Grand Master Connie Willis has been writing science fiction since, as she likes the say, sometime in the late Cretaceous. She’s written time travel novels (one of which, Doomsday Book, predicted a pandemic very much like the one we’ve got now, right down to the shortage of toilet paper) and a number of award-winning short stories for Asimov’s. She’s also written a series of Christmas stories for the magazine, including “Miracle” (December 1991), “All Seated on the Ground” (December 2007), and this year’s “Take a Look at the Five and Ten.” Connie loves writing—and telling—Christmas stories, and in fact, it’s her insistence on regaling her family and friends with stories of the Christmas she worked at a variety store as a teenager—and their cries of, “Oh, please, not that boring Woolworth’s story AGAIN!!!”—that led her to tell it to all of you. With maybe a FEW embellishments . . .
Sam Schreiber <thesamschreiber.com> teaches science fiction and fantasy at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and the neighbor cat who sometimes drops in to say hello. Sam’s intense and zany first story for us imagines “Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria.”
Kevin J. Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 165 books and numerous short stories. This is his first appearance in Asimov’s. Kevin has written many novels in the Dune universe with Brian Herbert as well as his own Saga of Seven Suns and Saga of Shadows space opera series. Rick Wilber’s stories appear regularly in Asimov’s. He is the author of more than fifty short stories, several novels, and several college textbooks on writing and the mass media. His novel, Alien Morning (Tor, 2016), was a finalist for the 2017 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and its sequel, Alien Day, will be out in 2021 from Tor. Both Kevin and Rick are professors at Western Colorado University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing; they brainstormed and wrote this exciting tale about travel on a disabled generation ship during last year’s summer residency on campus.
Chen Qiufan (A.K.A. Stanley Chan) is a Chinese speculative fiction author, translator, and curator. His works include “Waste Tide,” a Locus Best New Novel Finalist, and the collections Future Diseases and Algorithms for Life, which won him three Chinese Galaxy awards and fifteen Chinese Nebula Awards. He lives in Shanghai, cooking every day of lockdown life. The author’s first tale for Asimov’s reveals the convoluted secrets of “Forger Mr. Z.”
James Gunn tells us: The Stars sequence of novelettes has an unusual history. The idea for “In Our Stars” (March/April 2020) began, as I related before, with the single sentence “An A.I. had to happen only once.” The sequel, “Against the Stars” (May/June 2020), was in the stars from the beginning. Once the existence of the ancient A.I. was verified, my characters had to figure out what to do about it. I have always been intrigued by the issues that challenged the characters to verify the A.I.’s existence. We can find lots of human reasons for not doing our best and living up to our best natures and potential, but it is provocative to think that there may be an external reason that prevents us from doing so. If that suggests that the possibility of our misguided beliefs handicap our behavior and accomplishments and need the guidance of rational thought and behavior, I’m interested in that idea, too. “Return from the Stars” was written during the early days of the pandemic when my social distancing was more noticeable then it is now, and the Deluge that destroys all human life may be a transference of the way in which my isolation became more central to my life.
Zack Be is a writer, musician, PhD student, and Couple and Family Therapist trapped forever in the gravity well of the Washington, D.C., area. He’s delighted to return to the pages of Asimov’s, where his first prose publication “True Jing” appeared in 2018. In April 2020 he was published as a winner in Writers of the Future, Vol. 36. Perfectly innocuous info about his writing and music can be found at zackbe.com. Zack recommends that if you’re in the process of erasing evidence from a sordid past life, use a heavy hand. When in doubt, be sure to “Pull It From the Root.”
Julie Novakova is a scientist, educator, and award-winning Czech author of science fiction and detective stories. She has published seven novels and over thirty short pieces in Czech. Her work in English has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, and elsewhere, and has been reprinted in venues like The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019. Julie’s works have been translated into eight languages, and she has translated Czech stories into English for Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and F&SF. The author edited an anthology of Czech speculative fiction in translation, Dreams from Beyond, coedited a book of European SF in Filipino translation, Haka, and created an outreach anthology of astrobiological SF, Strangest of All. Her newest book is a story collection titled The Ship Whisperer (Arbiter Press, 2020). Julie is a recipient of the European fandom’s Encouragement Award and multiple Czech national genre awards. She’s active in science outreach, education and nonfiction writing, and co-leads the outreach group of the European Astrobiology Institute. In addition, Julie is a member of the XPRIZE Sci-fi Advisory Council. Readers of her latest tale for us will feel the terrifying chill of “The Long Iapetan Night.”
Alaya Dawn Johnson is the author of seven novels for adults and young adults. Her most recent novel for adults, Trouble the Saints, was released in July 2020 from Tor books. A short story collection, Reconstruction, is forthcoming in November 2020 from Small Beer Press. Her young adult novel The Summer Prince was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, while her novel Love Is the Drug won the Andre Norton/Nebula Award for Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction. Her short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, A Phoenix First Must Burn, Feral Youth, and Zombies vs. Unicorns. She lives in Mexico where she received a master’s degree with honors in Mesoamerican Studies at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for her thesis on pre-Columbian fermented food and its role in the religious-agricultural calendar. Her latest tale for Asimov’s is set in Mexico and takes a hard-hitting look at “The Mirages.”
Marissa Lingen is the author of well over a hundred fantasy and science fiction short stories. She has recently branched out into poems and essays. Marissa lives in the Minneapolis suburbs with her family. Her newest story for us conveys an unknowable alien and “Grief, as Faithful as My Hound.”
Kate Maruyama’s novel Harrowgate was published by 47North and her novella “Family Solstice” by Omnium Gatherum. Kate’s short stories and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family. Kate’s first tale for us takes a moving look at family dynamics in the not too distant future.
Stephen King described Jack McDevitt as “the logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke.” Eleven of Jack’s twenty-four novels have been Nebula finalists. Seeker received the award in 2007. He’s also won the Campbell and Philip Dick Awards. Jack has been a naval officer, an English teacher, and he has conducted leadership seminars for the Customs Service. His latest story for the magazine imagines how recent popular culture may have an unexpected influence on the future.