Summary: Asimov's, 2008
Asimov's published 73 stories in 2008, plus 2 parts of a serial by Allen Steele. This was slightly fewer stories than in 2007. 6 were novellas, 26 were novelettes, and 41 were short-stories (four of these short-shorts). Two of the short stories were reprints. This was about 647,000 words of short fiction (635,000 of it new), but about 691,000 if you include the serial parts, both totals comparable to the previous year.
My favorite two novellas in 2008 in Asimov's were "The Hob Carpet" by Ian R. MacLeod (June) and "Truth" by Robert Reed (October/November). "Truth" is a thoughtful story about an apparent terrorist -- who may be something stranger, perhaps an alien -- arrested after 9/11 and kept in a very secret prison for years while the world goes to hell. "The Hob Carpet" is an involving alternate history of an Earth where people make slaves of humanlike "hobs", told by a rich eccentric whose studies seem to prove that hobs are more intelligent than believed. The best of the other stories is probably Nancy Kress's "The Erdmann Nexus" (October/November), an almost Sturgeonesque story about a group of people in a nursing home who seem to be on the verge of linking their minds.
So -- my Asimov's Award votes: 1) "The Hob Carpet", 2) "Truth", 3) "The Erdmann Nexus".
I listed 12 particularly good novelettes from the 2008 Asimov's issues. I'll do them in order. From January, Tanith Lee's "The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald" is a tense future medical mystery, about a virus with bitterly ironic effects. From February, a remarkable month for the magazine, there were three particularly good novelettes. James Alan Gardner's "The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" is just what it says, about a boy who finds a very powerful alien weapon, and the dangers it pose. Mary Rosenblum's "The Egg Man" is a Drylands story, starkly told and affecting, about a man delivering genetical engineered eggs to a balkanized US. Michael Swanwick's "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" is fascinating SF about the biology and culture (and economics) of aliens -- and humans --and too it's an adventure story about the dangers of crossing an unfamiliar planet. March was another exceptional month. It featured "Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear, a very thoughtful piece about a black scientists in the '30s investigating the reproductive habits of shoggoths -- as war with Hitler looms; and Tom Purdom's "Sepoy Fidelities", about lovers whose service to Earth's alien masters interferes with their personal desires. Also, another strong Carol Emshwiller story, "Master of the Road to Nowhere", an affecting story about a group of humans that live in harem-like packs, with one dominant male and a group of females, and what happens when one couple actually falls in love. And another excellent biotech-oriented story from Brian Stableford, "Following the Pharmers", about a small-time "pharmer" (genetic engineer of drugs) in a future where such engineering is -- for various reasons, good and bad -- regarded with skepticism.
The pace of first rate novelettes fell off in the rest of the year. Kathleen Ann Goonan's "Memory Dog" is a good one from April-May, about a future in which knowledge -- true or false -- can be imparted against people's will chemically, and about a woman and her lover and their dog, members of the resistance to the authorities. From August, Ted Kosmatka's "Divining Light" has a rather damaged researcher finding a way to investigate what sort of "consciousness" is required to collapse quantum events - with scary implications of much wider import; while Neal Barrett, Jr.s "Radio Station St. Jack" is another enjoyable -- if not entirely nice -- post-apocalyptic stories, about a man running an old-timey radio station and trying to protect his town against the uncivilized marauders that roam the area. "Midnight Blue" by Will McIntosh (September) turns on a nice idea -- combinations of colored spheres that confer special powers on those who find them, and the market that builds up around them.
Other good novelettes came from Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, Tim Sullivan, Ian R. MacLeod, Mike Resnick, William Barton, and Michael Bishop.
My Asimov's Award ballot will read, I think: 1) "The Ray Gun", 2) "Shoggoths in Bloom", 3) "The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald"; with the Swanwick and Stableford stories also in contention.
I found one short story particularly charming and original this year at Asimov's: "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" (July), by Kij Johnson, about Aimee, and her act featuring 26 remarkable monkeys, who sometimes disappear, and about Aimee's boyfriend, and their future, maybe, and the monkeys' future. I also liked Robert Reed's "The House Left Empty" (April-May), about a future fragmented into city states, partly because of abundance, and the mysterious package a couple of people decide to trace. And Mary Rosenblum's "Horse Racing" (September), in which a curious market in human talent is described -- corporations bidding to support certain individuals through life secretly, and the ambiguous cost of that. Other strong work came from Matthew Johnson, Sara Genge, Steven Utley, Cat Rambo, and Robert R. Chase.
My ballot: 1) "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss", 2) "Horse Racing", 3) "The House Left Empty"
Things of Little Interest
The average novella was 26800 words, versus 24400 last year, the average novelette 11400, as against 11600 in 2007, and the average short story 4500 words, same as last year.
Of the 71 pieces of new short fiction, 22 were by women, about 31%. This is quite similar to last year, when 1/3 of the stories were by women (25 of 75). I caveat of course by noting that I might be wrong about a gender-neutral byline here or there (though I suspect not, in this case), and I might be ignorant of someone's pseudonym. I also estimate that 67 of 71 stories are SF, so almost 95% of the stories -- up from last year's 90%.