November 14th, 2010

Summary: Asimov's, 2010

Summary: Asimov's, 2010

Asimov's published 74 stories in 2010, same as last year. 9 were novellas, 22 novelettes, 43 short stories (1 short-short). About 670,000 words of fiction, again somewhat more than in 2009.

Novellas

Asimov's published quite a few strong novellas in 2010. The best was probably "The Sultan of the Clouds", by Geoffrey Landis, unless it was Rick Wilber's "Several Items of Interest". There was also a good Robert Reed piece, "The History of Terraforming", and a fine story by Steven Popkes, "Jackie's-Boy". "The Sultan of the Clouds" (September) is neat pure SF set on a semi-terraformed future Venus, featuring the child ruler of a cloud city courting a brilliant scientist partly for her terraforming expertise -- plenty of neat SF details about the social structure of Venus (such as braided marriages) and the tech of that future. "Several Items of Interest" (October-November) is one of Wilber's S'hudoni stories, about a future Earth semi-benevolently ruled by powerful aliens. The stories tells of two brothers, one a collaborator, the other a resistance leader -- their collision is predictable, but the motivations behind them and the arguments for each's actions are subtly enough portrayed. "The History of Terraforming" (July) follows one man’s very long life into the very far future, as he, a middle-level scientist working on terraforming, witnesses any number of radical alternative changes in terraforming and in humanity. The story buzzes with ideas, but is perhaps a bit too distant in dealing with its human characters. "Jackie's-Boy" (April-May) is  nice but imperfect, set a few decades in the future, after a series of plagues, engineered and otherwise, have all but wiped out humanity. The title character is a boy who meets an elephant at the St. Louis zoo -- an uplifted elephant, we soon gather. The two eventually head south in search of more elephants.

I should emphasize as well that the reast of the novellas are all pretty good reads -- none truly disappoint. For example, there's Gregory Norman Bossert's first sale, "The Union of Sky and Soil", quite impressive work; and a good "Diving into the Wreck" universe story from Kristine Kathryn Rusch (a surprise to me as I had disliked the earlier stories in that series); and a couple of solid and entertaining Stephen Baxter stories, and a pretty good piece from Pamela Sargent.

So -- my Asimov's Award votes: 1) "The Sultan of the Clouds", 2) "Several Items of Interest", 3) "The History of Terraforming".

Novelettes

Curiously, I found the novelettes in Asimov's this year (and in some other venues, as well) mildly disappointing taken as a whole. Plenty of fine stories, no really great ones. Best probably were Aliette de Bodard's "The Jaguar House, in Shadow" (July), set in her alternate history in which China reached the New World before Europe, which resulted among other things in continued Aztec prominence, and here concerning an attempt to rescue one Knight of the Jaguar House from torture, with the heart of the story a question of pragmatism vs. honor. Also, James Patrick Kelly's "Plus or Minus" (December), an asteroid mining story, portraying a rather grimy space environment, populated by rather ordinary people. And then disaster strikes, as it will do, it seems. There aren’t any easy solutions, but there is believable, and moving, heroism -- ordinary people heroism, perhaps. "Blind Cat Dance", by Alexander Jablokov (March)  is about two things: a strange project to restore habitats to wildlife by engineering them to be blind to humans, so that they live among us; and also about a woman who wants to learn to do that sort of work, and her husband’s project to help her, and another man with a different view entirely of the woman and that project.

Other good novelettes included two by Tom Purdom that were sequels to a couple of enjoyable Ace Doubles from the 1960s: "Haggle Chips" (sequel to Five Against Arlane), "Warfriends" (sequel to The Tree Lord of Imeten); "Slow Boat" by Gregory Norman Bossert; "Helping to Take the Old Man Down" by William Preston; "Alten Kameraden" by Barry Longyear; and "The Palace in the Clouds" by Eugene Mirabelli.

My Asimov's Award ballot will include the Bodard, Kelly, and Jablokov stories in some order.

Short Stories

There were several really nice short stories, though. Beginning in January, I loved "A Letter from the Emperor" by Steve Rasnic Tem, about a messenger for a Galactic Empire coming to an isolated planet, with an aging governor desperate for the distant Emperor's approval. Also in January, "Conditional Love" by Felicity Shoulders is a dark intriguing story of genetically engineered kids abandoned when there "enhancements" don't work out just right. In July, "The Other Graces", by Alice Sola Kim, is about a Korean-American girl trying to get into an Ivy League school, getting help from an unexpected source -- herself. A fairly conventional SF idea, but well realized in a convincing story of a real girl, with a real life and real ambitions, and real parents with real issues. Carol Emshwiller's "The Lovely Ugly" (August) shows indigenous aliens subtly resisting human colonization, as told nicely from the slightly baffled point of view of an alien. And "Sins of the Fathers" by Sara Genge (December) is a stark look at a future in which genetically engineered merfolk have taken a sort of ecologically based revenge on their creators.

Other fine stories came from Robert Reed, Mary Robinette Kowal, Chris Beckett, Gregory Norman Bossert, Damien Broderick, Anna Tambour, and Michael Swanwick.

My ballot: 1) "A Letter From the Emperor", 2) "The Other Graces", 3) "Sins of the Fathers"

Statistics

Of the 74 pieces of new short fiction, 24 were by women, about 32%. This is very similar to recent years. I counted only four stories I'd call fantasy, a very low total of about 5% -- recent years have averaged closer to 10%.