of the first pregnant woman on Mars. Just second trimester introspection. Well formatted.Water and Diamond by Derek Künsken ★★★☆☆ “Were they diamonds to weather history untouched, or water, to take the shape of each era?” On a deep space colony one security officer may have discovered the communications of alien life... while completely losing touch with her husband. This story effectively used Chinese history to explain the widening gap in world view of the MC and her husband.Parallel Military Cultural Evolution In A Non-Human Society by Tom Purdom ★★★☆☆ Future humans study a complex preindustrial society with three sexes. The MC particular field is violence in comparison to be pre-evolved humanity. In the tradition of Brian Aldiss’s Helliconia Trilogy this is what I call Anthropological Science Fiction; interesting stuff but, for me, not a page turner.Girl With a Curl by R. Garcia y Robertson DNFI’ve tried several times but it’s a YA and I’m not into it.I read 9/10 stories that averaged out to 3.88.
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