Our January/February 2021 cover story, “A Rocket for Dimitrios,” is Ray Nayler’s first novella. Set in an alternate fifties influenced by dangerous alien technology, it’s filled with intrigue and deception. The issue also features an exciting great-ship novella by Robert Reed. In “The Realms of Water,” an ancient human traveler meets an even older warrior. You won’t soon forget this account of alien warfare and the Great Surus.
Ted Kosmatka plays the odds in “Shy Sarah and the Draft Pick Lottery”; the importance of “Table Etiquette for Diplomatic Personnel, in Seventeen Scenes” is revealed in Suzanne Palmer’s captivating mystery; new author Robert H. Cloake considers “The Fear of Missing Out”; new author Sean William Swanwick examines the motives of “Humans and Other People”; and Nick Wolven’s moving story leaves “No Stone Unturned.” Join “The Three-Day Hunt” with Robert R. Chase; learn why “I Didn’t Buy It” from Naomi Kanakia; unravel a bureaucratic nightmare in Fran Wilde’s otherwise charming “Mayor for Today”; and find out whether a young crewmember should trust his “Hunches” in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s thrilling new tale.
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column celebrates “One Hundred Years of Robots”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net takes a look at humor and asks if we “Get It?”; Norman Spinrad’s On Books is “Out There” with Alan Dean Foster, James Gunn, and Brandon Q. Morris; plus we have an array of poetry and other features.
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by Ray Nayler
“Just hang on, Alvin. We’re going to get help.”
Alvin was slumped in the passenger seat of the open-top Willys terraplane. Two thousand feet below us, the Black Sea lived up to its name: a sheet of ebony darker than the sky above, its featureless surface relieved only by the scattered flecks of night trawlers and freighters.
The bad stabilizer on the Willys kept pulling its nose down. I had both hands on the wheel and was just fighting to keep it level, glancing over at Alvin.
“Talk to me.”
“Okay, I’m talking.” Alvin said. In the dull yellow light of the dashboard lights I could see the pain lines at the side of his mouth.
“Where were you hit?”
“Chest. High. Left side. Can I . . . not talk for a while?”
I unfastened my seat belt and leaned over, one hand on the wheel. “I need you to buckle yourself in, Alvin. I know it’s hard, but I need you to help me.”
Alvin searched for the latchplate. His fingers were clumsy and slow. Finally he came up with it. I dug on the other side of the seat, found the buckle, snapped the belt closed. READ MORE
“Did you know,” the Ijt Ambassador said, as she sipped gently at her soup with her long, blue, curling tongue, “that your predecessor, in an act of yofishi—” the translator choked on the word, but Station Commander Ennie Niagara knew that it meant self-destructive behavior that nevertheless brings great satisfaction—“served the Ponkian delegation something called ghost peppers?”
“I read the incident report when I took this post,” Ennie said. “The Ponkians believed it to be an assassination attempt and panicked. There are sections of corridor nine that still smell, and the dining hall had to be permanently relocated to another portion of the station.”
The ambassador fluttered several of her leaf-like wings. “The new dining hall is much nicer,” she said, “though too large a space for us to be comfortable.”
One of many reasons, Ennie thought, for having dinner in her private quarters. “The new hall was just being finished when I arrived on Kemon Station,” she said. Had it been a whole standard year already? And that was several months after the infamous ghost pepper incident. “What I never understood is why Beville, who by all accounts was a sensible, stable officer for his entire career up until that moment, would do that to the Ponkians. They are one of the more agreeable peoples, other than their tendency to emit clouds of foul gas when startled or upset, and I cannot guess what he might have had against them.” READ MORE
by Robert Frazier
We are born with 270 individual bones
We die with 60 less
This is not a human quandary
by Sheila Williams
Ever since March 2020, the radius I occupy has mostly been defined by the distance I can comfortably walk. I’ve been in a car three times and ridden the subway five times since our lockdown began. Feeling a little claustrophobic about the uninterrupted months I’ve spent on the island of Manhattan, I find my thoughts turning to a magical time on a different island.
Well-known Asimov’s author, Rick Wilber and his colleague, Mike O’Conner, led a tour of Ireland just prior to the 2019 Dublin World Science Fiction Convention. As a journalism professor at the University of South Florida, Rick taught a student summer travel-study program in Ireland for twenty-six years. His recent retirement from the university meant that he was now free to lead a group of his relatives and individuals from the science fiction community on an expedition devised for a collection of people interested in science, science fiction, and fantasy. READ MORE
by Robert Silverberg
On a visit to Poland about fifteen years ago I was startled to see, across the street from my hotel, a poster on the wall that was headed with the word ROBOTA in big letters, followed by seven or eight paragraphs in Polish, a language of which I understand about four words.
ROBOTA? “Robots,” was it? Was somebody in Warsaw advertising robots for rent? This was in the early years of the century, remember, when the world was not quite as digital as it is now, and robots, to me, were the stuff of science fiction, not commodities to be advertised on wall posters in Poland.
I asked a Polish friend. Sorry, he said. No robots here. “Robota” was simply the Polish word for “job” or “work.” The poster was that of an employment agency looking for clients. READ MORE
by James Patrick Kelly
Two chemists walk into a bar. Arthur says, “I think I’ll have an H2O.” Isaac says, “I think I’ll have an H2O, too.” The ambulance came for Isaac ten minutes later.
Get it? (H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide.) Okay, it’s a geek joke and I can’t tell jokes. It’s partly about the delivery and partly the memorization and partly having the spotlight on me. I’m good for a wisecrack or a witticism, but my standup abilities wither under sustained attention from an audience. That’s because I’m introverted, like so many of you, dear readers https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/can-introverts-be-happy-in-a-world-that-cant-stop-talking/. Once, estimates were that we number as much as 40 percent of the population https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-are-an-introvert-2795427, but subsequent studies describe an introversion-extroversion continuum https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a24068521/introvert-vs-extrovert/, which seems right to me. 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 Boskone, 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