Our May/June 2021 issue begins with David Moles’s brilliant novelette about about deep time, sibling rivalry, and the end of the universe. Don’t miss “The Metric”! The issue concludes with Robert Reed’s exciting new Great Ship novelette that shows why “Flattering the Flame” is a very good idea.
You’ll find a lot of other wonderful novelettes and short stories nestled between these must-read works: Ray Nayler depicts a strange alien invasion in “Año Nuevo”; James Gunn lays out a plan for “Reclaiming the Stars”; Ian Creasey takes on some thorny genetic manipulation questions in “Super Sprouts”; Rick Wilber & Brad Aiken tell us the tale of a very modern “Tin Man”; new to Asimov’s author Annika Barranti Klein reveals the tragic secret of “Phosphor’s Circle”; the situation is tense in new authors K.A. Teryna & Alexander Bachilo’s portrayal of “The Chartreuse Sky”; and we find out why “My Heart Is at Capacity” in TJ Berry’s first tale for the magazine. Mary Anne Mohanraj shows us what it means to live “Among the Marithei” and Dominica Phetteplace gives us a stark view of the future in “Ready Gas and Pills.”
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column peruses “The First Encyclopedia”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net introduces us to some “Digital Heroes”; new On Books reviewer, Sheree Renée Thomas looks at work by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Rebecca Roanhorse, P. Djèlí Clark, Andrea Hairston, and others; James Gunn’s intriguing Thought Experiment considers “Religion and Science Fiction”; plus we have an array of poetry and other great stories!
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by David Moles
The ship was a billion years old, and it was dying. The incalculable energies that had forced open the metric to permit its passage were all but spent, and now the relentless quintessence was taking over again: pulling the metric tighter, so that from instant to instant the needle-eye the ship tried to thread was that much narrower, the forces pulling the ship apart that much stronger. Fields that could have carried the ship intact through the event horizon of a stellar-mass black hole were tearing like dry paper; decks and bulkheads built to withstand the heat and pressure at the heart of a star were being ground away in a shower of exotic particles that decayed instantly to pure radiation and were gone.
The ship—whose name, in a language that had been dead for many long ages before its keel was laid, was Thus is the Heaven a Vortex Pass’d Already, and the Earth a Vortex not yet Pass’d by the Traveller thro’ Eternity—had known when it set out that this was the most likely outcome; had argued, itself, for the impossibility of the task it had been asked to undertake, when they had woken it from its long sleep. Had gone to that sleep, so many millions of years past, expecting never to be woken, never again to be needed. READ MORE
Harry and Lisa stood under the shelter of a metal roof and listened to the clatter of sleet and larger congregates. A lake had developed in front of their laboratory, or perhaps now it deserved the designation of sea. Ice had been falling on the deserts of Mars for nearly fifty years. The long dead world was returning to life, and Harry and Lisa had seen fifty years of it as the air thickened and unsuspected Martian seeds had begun to emerge to turn the red planet green. Perhaps soon some bacterial life would resurrect itself from an ancient grave, or even simple organisms. Nothing seemed impossible in a Solar System liberated from the tyranny of an artificial intelligence that had billions of years to develop and learn and extend its alien influence across the Universe.
The beginning of their journey half a century ago had occurred on an Earth deluged by hundreds of meters of ocean that they had begun the millennia-long process of jettisoning into space and propelling a good deal of toward Mars, and they had said farewell to the robot designated as 101. 101 hadn’t needed a human name because it was a robot. It had returned from its millennia-long task of terraforming a super Earth forty-nine light-years from the world where it first became aware of its existence only to find Earth under a single deep world ocean and everyone dead except those creatures that found a boundless ocean world room in which to live and forage and multiply. READ MORE
by Jackie Sherbow
My hands miss the lip
of the ceramic bottle as I try to drink
up all the constellations.
My nephew is nervous at the space
by Sheila Williams
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus might have maintained, the process of creating a magazine is one of change and becoming. We are fortunate to have long relationships with authors, but we are equally as fortunate to welcome new writers into our pages who bring fresh ideas and worldviews to their stories. We deeply appreciate the exceptional prose of our long-time authors, but these writers sometimes disappear as they work on novels, follow dictates of other career tracks, raise families, or are lost to mortality. We have the same appreciation for those who work hard to create the physical magazine. Asimov’s has benefited from the creative work of gifted long-time staff members, but we are thrilled to welcome new people into our fold. In this editorial, I want to celebrate the life of an SF Grand Master as well as introduce a new book reviewer and an art director to our readers.
