Asimov’s November/December 2021 issue includes a captivating novella by John Richard Trtek. Set in the far future, “La Terrienne” is filled with evocative writing about aliens, disreputable humans, and an intriguing mystery. We also have an exciting novelette by R. Garcia y Robertson. “Daydream Believer” follows the adventures of a teenager named Jean who works the helpline on the Cape Horn colony ship.
A quartet of stories lend an aquatic feeling to the issue. Gregory Norman Bossert brings together dance, swimming, and alien communication in “Hānai”; a scientist and an octopus are both beguiled by “Czerny at Midnight” in Sheila Finch’s new tale; a great battle takes place “And the Raucous Depths Abide” under the waves in Sam Schreiber’s story; while Sandra McDonald splashily reveals the secret of “The Gem of Newfoundland.” Introducing another element, Leah Cypess shows us the consequences of escaping “From the Fire”; new to Asimov’s author Misha Lenau offers us a tale about coping amid “Bread and Circuits”; David Gerrold muses on “The Ones Who Walk Away from the Ones Who Walk Away”; Jack McDevitt raises the alarm in “Tau Ceti Said What?”; Gregory Feeley never eases up on the tension in “Striding the Blast”; Jack Skillingstead’s new terrifying story provides instructions for “Dream Interpretation”; and Ray Nayler takes us to a remote Azerbaijan village in his lovely tale about the people who reside there and a “Muallim.”
Robert Silverberg’s Reflections rues “A Bad Day for Dinosaurs”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net considers SF and superheroes in “Super!”; and we learn what “Alternate Realities” look like to Greg Bear, Harry Turtledove, S. Qiouyi Lu, and others in Norman Spinrad’s On Books. Plus we have an array of poetry you’re sure to enjoy.
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by John Richard Trtek
Monsieur Picot had always found a sense of renewal in the bracing atmosphere of Unemone and so, for the third straight day, he took breakfast outside upon the promenade deck of his great wind barge as it lay docked against the seawall at Mesmauran.
Nestled atop the only genuine rattan lounger within five kiloparsecs and shaded by an aging canvas umbrella that had once been green, he lovingly studied the omelet that lay before him, its mosaic of unspecified proteins flecked with precious bits of parsley. Dining tongs in hand, the Frenchman reminded himself yet again that, an eternal absence of tarragon notwithstanding, the artistry of Cook was in itself sufficient reason to stay indentured to the Krinn—quite apart from the fact that extinction was perhaps his only practical alternative. Indeed, he had to admit, even the sumptuous family feasts of childhood, remembered so vividly from the bittersweet perspective of decades and cosmic distance, could hardly compare with these glorious repasts of the present, each assembled with diligent care to please the Chief Acquisitor and Highest Factor for the Seventeen Systems of the Shalaf Locality.
“Lu lay-kukay,” he quietly intoned, invoking his favorite Maarlek wish chant.
by Gregory Norman Bossert
Helena was high above Mo‘okini Heiau in the morning shadow of Kohala when the swarm found her. She swatted the microdrones out of the way and kept climbing.
“Dammit, Helena.” Izzy’s voice was a tiny buzzing chorus from the scattered swarm.
“I want to reach the ridge before it gets hot,” Helena said. “And Pololu before it rains. Which means walking, not talking.”
Izzy regrouped the swarm just out of reach, the drones connecting themselves into a sort of flying speaker. “Some of us manage to do both at the same time,” she said.
“Some of us are sitting on their ass in an office right now.”
“I’m working. You might vaguely remember the concept. The Republic of Hawaii doesn’t run itself, even on a normal day. It takes all sorts of unique personalities.”
It was beginning to sound like Izzy was working to a point, and that point might involve not making it to Pololu before the rain. Helena picked up the pace. Izzy sent the swarm after her and turned up the volume.
“The Sisters dropped in-system last night.”
“So I saw,” Helena said. The seven primary spheres of the composite ship had hung brilliant in the evening sky, haloed by their fractal cloud of companions.
“Wandering Willie D was on board.”
“Well, you pick a name like that for yourself, you better actually do some wandering or folks will talk.” Helena had spoken about the lone alien’s choice of names, back when the news feeds still sought her opinion as a xenoanthropologist, back before she’d become news herself.
“The Sisters, Helena.”
“I heard you the—”
“—Which means he had to write a petition strong enough to persuade the most cautious and . . .”
“. . . ethical of the five known starships to carry him here.”
