The long works in Asimov’s July/August 2020 deftly explore the human condition. In his near-future novella, Derek Künsken offers a complex and compassionate account of “Tool Use by the Humans of Danzhai County.” Humans and AIs have to figure out how to cooperate in Will McIntosh’s refreshing novelette about “Nic and Viv’s Compulsory Courtship.”
Ted Kosmatka proffers a harrowing motive for why “The Beast Adjoins”; Sean Monaghan combines romance, art, and “Marbles”; new to Asimov’s author Hollis Joel Henry encounters “The Last Water Baron” while also new to Asimov’s Janet Stilson meets “Imaginary Children”; “Bereft, I Come to a Nameless World” Benjamin Rosenbaum tells us, and Megan Lindholm explores a legacy passed along through “Generations.” Both these authors are returning to our pages after being absent far too long. In a new military story by Tom Purdom, we discover why “We All Lose if They Take Mizuba”; Ray Nayler continues the military theme in a poignant story about “Father”; and Peter Wood reveals the frustrating truth behind “Why I’ll Never Get Tenure.”
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections spends some time “Rereading Hubbard”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net gets “Sporty”; Paul Di Filippo’s On Books considers works by Jane Yolen, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Hugh Howey, Kali Wallace, Lisa Goldstein, and others. Plus we’ll have an array of poetry you’re sure to enjoy.
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by Derek Künsken
Xiadangdiao, 2010 ad
Up the hill, out of sight, someone laughed. Someone else practiced fluting. Along the hollow of the mountainside, the path led behind big wooden houses on stilts, far richer than Qiao Fue’s family’s house. The dancing and singing wouldn’t start for an hour, but on the pathway in the distance, people chatted and gossiped.
Pha Xov, winsome and sweet, stood a dozen meters ahead of him, smiling beneath peach trees. She wore her courting finery. His heart went light and heavy. Her smooth skin was sun-bronzed, with black hair tied beneath the intricate tinkling silver headdress. Greens, reds, yellows, and silver accented her deep blue dress, sewn by her own hand with skillful, invisible stitches. His clothes were fine, but also felt out of touch with the modern world, in a way that made him proud and shy at once, pulled in two. He took Pha Xov’s hand.
“Why don’t we skip the festival?” he said. “Let’s go to the youth house, or up into the hills.”
Memories of her body, supple and womanly, heated his cheeks and made his mouth dry. She smiled, and he imagined he saw pink color her cheeks, just a bit. She pulled back her hand and arranged the hanging sun symbols dangling from the rim of the headdress. She turned her head, strumming the suns like wind chimes before smiling into the tension. READ MORE
Cold and eye-white and searching.
It hunted across the vacuum. Among the scattered remains of the great starships. Amid the debris fields, and the drifting steel, and the great frozen gears. Among the carbon-scorched fuselages and splay-melted aluminum, as across the whole arc of heaven, where humanity ran, the Beast came after.
Generations ago, a thousand-thousand ships had fought and died, and what survivors remained now holed themselves among the ruin of humanity’s last great engines. The Beast picked slowly through the tumbling wreckage, razor-limbed and halting. Pale hunter of the scatter-morgue. Where people were found they were killed, their bells opened to the vacuum one by one.
The woman knew this and so sat in her bell, cold and radio-silent, ship half-buried in ice. Yet still her heat signature betrayed them—a subtle venting of particles, visible by infrared.
“It won’t be long,” she told her son, who lay moaning on his cot. Five years old, with cancer already in his bones, and in his thyroid, and in his liver, the result of too much radiation, and too little shielding. Sometimes he cried at night from pain; sometime she joined him—a pain of grief like the vastness of space. Unbridgeable. READ MORE
by Richard Schiffman
You are eleven years old.
No human has leapt gazelle-like on the Moon.
Rover is a dog’s name, not a go-cart on the planet Mars.
by Sheila Williams
Our historic 2020 presentation of the annual Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing was conducted virtually via Zoom. The award is cosponsored by Dell Magazines and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. We are also supported by Western Colorado University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Low-Residency MA and MFA, Genre Fiction Concentration. Although we were deeply saddened that we could not announce the awards during a lovely banquet at the Conference on the Fantastic in Orlando, Florida, we were deeply grateful to Western Colorado University for making the Zoom meeting and presentation possible.
As I named each of the finalists from my apartment in New York City, Rick Wilber, my co-judge, held up a certificate from his own home in Florida. We gave each student an opportunity to say a few words.
by Robert Silverberg
L. Ron Hubbard was famous—some would say notorious—as the founding figure of Dianetics, a method of psychotherapy that evolved into what is now called Scientology. But long before he ventured into Dianetics he was a science fiction writer, and a very good one, one of the mainstays of John W. Campbell’s top-of-the-field magazine Astounding Science Fiction and its fantasy companion, Unknown. It’s a long time since I’ve read any of Hubbard’s fiction, and recently I thought I’d take a look at what may be the best of it, the fantasy novella “Fear.”
Campbell, who had been a major science fiction writer himself, was twenty-eight years old and had been editing Astounding for about a year when he hatched the idea, in the fall of 1938, of doing a companion magazine that would run fantasy—fantasy of a special kind, lighter and more sophisticated than what the pulp magazines of the day were publishing. READ MORE
by James Patrick Kelly
Am I a nerd, dear reader? Are you?
We all know that science fiction has had a checkered history as a genre, with many dismissing it as escapist, juvenile if not downright silly. So too have those of us who love SF been stereotyped. Most commonly, we are labeled as nerds, which Dictionary.com https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nerd?s=t defines as “noun Slang. 1. a person considered to be socially awkward, boring, unstylish, etc. 2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.” Dictionary.com supplements this definition with an amusing video that refines the concept of nerdosity by defining some of the adjacent and all too familiar insults we’ve heard. According to What Are The Differences Between “Nerds,” “Geeks,” And “Dorks”? https://www.dictionary.com/e/dork-dweeb-nerd-geek-oh/, a dork is “a silly, out-of-touch person who tends to look odd or behave ridiculously around others” and a nerd is “socially awkward and an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit,” while a geek may be “a digital-technology expert or enthusiast and a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity.” READ MORE
by Erwin S. Strauss
Don't forget: the New Zealand WorldCon and Columbus NASFiC are coming up. Also consider WesterCon, InConJunction, ReaderCon (I'll be there; BCNU?), ConGregate, ConFluence, ConVergence and ArmadilloCon. 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