Greg Egan’s March/April 2021 novella, “Light Up the Clouds,” is a far-future novella about a civilization living in the floating forests of a gas giant closely orbiting a dwarf star. Eons ago, catastrophic changes in their environment caused some of the population to flee the planet. As disruption threatens once again, the survivors must contact their long-lost “cousins” to determine why . . .
After a brutal attack, the confused victim of a “Glitch” must face a team of terrorists in Alex Irvine’s thrilling new novella; Felicity Shoulders returns to our pages with a powerful and disturbing novelette about “Somebody’s Child”; Rudy Rucker tells us the rollicking story of “Mary Mary”; Michael Swanwick cautions a young scientist in “Dream Atlas”; a mining robot singing “Sentient Being Blues” becomes a sensation in Christopher Mark Rose’s first tale for Asimov’s; new author Anya Ow poignantly whips up “The Same Old Story”; new author A.T. Greenblatt reveals the temporally complicated and ultimately heartbreaking correspondence “RE: Bubble 476”; the master of quiet terror, Kali Wallace, does it again in “Mrs. Piper Between the Sea and Sky”; Derek Künsken makes a sharp point in “Flowers Like Needles”; and James Patrick Kelly brings us an unsettling future, a plucky heroine, and “Grandma +5°C.”
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column laments “Betelgeuse, We Hardly Knew Ye”; “The Games Afoot!” in James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net; in On Books, Peter Heck reviews work by Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Carrie Vaughn, Cat Rambo, and others; plus we have an array of poetry and other features!
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by Alex Irvine
Kyle heard the hiss and rattle of a small air compressor, punctuated by periodic beeps from somewhere near his head. He wondered why he couldn’t see them; then he realized his eyes were closed. So he opened them. Shari was right there, face tight with worry. He saw bandages on her hands and a stippling of cuts on one side of her face.
Behind her, blank walls. White sheets covered Kyle up to mid-chest. Hospital? Why was he in the hospital? What had happened to Shari?
A voice from behind his head said, “Awareness seems pretty good. He’s coming out of it. Give him a minute to orient himself.”
“What happened?” Kyle croaked.
He turned his head and confirmed his initial impression that he was in some kind of hospital room. A nurse technician wearing a big name tag—JORDAN :)—swiped at a tablet and studied a monitor on an instrument cart near his bed. “Don’t go too fast,” he said. “There are always little inconsistencies at first. It can be confusing.”
“Kyle,” Shari said. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yeah, babe,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
She looked over at Jordan. “I don’t remember the next question,” she said, like there was an agenda she was supposed to follow. Jordan came around the side of the bed and spoke quietly into her ear. Kyle noticed a company name on the badge, but he couldn’t make any sense of it. ResuRx. He felt like he should be able to understand it, but the meaning kept slipping away from him, and anyway Shari was asking him more questions as Jordan went back to his instruments. READ MORE
Tirell stood on the platform at the edge of the forest, looking out at the banks of red clouds. As he waited for Anna’s glider to come swooping down, his eyes were drawn to the swirling patterns below, where stronger winds set the thicker clouds roiling, spinning off vortices in thrillingly strange hues: deep blues, rich browns, grays shading almost into white.
“If you fall, it won’t look so pretty,” Selik joked.
“That’s true.” You could only see the patterns from above; if you were down among them, at any one point you’d be surrounded by a monochromatic fog—while being crushed to death with nothing to show for it.
Tirell took a few steps back from the edge.
“Here she comes,” Rada announced.
Tirell followed Rada’s gaze and caught sight of the glider, descending in a broad, shallow helix that brought it almost directly above them before carrying it away again. He knew that Anna was an old hand at this maneuver, but he couldn’t help feeling a visceral sense of how terrified he would have been in her place, if he’d been the one controlling the rudder.
On its second approach, the glider was much lower. For a moment Tirell thought it might miss its target, but then he realized he was blind to the true curvature of its path, misjudging it by its foreshortened appearance. The glider flew directly into the mouth of the clearing, shot straight past him and the other onlookers, and dived into the wall of soft foliage that some ancestral aviator must have cultivated generations ago, and a thousand grateful successors had tended ever since. READ MORE
by Kristian Macaron
Some days it’s hard to believe that
there’s not something wrong with the
lettuce. It’s too green for the world of
by Sheila Williams
A.T. Greenblatt’s first tale for Asimov’s was written pre-pandemic. Elsewhere in this issue she says that she didn’t realize how prophetic it was to imagine so many people inhabiting their own bubble universes. Asimov’s is just one bubble universe among many. While the situation in a lot of other bubbles is far more stressful, I thought it worth recording some of the effects Covid-19 has had on all that goes into creating and distributing the magazine.
