Richard A Lovett, "Bambi Steaks," Analog May 2007. Not being American means that sometimes we (ok, I can only speak for myself) miss some of the intricacies of American politics. Of course, now that I have watched the entirety of The West Wing, I'm a little more up with these things, though I would hope that many people would realise that Red is for Republican and Blue is for Democrat. And that division - so foreign to most Aussies, I think - is at the centre of "Bambi Steaks." In order to try and bring about some reconciliation in a US genuinely and geographically riven by political disagreement, some Reds and some Blues are called on to essentially do a personality swap - the idea of walking in another's shoes taken to its literal extreme. I liked this story for its characters - the lead is truly horrid and snobby to start with, but experiences a nice bit of growing up - and because it made me glad (again) to live in Aus, and hope for the rest of the world that sectarian issues would just go away.
Asimov's, April/May 2007:
Karen Joy Fowler, "Always". Watch enough bad current affairs programmes, and eventually you will come across a story about a cult - how bad they are, how stupid they are, how much money they are ripping off in tax write-offs. But you don't often get stories about why people join those cults, how they feel while they're on the inside, nor what happens to them when it all goes pear-shaped. This story is about exactly those things, and it's a very sympathetic take on a subject that is all too easy to make fun of, sometimes.
Lucius Shephard, "Dead Money". Dead money is apparently what expert poker players call people who play with them but have no hope of winning. This is a mildly gruesome, fascinating story that involves zombies, voodoo, poker, romance, double-dealing, and supernatural powers. What more could you ask for?
Mike Resnick, "Distant Replay". A lovely poignant story about love lost and rediscovered.
Nancy Kress, "End Game". Wouldn't it be great to be able to concentrate on one thing exclusively, so that you never got distracted? Allen Dodson thinks so - and he's so smart, he decides to do something about it.
Gene Wolfe, "Green Glass". A short, poignant story about alien abduction and how people respond to it. And why it might happen.
Lisa Goldstein, "Lilyanna". A great take on a ghost story - man starts finding tantilising clues to some mystery as he tidies the library... I thought it was going to be a fairly average ghost encounter, but it turned out different.
Allen M. Steele, "River Horses". Ah, planetary exploration. Such fun. Apparently this follows on from numerous other stories, and it probably would have helped to have read them, but I havent't and still managed to follow it quite happily (much kudos to Steele for managing this without making it feel like I was just getting a whole lot of exposition). XXX and XXX are sent off to explore their planet, Coyote, instead of being sent to jail. They encounter personal and survival issues along the way, as well as a bunch of other people who are trying to set up a new colony. The river horses are nasty critters - but not a huge part of the story, so I'm not sure why they get top billing.
William Barton, "The Rocket into Planetary Space". So much space exploration narrative is about going beyond the Solar System - which is fine, but it's nice to see some directed at near space. Here, we have four people who decided to raise money and build a rocket and go and have a look at an asteroid - partly for the heck of it, partly for possible economic ramifications. And apparently, all of the technological stuff is real, right now. So someone just has to get some money together....
Michael Swanwick, "A Small Room in Kobaldtown". Politicians, racism, murder, double crossings... not really anything out of the ordinary? Only when the racism is really speciesism, humans vs the fey - attempting to live together, but always a bit suspicious of motives. I really liked the conclusion.
Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 2007
Ian R Mcleod, "The Master Miller's Tale". I do so like stories set around the Industrial Revolution, and ways of dealing with it - like the vision of Saruman's industry in Lord of the Rings. This is about Nathan, a miller - and as a novella, it goes into his life in quite a bit of detail. Learning how to be a miller and sing the mill; facing the problems brought about by steam and increasing industry... I found Nathan an attractive character, very sympathetic, and it was great to follow him essentially from cradle to grave. Mcleod creates a very real world in this novella.
KD Wentworth, "Kaleidoscope". Every now and then, I have a dream that seems so real that when I wake up, I seriously have to stop and think about whether it was real or not, and I really had promised that, or been there.... In "Kaleidoscope," Ally experiences something similar, except that rather being dreams she actually remembers divergent events - did the dog live or die? Are her friends married or divorced? It's a fairly straightforward story, but Ally is an interesting character - and, quite frankly, it was just a bit terrifying to think about living in a world like that.
AA Attanasio, "Telefunken Remix". Many alien-encounter stories are based on said aliens having received transmissions from Earth (I don't think anyone has yet investigated what would happen if they picked up I Love Lucy...). But what if the receiver was in the Andromeda Galaxy, and it therefore takes two million years? Additionally, how would you feel if you lived in a wonderful world - but you were a clone, and your original is living in a crappy world? Would you do something about it?
Paolo Bacigalupi, "The Tamarisk Hunter". This story is remarkably prescient for Australia at the moment, in the drought. But I do hope that Those Who Make Decisions don't read it, because they might get some ideas, and all of a sudden rural people will discover they can't touch the Murray because Adelaide owns the rights to all the water. That's exactly what has happened here - Californians get the whole river, and everyone else has to try and get a water bounty somehow. Nasty.
Caitlin R Kiernan, "Zero Summer". How would you feel if you discovered that you were a robot? And that the memories you have aren't actually yours? And anyway, where did those memories come from in the first place? These are the issues that are dealt with in "Zero Summer," along with finding alien artifacts in the Solar System.
Elizabeth Bear, "Limerant". Detective Crown Investigator Abigail Irene Garrett is a really cool character, and apparently she is going to be in a novel sometime soon - very exciting. She's got an interesting background, involving royals and sex; she has liaisons with dubious people; and she's also a damned fine investigator. Her world is one where New York is New Amsterdam, and it's still a colony of Great Britain, with all sorts of attendant issues and tensions. This is a fairly straight forward investigation, but the characters make it fascinating.