February 9th, 2010

Summary: Science-Oriented anthologies, 2009

"Science-Oriented" Anthologies, 2009

It is a long tradition in the field to have anthologies aimed specifically -- often rather didactically -- at emphaszing the science in science fiction. I saw two this year that seemed to fit that category. These are:

When It Changed, edited by Geoff Ryman; and
Diamonds in the Sky, edited by Mike Brotherton.

There were a total of 25 new stories in the two books, some 112,000 words.

I was quite excited to see When It Changed. It has an editor I greatly respect, a strong lineup of writers, and an interesting premise. A group of scientists and writers were recruited, and paired off, and the writers interviewed the scientists about their work. The writers wrote stories based on the science, and the scientists contributed afterwords. But somehow it didn't quite come off. Which may be a bit unfair, a bit the result of high expectations. And there was some good stuff here. Particularly Geoff Ryman's own story, "You", in which the lifeblog of a researcher on Mars is reviewed, particularly her research into a form of Martian writing. Another strong story came from Adam Roberts: "Hair", about a researcher helping "steal" valuable and beneficial biological inventions from his company. And there was fine work from Sara Maitland, Gwyneth Jones, and Patricia Duncker.

Diamonds in the Sky is a collection of astronomy-based stories, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and aimed at helping astronomy instructors. It can be downloaded for free here. It has quite a few new stories, and also quite a few reprints. I also found it a bit disappointing. But I did like some of the stories, particularly Mary Robinette Kowal's "Jaiden's Weaver", a sweet YA story set on another planet and involving a girl who wants a spider-like creature for a pet -- there is also some discussion of the planet's non-Earthlike aspects to qualify it for the astronomy theme. Also Daniel M. Hoyt's "Squish", a mystery revolving around matter transmission to all the planets in the Solar System. And there was nice work from Alma Alexander, David Levine, and Valentin D. Ivanov.

Between the two books there were 8 of 25 stories by women (32%). All the stories were SF.