Carly Iwanicki joined our parent company, Penny Publications, in 2020. She now overseas the cover design of all Dell puzzle and fiction titles. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Western Connecticut State University in 2017, Carly worked in interior design and print production before settling down and moving to Stratford, Connecticut, where she now resides. When she’s not hiking or drawing, you can most likely find Carly at home watching a movie and snuggling with her Aussie pup, Sprinkles.
In addition to our cover design, as our new art director, Carly is in charge of the interior art that accompanies our poetry. She tells us, “I really enjoyed the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series as a child. The books along with their movie adaptions sparked my inspiration as a kid to want to create and design. I’m also very interested in space exploration and travel.” READ MORE
by Robert Silverberg
During the course of my working life as a writer, I depended in good measure on two sources of reference material, both of them called The Encyclopedia Britannica.
One of them was the Britannica’s fourteenth edition, 1968 version—a replacement for one I had bought in 1956 and lost in a fire in my office. It runs to twenty-four fat volumes, 35 or 40 million words long, and it was a pretty good compendium of all human knowledge up to its time. When I needed, say, information about the main city of Zanzibar, as I did in 1973 for a story I was writing then, I walked fifteen feet to my Britannica shelf, took down the VIETNAM-ZVORKIN volume, and quickly found what I needed.
The other Britannica I have is the remarkable thirteenth edition, which is actually the eleventh edition of 1911 plus the three supplemental volumes of the 1922 twelfth edition and the three further supplements that were issued in 1926. So it has thirty-two volumes in all, massive ones that far exceed the scope of the later editions, and its unhurried essays, many of them of book length themselves, provided virtually complete coverage of everything that was known to our Victorian and Edwardian forefathers. So that when I needed information about the geographer Sir Henry Yule (1820-1889) for a story set in India that I was writing in 2008, I had merely to go to Volume 27-28 of the Thirteenth, TONAL-ZYMOT, and there it was. READ MORE
by James Patrick Kelly
In the beginning, there was unbounded enthusiasm in this space for the digital revolution. I was thrilled by email and podcasting and ebooks and audiobooks and ezines and social media and the innumerable websites offering expertise and opinion on about just about anything a SF reader could think of. When did the misgivings start? Maybe in 2005, with the column that wondered if we should be “Afraid of the Darknet.” 2007 saw the controversies surrounding self-publishing among the “Pixel-stained Technopeasants.” Then came warnings about loss of cognitive function in “The Internets May Be Hazardous to Your Health!” in 2011. Certainly by 2017, when we asked the question “Is the Internet Broken?,” misgivings had swollen to grave reservations.
Early adopters naïvely hoped that the internet would become a kind of digital utopia. Information wanted to be free! The technorati would create a new online society! Today as I click through the farflung precincts of the net, I sometimes feel as though I am stalled in traffic on a disinformation highway, to misquote Al Gore https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Gore_and_information_technology. Trolls, fakes, and liars lurk everywhere, and even when honest folk post, the lure of monetizing the web sometimes degrades the quality or quantity of what they share. Ask yourself whether you trust the internet as much today as you did ten years ago. For me, alas, the answer is a regretful no. READ MORE
by Sheree Renée Thomas
Of Hope and Heroism
We find ourselves at the crossroads, in a time when people are reaching for other worlds, other ways of seeing. Rather than remain within the known boundaries of realism, readers and viewing audiences are actively seeking stories and creations across genres that are too often discussed as if they belong solely in the realm of childhood innocence. But with ecological/environmental shifts, societal upheaval, and accelerated global change, the people will do as they always have, seek refuge in the imagination.
Fantasy is an essential part of the human psyche, for it is in our dreams that we express our unconscious needs and desires, and it is in this remarkable realm where we stretch ourselves, expanding our minds and mental processes to problem-solve and create new solutions, new paths forward.
Andrea Hairston is a storyteller who understands the two-edged sword of the human psyche, its darkness and its light. With a firm hold of our present moment and an appreciation of our shared past, Hairston has written us a remarkable fantasy of hope and heroism, one that celebrates the frightened who face the impossible, the flawed but noble heroes who lift our spirits up even while they remain hidden in plain sight. 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 MarCon, 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 folk songs, and info on fanzines and clubs, send me an SASE ... READ MORE