We are very fortunate to work with Chris Begley. Chris is vice president of editorial and product development for Dell Magazines and our parent company Penny Press, and she’s been my supervisor for over twenty years. In early March, she suggested that the company start looking into moving operations into our individual homes. There were mountains to leap for editorial, but these were hills compared to the obstacles facing other departments. Unlike accounting, circulation and fulfillment, typesetting, art and production, and other essential components of magazine publishing, most of the science fiction editorial staff already worked at home three days a week. With mighty assistance from our intrepid IT department, the transition was relatively smooth. The company was in a decent position when nonessential workplaces in New York and Connecticut were closed down on March 22nd and 23rd. READ MORE
by Robert Silverberg
The word from the Astronomy Department is that we may be losing dear old Betelgeuse soon. It’s likely to go supernova in—say—one hundred thousand years, which is only an eyeblink in galactic terms. Or perhaps it will blow its top next Tuesday.
Which would be a shame. Betelgeuse is one of everybody’s favorite stars. It’s easy to find, at least in the northern hemisphere, because it’s an important part of the extremely conspicuous constellation Orion, and Orion was known as far back as Pharaonic Egypt and the kingdom of Sumer and Akkad, and to ancient Hindu and Hebrew and Chinese astronomers as well, and probably much further back than all of those. It’s one of the brightest stars in the sky, with a magnitude of—well, I’ll get to that in a moment—and can be found near one of Orion’s arms. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant sun, the second brightest star in Orion, the brightest being its celebrated blue-white neighbor, Rigel, elsewhere in Orion’s torso. (I’ll get back to that, too.)
When I was a small boy, some time back, small boys trying to be clever called Betelgeuse “Beetle-juice.” For all I know, they still do. I don’t recall any small girls talking about Betelgeuse back then, and these days I have no idea what small girls say when they’re trying to be clever, but in all probability, given the unchanging nature of childish amusements and the current trends toward gender parity in scientific education, children of both sorts still call it “Beetle-juice.” For a long time it was believed that its name was a corruption of the Arabic Ibt al Jauza, meaning “the Armpit of the Central One,” which over time turned into Beit Algueze, Bet El-Geuze, and finally Betelgeuse. (As I said, “near one of Orion’s arms.” The armpit is as close to the arm as one can get.) The current etymological theory is that Ibt is an incorrect medieval transliteration of the Arabic, and the word was actually Yad, meaning “hand,” or, possibly, Bat, wrongly translated as “armpit.” READ MORE
by James Patrick Kelly
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about SF genres http://www.worldswithoutend.com/resources_sub-genres.asp. In part this is because I write genre fiction, and in part because I also write about genre. Like most contributors here, when I’m working on a story, I don’t necessarily worry about what genre it belongs in. At least, not at the start. Once I find my way deep into some science fiction universe, I will probably think twice about waving a magic wand to solve my protagonist’s problems. Similarly, in a fantasy, why do I need to invent a high-tech 3D printer when I can import the Elf Queen’s gold from faerie? Meanwhile, while I am commenting on various contemporary genres, as I am about to do, I might opine about which of my colleagues is a card-carrying cyberpunk http://web.mit.edu/m-i-t/science_fiction/jenkins/jenkins_5.html or a steampunk http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/what-is-steampunk/ or an afrofuturist https://www.essence.com/entertainment/a-beginners-guide-afrofuturism/ and which is a clueless poseur. Of course, I realize that writers I assign to a particular genre might well be astonished to find themselves thus sorted. Complicating my relationship to genre is the sometimes pernicious influence of publishers, whose whimsical use of genre labels for marketing purposes ranges from aspirational to just plain wrongheaded! READ MORE
by Erwin S. Strauss
With the Covid-19 situation, always check with events before making final plans, in case of late cancellations. I’m hoping to be at MidSouthCon, if it’s not canceled due to the virus. In the meantime, stay safe. Plan now for social weekends with your favorite SF authors, editors, artists, and fellow fans. For an explanation of our con(vention)s, a sample of SF folksongs, and info on fanzines and clubs, send me an SASE ... READ MORE