Current Issue Highlights
Our November/December 2023 issue is bursting with fiction. We have two remarkable novellas stuffed into our pages. Dominica Phetteplace’s intense tale about “The Ghosts of Mars” tells the taut story of a lonely teen’s attempt to survive against all odds on the red planet. Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber’s “Death of the Hind” furthers the nail-biting adventures of the characters who first appeared in their Readers’-Award-winning novelette “The Hind.” This time, the action takes place at the end of the journey. Don’t miss either story!
Paul McAuley escorts us to a very different Mars where soldiers confront dangerous raiders to secure the “Blade and Bone”; Ray Nayler tells the intriguing tale of “Berb by Berb”; Christopher Rowe reveals “The Last Four Things”; new author Prashanth Srivatsa makes it possible to “Meet-Your-Hero”; new author Marguerite Sheffer surreally describes “The Disgrace of the Commodore”; Frank Ward discloses what happens “In the Days After”; John Alfred Taylor wistfully reveals why “The Open Road Leads to the Used Car Lot”; Robert R. Chase takes us to sea to explore “Neptune’s Acres”; and James Patrick Kelly presents us with a poignant “Embot’s Lament.”
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections discusses “Homo Superior—Us”; in On the Net, James Patrick Kelly talks with “Chatty”; Kelly Jennings’s On Books considers works by Aliette de Bodard, T. Kingfisher, Mur Lafferty, Lois McMaster Bujold, and others. Plus we’ll have an array of poetry you’re sure to enjoy.
The Ghosts of Mars
by Dominica Phetteplace
My mother was born in a place where your age and the number of trips you took around the Sun were synonymous. That changed for her once she set foot on Mars. She was thirty-two.
On her fifth sol on this planet, there was a drone that went rogue for an extended period of time. Instead of collecting rocks and performing seismographic tests like it was supposed to, it drove aimlessly at a moderate velocity. It went forward, backward, and sideways. It even did a few donuts. The drone was stationed at Gusev Crater. Too far away from the base to do a manual reset and too dangerous to approach, besides. READ MORE
Berb by Berb
by Ray Nayler
I see my first berb of the day before breakfast. I’m standing on the porch, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out over the Mojave to the east. Dawn has come. The desert is a hundred yellows: citron to pineapple, canary to corn, daffodil to flame.
Out at the edge of what someone else might call my “property” are my two favorite Joshua trees. They look like a couple of many-armed grandpas having a hand-waving argument over who can make the best pie. Nearby is a third Joshua, bent over to look at something lying on the ground. READ MORE
Voyager 1 Prepares to Meet a Stranger
by Daniel A. Rabuzzi
“Voyager 1’s next big encounter will take place in 40,000 years, when the probe comes within 1.7 light-years of the star AC +79 3888. (The star is roughly 17.5 light-years from Earth.)” READ MORE
Editorial: Celebrations 2023!
by Sheila Williams
June 1, 2023, was a beautiful day for multiple celebrations in New York City. We joined forces with our sister magazine, Analog, to honor a number of our award recipients and finalists.
In the morning, we held a brunch for those finalists who had already arrived at Sarabeth’s Tribeca. The restaurant is located on Manhattan’s Greenwich Street about a ten-minute stroll from the World Trade Center. We sat in their lovely outdoor shed. New York restaurant sheds came into existence with the pandemic. They’ve improved the quality of outdoor dining and are a pleasant place for a group gathering. Senior managing editor Emily Hockaday; Analog’s editor, Trevor Quachri; and I were joined for brunch by Rick Wilber, who flew in from Florida; Suzanne Palmer, who trained in from Western Massachusetts; Jay Werkheiser, who took a bus from Pennsylvania; and local author Nick Wolven who only had to take the subway from the Bronx. We parted ways after a delicious meal and captivating conversation. READ MORE
Reflections: Homo Superior—Us?
by Robert Silverberg
Regular readers of this column will know that I have for a long time been fascinated by Neanderthal man—“our shaggy cousins,” I called them, in a column published here in 2019. In 2022 I discussed the radical and stimulating book by the British Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death, and Art, which set out to demonstrate that that extinct species of mankind was very much more than the simple brutish grunting creatures they have long been depicted as in fiction and movies. Chapter by chapter, Dr. Sykes demolishes the nineteenth-century stereotype of Neanderthals as uncouth inarticulate beast-men and replaces it with the new vision of them as true humans, though humans of a different sort. She shows us their adaptability to climate change, making do through ice ages and tropical epochs alike throughout the hundreds of thousands of years of their dominance in Europe. READ MORE
On the Net: CHATTY
by James Patrick Kelly
As I type this in early 2023, the hottest topic in the incandescent field of artificial intelligence is ChatGPT https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt, the chatbot launched in November of last year by OpenAI https://openai.com. ChatGPT’s utterances are popping up everywhere in print and online—even here in the pages of ’Mov’s, as alert readers will recall. I interviewed the chatbot in the last issue about its opinions on Asimov’s, science fiction, and the future of AI. I confess this was intended as a stunt. In fact my plan was to offer a few select quotes before moving on to discuss and possibly deflate the hyperbole about this technology. To my surprise, Chatty’s responses so impressed me that I immediately sent Sheila the interview and it ran unedited by human hands. Of course Chatty isn’t as deep a thinker as you and I, dear reader. That’s because it doesn’t think at all. But even though it didn’t understand a word of what it wrote, most of its replies made sense. READ MORE
by Kelly Jennings
Aliette de Bodard, who is of French and Vietnamese descent, often sets science fiction stories in her Xuya universe. Her award-winning novella, The Tea Master and the Detective, for instance, takes place in that universe, as does this novel, The Red Scholar’s Wake. The Xuya Universe is one in which the Chinese come to America, via the West Coast, a century before Columbus lands in the east. (Xuya is the name given to this new world by the Chinese.) A number of changes follow from this early discovery, eventually leading to a space-going future dominated by the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and by Mind-ships. Mind-ships are self-aware AI “minds” that embody ships, forming families with their crew as they navigate deep space. The Red Scholar’s Wake features one of these Mind-ships, the Rice Fish. READ MORE
The SF Conventional Calendar
by Erwin S. Strauss
The World Science Fiction Convention and the North American Science Fiction Convention are over for another year. But the fall convention season coming up is packed with places to go, and things to do and see. Plan now for social weekends with your faorite SF authors, editors, artists, and fellow fans. For an explanation of our con(vention)s, a sample of SF folksongs, clubs, and info on fanzines and clubs, send me an SASE. . . READ MORE