“I do recall the Sisters’ rules, Isabella, thanks. I also recall explaining them to you in the first place. Look, he’s the last of his species; that’s a pretty persuasive argument. And he’s always had a thing for Earth.” READ MORE
by Matt Thompson
Your memories are sponsored by a fossil fuel company
When you try to recall events from your childhood,
Where you left your keys, past lovers, pin codes
Or someone’s birthday—
by Sheila Williams
The comments section of Asimov’s 35th Annual Readers’ Awards’ ballots made it clear that Covid-19 and the difficulties of 2020 were a shared experience. John Haworth of California thanked us for, “A good magazine in a bad year. Each issue took my mind off the pandemic for a few hours.” Jeremy Hull of Texas said, “2020 was a disaster of a year in so many respects, but it was an excellent year for Asimov’s. Kudos for publishing consistently high-quality work while also delivering an incredible variety of stories, settings, and voices!” And Daniel Connolly of Missouri wrote, “Thank you for the stories during the last year that helped me get through some tough times. Better fortune to all of us in 2021.”
Ignacio Viglizzo of Buenos Aires, Argentina, let us know that, “For the first time in twenty-three years subscribing to the magazine, I read all the content from 2020. Blame the lockdown? Thanks for all the great stories!” From comments I also saw on our Facebook page, it seemed that many readers spent more time than usual with the magazine. We were glad to be able to offer exceptional entertainment during 2020’s trying ordeal. READ MORE
by Robert Silverberg
The other day I felt a sudden wave of sadness come over me as I thought about the poor dinosaurs, extinct so long, wiped out, apparently, in a single day’s vast calamity after having enjoyed the pleasures of our world for so many hundreds of millions of years. How extraordinary the big fellows were, how remarkable! And all of them gone. Suddenly I missed them terribly.
I did not, as a matter of fact, find myself wishing they were still extant and wandering around my neighborhood, though. For the past fifty years I have lived in a quiet suburb of San Francisco, in a hilltop home surrounded by a six-foot-high brick wall with an almost impenetrable mass of spiky succulents forming a second barrier on the street outside the wall, and now, in my very senior years, I live a peaceful secluded life. I’m not eager for any sort of disturbance. Since I’ve been here, I’ve experienced a major earthquake, a couple of years-long droughts, a vast firestorm that destroyed the neighborhood just adjacent to mine, and two serious frosts, rarities in our generally benign climate. I regard that as my quota of excitement. I don’t really want to see the toothy head of a Tyrannosaurus grinning at me over my wall. I don’t want a ponderous Brontosaurus marching through my garden. It’s bad enough that we have frolicking squirrels uprooting plants here and there, neighboring cats staging their brawls in the shrubbery, the occasional skunk leaving an aromatic souvenir in the dawn. I don’t need stupendous gigantic beasts to deal with, too. READ MORE
by James Patrick Kelly
We live in a Golden Age of cinematic superheroes. The skies of our screens, both large and small, are filled with caped crusaders, while supervillains plot world domination in every metropolis. Three of the five biggest blockbusters of 2019 were superhero movies: #1: Avengers Endgame https://www.marvel.com/movies/avengers-endgame, #4: Spider-Man: Far From Home https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/spidermanfarfromhome, and #5: Captain Marvel https://www.marvel.com/movies/captain-marvel. I saw all three; you probably did, too. Although for many this supertrend brings unalloyed joy, there has been dissent, most famously that of cinema legend Martin Scorsese https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/. Commenting in Are Comic-Book Movies Ruining Film? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/learning/are-comic-book-movies-ruining-film.html, he stepped into a wasps’ nest when asked about superhero movies. READ MORE
by Norman Spinrad
What do I mean by alternate realities? It’s easy enough to say that speculative fiction is anything set in a future that does not violate the known rules of mass and energy, a/k/a “science fiction,” and fantasy is fiction that deliberately violates them. But what about all fiction that is speculative, but does not violate the known physical rules of mass and energy?
It can be set in a literary future. It can be set in a literary past. It can even be set in a literary present. All fictions that are imaginary speculations that do not violate any known limit of mass and energy. The speculative fiction of “What If?”
What if that asteroid collision that did in the dinosaurs didn’t happen? What if the Confederacy won the American Civil War? What if Jesus Christ lived to a ripe old age? What if the Nazis won World War II? What if Hitler became a successful artist? What if the Soviet Union didn’t fragment? What if there was an alien civilization on Mars? READ MORE
by Erwin S. Strauss
In-person conventions are back including DisCon III, the delayed World SF Con in December! See you there? I'll also be at PhilCon and ChessieCon. Let's get vaccinated, pack masks, and get back out on the road! 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