ecbatan (ecbatan) wrote,

Summary: Asimov's, 2011

Summary: Asimov's, 2011

Asimov's published 78 stories in 2011, a bit more than last year. 6 were novellas, 24 novelettes, 48 short stories (1 short-short). About 693,000 words of fiction, rather more than in 2010 (by my estimate -- always prone to error).


Two novellas really stood out for me: "The Man Who Bridged the Mist", by Kij Johnson (October-November); and "The Choice", by Paul McAuley (February). The first is a long, quiet, story of the engineer in charge of a project to build a bridge across a strange "river" of something like mist, thereby linking two parts of an empire. The bridge will put ferry operators out of business -- but it's not a story of conflict because of that -- just a story of building. The second is set closer to home -- in England in the nearish future, but a future altered by aliens who have sold Earth some advanced tech. The two main characters are young men with different family problems: one's mother is an anti-alien protester, who is dying because she won't take advantage of alien-derived medicine; the other's father is an abusive drunk. Then one finds a piece of potentially valuable alien tech. My third choice is a nice murder mystery from Mary Robinette Kowal, "Kiss Me Twice" (June), featuring an AI detective (of sorts), and turning, naturally enough, on the idea of AI rights..

So -- my Asimov's Award votes: 1) "The Man Who Bridged the Mist", 2) "The Choice", 3) "Kiss Me Twice".


As usual (though not like last year, a disappointing year at this length) there were a lot of excellent novelettes. I'll list them in order as they appeared: Elizabeth Bear's "Dolly" and Chris Beckett's "Two Thieves" (January), David Ira Cleary's "Out of the Dream Closet" (February), John Kessel's "Clean" and Robert Reed's "Purple" (March), Alexander Jablokov's "The Day the Wires Came Down" and Tom Purdom's "A Response from EST17" (April-May), Chris Beckett's "Day 29" and Paul Cornell's "The Copenhagen Interpretation" (July), Robert Silverberg's "The End of the Line" and Melanie Tem's "Corn Teeth" (August), Erick Melton's "Shadow Angel" (September), Eleanor Arnason's "My Husband Steinn" (October-November), and Suzanne Palmer's "Surf" (December).

So which of these were the best? I really enjoyed Palmer's "Surf", about spacegoing "whales" and a research project investigating them that runs afoul of a nasty group of humans in space -- but there's something more going on .... Also Kessel's "Clean", about treating Alzheimer's with memory erasure -- a very moving piece. And Beckett's "Day 29", memory erasure again, this time caused by the matter transmission process used for travel between planets -- the story centers on a rather colorless bureaucrat and his experiences his last 29 days on the planet to which he had traveled -- it turns quite disturbing towards the end. And of course Arnason is one of my favorite writers, and "My Husband Steinn" is as witty as ever with her, dealing with a journalist who becomes all unwanted the object of attentions from a troll.

My Asimov's Award ballot will include three of those four stories in some order -- I'm leaning towards putting Kessel's "Clean" in first place.

Short Stories

And again there were several very fine short stories. By order of appearance: "Interloper", by Ian McHugh (January); "Shipbirth", by Aliette de Bodard (February); "Lost in the Memory Palace, I Found You", by Nick Wolven (March); "North Shore Friday", by Nick Mamatas, and "Smoke City", by Christopher Barzak (April-May); "Walking Stick Fires", by Alan de Niro (June); "Pug", by Theodora Goss (July); "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again", by Michael Swanwick (August); "Stalker", by Robert Reed (September); "The Pastry Chef, the Nanotechnologist, the Aerobics Instructor, and the Plumber", by Eugene Mirabelli (October-November); and "The Countable", by Ken Liu (December).

Of these my two top choices are Goss's "Pug", about a dog who can travel between worlds, eventually with his mistress following him; and de Niro's "Walking Stick Fires", weird Neal Barrettish stuff about aliens on a devastated future Earth. Next I would probably put Swanwick's story, about beneficial aliens and humans who resist them (thus recalling, a bit, McAuley's "The Choice"); or perhaps Barzak's evocative "Smoke City", a kind of "industrial Faerie" story; or maybe Reed's "Stalker", about an AI "companion" to a rich, and rather nasty, man.

My ballot, probably: 1) "Pug", 2) "Walking Stick Fires", 3) "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again"


Of the 78 pieces of new short fiction, 27 were by women, about 35%. This is very similar to recent years, a bit more than last year (and five of 6 novellas were by women). I counted 8 stories I'd call fantasy, about 10% -- more than last year but similar to most recent years.
Tags: 2011, magazines, yearly summaries
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